Posted by / Category Stereotypes, Travel /

Have you heard of Paris Syndrome?  Let me explain: it’s a surprising phenomenon whereby Chinese or Japanese tourists arrive in Paris and seem to undergo some sort of mental breakdown. I was told that they experience raised anxiety levels, delusions, irrational feelings of persecution and hostility, hallucinations, or even collapsing. Some tourists had to be sent back to their home country in a medicalised plane. I kid you not. So what went wrong ? Well, the main theory as to what’s happening here is that they have an incredibly romanticised belief in what Paris is like thanks to countless media and film portrayals. Paris is the city of love, everything is beautiful there. All women are polite and look like they come straight from a French New Wave film. I hate to break it to you, but the reality is quite different. To cut a long story short, Paris is mostly a normal city, coupled with some tangible differences in behaviour and manners between Asiatic and Parisian culture. So for instance, our waiters are not always nice. Our drivers might accelerate when you want to cross the street, and don’t expect apologies when you are shoved on the street. This can induce an intense and debilitating form of culture shock. Dear oh dear. It’s hard to see the reality without any filter sometimes. But maybe, just maybe, it is a necessary part of growing up? Just a thought.

Apparently, the Paris Syndrome is a very real thing. Being presented with an environment whereby our existing experiences, skills and understanding of how the world works are no longer applicable can make you lose your bearings. The uncertainty and self-doubt this results in can be genuinely debilitating. Come to think of it, there are lots of similar syndromes. For instance, there is the French woman syndrome: we are all supposed to be glamorous creatures, we don’t get fat, our kids are well-behaved, and we are goddesses in the bedroom and in the kitchen. But of course.

Over here, in London, there is also a new Syndrome. It’s called the ‘I-don’t-understand-what-is-going-on Syndrome’. It often happens to well-established members of a certain political “elite” who can’t believe, for instance, that harassing women when drunk is now looked down upon. When did this happen? They didn’t see it coming. They thought they did nothing wrong. And surely they should be entitled to their own opinions, right? Of course they think that women need to know their place. After all, they are the bosses/leaders, right? And last year Christmas party was just some light-hearted banter anyway. Come on, lighten up Darling! The rules are simple: they can do and say whatever they want with near total impunity and the rest of us just have to put up with it. Yes, even if they are wrong. So what if we are traumatised? Smeared? Judged for our personal choices? Left to our own devices? Get over it! We are too sensitive. This is all getting out of hands anyway. Dear oh dear.  What do I think? Well, this culture of superiority, arrogance (at best) and impunity (at worst) has been nurtured for far too long. It is high time for a change. And frankly, I, for one, am tired of being patronised all the time just because I happen to be, well, me.

In short, it’s time to join the 21st century and accept that reality for what it is. Maybe Twitter, Facebook and social media are the new version of the Star Chamber. But there is a major difference: it is public.  We live in a different world, things move faster, transparency is everywhere, and -gasp- women can have an opinion -sometimes a different one than men. Shocking, right?


  • James Casserly

    Great piece. Hope the message is now loud and clear to predatory men, this is no longer acceptable and nobody will cover for them nor allow them to continue. Time for women to be treated as human beings and not some object of lust.

  • Karen Nelson

    Yes, men need to get over this “It’s just a guy thing.” Women need to keep calling them out on it.

  • Wow. So, there’s a Parisian syndrome to match the Jerusalem syndrome. (That one involves folks who think they’re Jesus…) Which brings to mind the crazy one running for Senator in Alabama. Where a GOP official excused molesting a 14 y old because Joseph managed to do the same to Mary- and they got Jesus. (Of course, those same folks want me to believe that Mary was a virgin…so it obviously CAN’T the same.) It’s all about power, dirty old men (and dirty old women) taking advantage of those under their spell.

  • Ronald

    Lots of people I’d guess suffer disappointment and quite a few a sense of entitlement. I would guess those suffering Paris Syndrome never see a documentary about the rough side of Paris (come to think of it neither have I) although the last time December 2010 I went to Paris I recall seeing quite a few beggars going towards the Eiffel Tower.
    That said I have no London Syndrome as I’ve visited enough times and seen lots of TV programmes about how awful and expensive the place is.
    In the case of the Chinese I suspect the television nd even internet being censored has much to do with it.
    Lots of people have a sense of entitlement because it has always been like that or no one says no to them unless there is a rulebook to back them up if they are ordinary people or unless there are numbers if famous and rich.

  • I think many people have preconceived notions of what life is like in another country. How many people visiting America, especially in the last century, thought everyone was rich and the streets were paved with gold? Thank you, Hollywood.

    As for sexual harassment, I have experienced it in the workplace. But I also think our culture should not be convicting men in the public square with no trial. There are some women who falsely accuse men, and, as I’m sure Roy Ackerman knows, Joseph, back in Genesis, was falsely accused by a woman because he wouldn’t let her seduce him. He got tossed in prison for it. He remained innocent.

    I don’t believe women who have been assaulted should remain silent, but I also think they should speak to someone when the assault or harassment is recent — not wait forty years to say something to smear someone when it becomes a political issue. Being female doesn’t make all accusations true anymore than being male makes them false. Everyone should be assumed innocent until PROVEN guilty, and it took three witnesses during Bible times to convict. Today if someone wants to destroy someone politically it’s easy to make false accusations and have the press magnify them until the target is pressured to disappear — guilty or not.

    • Marc Larivière

      Except for a possible connivance in destroying someone’s reputation, the mere number of those who make accusations is already a proof, I think, for want of eye-witnesses… or , at least a highly suspicious …