Paris Syndrome, the condition that causes tourists’ disappointment: what it is, who it affects and the symptoms

It may seem absurd, but the “Paris Syndrome” exists. Born from the French “Pari syndromes”, this psychosomatic condition affects some people who visit the French capitalespecially Japanese tourists. The symptoms? A strong psychophysical malaise, nausea, a sense of loss and oppression.

The syndrome, very similar to that of Stendhal, was recognized in 1986 by the Japanese doctor Hiroaki Otawho was working in France at the time, who also gave her a name in Japanese – パリ症候群, Even Shokogun – and who described it like this:

It is a disturbed psychological state accompanied by indeterminate somatic symptoms such as irritability, feeling of fear, obsession, depressed mood, insomnia, impression of persecution by the French.

After him, Youcef Mahmoudiaone of the most famous psychiatrists at the Hôtel-Dieu (the oldest hospital in Paris), studied Ota further, and later described the disorder as a “simple manifestation of psychopathology due to travel, rather than traveler’s syndrome”.

In 2004 the psychology column also talked about it Nerves: the article, titled The Japanese on a Pathological Journey to Paris: An Original Model of Transcultural Chargestated that between the early 1990s and 2004 there were 63 patients (34 women and 29 men) between the ages of 20 and 65 who reported the same symptoms, and all of them were Japanese. Among them were some who later said they were disillusioned with the city and felt they were in the grip of a strong feeling of confusion and psychophysical discomfort.

There are mainly two reasons: many Japanese tourists have idyllic expectations on the French capitalbut once in Paris you have to deal with the degradation of the Banlieue, the dirt and rudeness that reigns in the metropolis, and all these negative aspects can even overshadow its beauty.

In particular, some patients have reported feeling “persecuted” by some French people. According to Dr. Ota, it is a question of “culture shock“, a term coined by anthropologist Ruth Benedict to describe the sense of unease felt by many travellers: the Japanese in fact communicate calmly, rationally and peacefully, while the French generally tend to communicate in a direct, sanguine manner, and even interrupt other people’s conversations, which in Japan is seen as a very rude action. Even theFrench humor It can cause discomfort, because Japanese people are not used to responding promptly and deciphering such particular jokes, often in tones perceived as aggressive.

The subjects taken into consideration by the psychiatric research however had two traits in common: they were very sensitive and interested in the artistic beauties of the place (many of them were artists, writers, students of the academy of fine arts) and almost all of them had already experienced similar psychological and physical disorders in the past (strong psychophysical discomfort, tachycardia and excessive sweating, dissociation, anxiety, etc.).

Currently, each year there are just under twenty “victims” of this syndrome, many of whom are Japanese women in their thirties. To deal with this curious syndrome, the Japanese embassy in Paris has set up a 24-hour telephone line which provides psychological support to Japanese tourists who feel ill and need help. When the syndrome became more popular, a BBC article even covered it, ironically writing: “The embassy offers support to tourists who need it, of course. However, the only permanent cure is to return to Japan… and never return to Paris!”

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