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presented with an environment whereby our existing experiences, skills and understanding of how the world works are no longer applicable can make you lose your bearings.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?