Paris Syndrome

Around a dozen Japanese tourists a year need psychological treatment after visiting Paris as the reality of unfriendly locals and scruffy streets clashes with their expectations, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

“A third of patients get better immediately, a third suffer relapses and the rest have psychoses,” Yousef Mahmoudia, a psychologist at the Hotel-Dieu hospital, next to Notre Dame cathedral, told the newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

Read the end of the article on the Reuters website.

By | 2016-06-08T13:48:58+00:00 October 24th, 2006|Culture|7 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Ron October 24, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    Very interesting. I would call it “Paris Syndrome”. It is reminiscent of the well known “Jerusalem Syndrome” whereby tourists breathe the holy air, touch the holy stones, and feel that they are the messiah or something. They put on robes and go around preaching until they wind up in mental hospitals, usually temporarily. The Israel medical people see many cases each year.

  2. Stephen Gobin October 26, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Interesting. At the beginning of this week I read an on-line article from a Dutch or Flemish newspaper bemoaning the same thing. The article mentioned that the French need to be more accommodating to overseas tourists in general and get rid of their apparent arrogance.

  3. céline October 26, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    Are the French really that bad or is it that foreigners are fed a completely unrealistic image of France and can’t cope when faced with a Paris that just doesn’t look or feel like Amélie’s?

  4. Maryann October 26, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    This article made me laugh. My husband and are from Montreal. We spent two weeks in Paris in April 2002 and everywhere we went, the locals were unfailingly polite, accommodating and helpful. We only encountered attitude in one place: at the Air Canada counter at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
    I think a number of factors are in play with this phenomenon:
    1) Yes, Paris is played up as the most beautiful, romantic city in the world – and it is, but it is also a place where several million people live and work and go about their daily lives at a pace that would leave most of the rest of us panting. The fantasy is nice, but the reality, being reality, is never going to stack up to it.
    2) Yes, some French people can be arrogant and rude, as can some English, some Canadians, some Americans, etc. As I mentioned, it’s by no means all of them and not all the time, but if you come from a place or a culture that is more homey and touchy-feely, of course you’re going to have culture shock.
    3) If said culture shock affects you so deeply that you end up in a mental institution, maybe you’re too fragile a person to be travelling and you should double your dosage and stay home.
    Just a few thoughts…
    Maryann (French to English translator)

  5. bathrobe November 20, 2006 at 5:27 am

    I’m not actually surprised. The Japanese perception of foreign countries is often more based on a romantic vision than it is on reality. There is a whole culture of romanticising Europe (e.g., NHK, the national broadcaster, regularly airs idyllic scenes of German villages as a backdrop to classical music).
    Japanese travel agencies do their best to deliver to their customers something close to the image. Everything must be perfect: top class hotels, expensive meals, visits to only the most beautiful and famous sites. On no account is any unpleasantness allowed to interfere with this experience. If a customer complains, you may be sure that the local tourist agency or local tourist guide will pay for it some way or another.
    It is thus not surprising that many people fall in love with the romatic vision and are not prepared for the reality.
    In this connection, I had an amusing situation in China a few years ago. China, of course, is a much rougher destination than France, but the usual people (photographers, travel journalists, TV stations) have managed to create an unrealistically beautiful image of China that mixes ancient civilisation, the simplicity of the common people, and the modern sophisticated cities into a very compelling melange. They do it with things like shots of stunning sunsets silhouetting thousands of bicycle riders, crumbling ancient monuments, hints of mysterious history with blue-eyed Chinese, taiqiquan, women dancers, etc., etc., often set against beautiful music that you are not likely to hear very often in China.
    To get back to my story, for some reason we took our guest, a slight, somewhat effeminate Japanese man who ‘loved China’, to see the Military Museum on Mayday, a national holiday when many thousands of Chinese from the provinces come to Beijing to do the sights. The Military Museum was no exception, and we found ourself struggling with hundreds of ill-mannered, pushy locals as we tried to store our bags in the cloakroom at the entrance, and even more when we tried to retrieve them after we came out. Our Japanese friend seemed to be finding it rather trying, especially when he almost had his hat knocked off in the melee.
    Afterwards we went to the Cantonese restaurant at the upmarket Shangri-La Hotel. When we sat down to a lunch of dim sum in very pleasant classical Chinese surroundings, our guest told us with very evident relief that ‘This is the China that I like!’

  6. bathrobe November 20, 2006 at 5:33 am

    I said we had to struggle with ‘hundreds of pushy locals’. I should have written ‘hundreds of pushy yokels’. They were mostly out-of-town people with appalling public manners.

  7. céline November 20, 2006 at 7:26 am

    When I first visited London at the end of the 80s, the one thing that amazed me was that it was really quite a welcoming, bright and extremely lively city. Dickens and Sherlock Holmes novels and Turner paintings had led me to expect a murky, dark world of shadows and fog. I was very disappointed.

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