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Paris Syndrome Explained: Is Paris Worth the Hype?

France Paris Travel Insider Guides
by Olivia Harden Aug 7, 2022

Almost everyone longing for travel has a dream destination — whether it’s catching rays on your overwater bungalow in the Maldives, going on the safari of a lifetime in South Africa, or getting swept up by the magic and romance in Paris. The unfortunate reality is that when you build up a destination in your head like that, there’s plenty of room to be disappointed when things don’t go as planned. And that has happened enough with people who visit Paris that it has its own name: Paris syndrome.

After years of pandemic-related travel restrictions, tourists are getting out into the world in droves. If you’ve always wanted to visit the City of Light, Paris likely was on your list. But those who do adore the city say it’s crucial to manage your expectations — sit down and enjoy the comforts of the little cafes and just ease your way into it. As the comments on a post about Paris syndrome from the solo traveler Ciara show, Paris syndrome didn’t end with the pandmic.

So just how common is Paris syndrome? Here’s everything you need to know about the travel disillusionment.

What is Paris syndrome?

Paris syndrome is an extreme form of culture shock. While there should be some expectation of culture shock wherever you travel, the biggest culture shocks are usually reserved for expats or students studying abroad who settle into a new country for months at a time versus short-term travelers. Paris syndrome happens when people visit for a vacation. As Mathieu Deflem, a professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina, told Live Science, it originally referred primarily to travelers from Japan.

The way Paris is portrayed in the media is why many people want to visit — but the reality is that Paris is a real city and not something out of the romantic comedy Amélie (or, worse, Emily in Paris). The streets certainly don’t smell like expensive perfume. In a 2020 study by CEOWORLD magazine, Paris was rated the number one rudest city in Europe by 36 percent of respondents, which is double the second place rating of London. There are also the things that every densely populated city deals with, including rats and mice (and not of the Ratatouille variety), trash, graffiti, pickpockets, and various unpleasant aromas.

Is Paris syndrome real?

Although Paris syndrome is rare, it is very real. In 2006, NBC News reported that about a dozen or so tourists get severe cases that need medical attention. That year, the Japanese embassy in Paris repatriated at least four visitors who had severe cases — including two women who believed their hotel room was bugged.

What are the symptoms of Paris syndrome?

The symptoms are very similar to anxiety and psychosis. According to The Atlantic victims typically experience acute delusions, hallucinations, dizziness, sweating, feelings of persecution, and even vomiting.

How can Paris syndrome be prevented?

Although Paris syndrome sounds scary, Paris is still a city of marvel and wonder. Tourists should simply remember that, like any city, it will have its pros and cons. So embrace the chance to slow down while the waiter takes their sweet time bringing you your coffee, marvel at the lights on the Eiffel Tower while swiftly ignoring the vendors selling merchandise below. Keep your eyes peeled for any scams. Spend some time on Duolingo and pick up some basic French. By keeping your expectations realistic, you’re sure to love Paris for all it has to offer.

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