At least 20 people this summer -- most of them Japanese -- have suffered from the disorder after realizing Paris isn't what they expected
As tourist season here in Paris winds to a close and the air once again becomes crisp, fresh, and new, we must unfortunately acknowledge that it does not end without a few casualties. Yes, this summer, like the ones that have come before it, has claimed at least 20 victims of a very particular affliction: Paris Syndrome. And though it may sound like a disease unique to freshman girls with Le Chat Noir posters everywhere, it is a serious disorder that causes tourists, especially Japanese tourists, many problems on their trip through the City of Light. And what is Paris Syndrome, exactly? Simply put, it's a collection of physical and psychological symptoms experienced by first-time visitors realizing that Paris isn't, in fact, what they thought it would be.
It is no secret that the representation of Paris in entertainment is a limited one. If the subject matter even makes it past the World War II era, one is still usually going to get a fairly idealized picture. Watching movies set in Paris leaves one with an image of the city that is quaint, friendly, affluent, and likely still in black-and-white. When we use Paris in advertisements, it is invariably some non-threateningly attractive young woman riding a bike around the side streets or skipping down the Champs-Elysées, daintily nibbling a macaroon. We imagine the whole city just smells like Chanel No. 5 and has a government-mandated mime on every corner. And nowhere is this narrow view of Paris more prevalent than in Japan, where the media portrays the city as one filled with thin, gorgeous, unbelievably rich citizens. The three stops of a Parisian's day, according to the Japanese media, are a cafe, the Eiffel Tower, and Louis Vuitton.