Add Paris syndrome to the list of strange maladies I hope to never be diagnosed with.
I stumbled upon this previously unknown to me disorder while going down another one of my random research rabbit holes. This happens often. I intend to Google one thing. Hours later I find myself dazed, hungry, and reading about an obscure topic I had no idea existed. That is how I stumbled upon a reference to Paris syndrome and started digging.
What is Paris syndrome anyway?
Paris syndrome is an actual disorder first diagnosed by a Japanese psychiatrist working in France. The disorder was later defined as “a manifestation of psychopathology related to the voyage, rather than a syndrome of the traveler”.
It is defined as a form of severe culture shock that was one thought to primarily affect Japanese tourists. The shock of finding Paris to be not as imagined or expected manifests itself into psychiatric symptoms ranging from anxiety to hallucinations. The Japanese embassy in Paris actually runs a 24 hour assistance line for tourists who may suffer from the condition while abroad.
But as it turns out, it isn’t just the Japanese who are affected. Bloomberg reported in 2014 that Chinese tourists were also experiencing Paris syndrome.
It can occur for many reasons – cultural differences, language barriers, jet lag, sheer exhaustion from touring, or unrealistic expectations. The Bloomberg article suggested that even the perception of a city being unwelcoming can contribute.
Is there such a thing as London syndrome? Or Tokyo syndrome?
Jerusalem syndrome echoes some of the aspects of Paris syndrome but also has religious undertones and can involve obsessive ideas or triggering experiences. It seems to have more cases and pop culture references in Western thought.
I have certainly found myself disappointed by a locale. (Komodo, I’m looking at you.) But I’ve never gone so far as to succumb to psychiatric distress.
The closest I’ve come is a meltdown I had in Tokyo when I found myself completely lost during a fog of jet lag. I experienced a series of train delays out of Narita. I then somehow managed to confuse Shinjuku and Shibuya stations. Due to my error, I could not find the location of my meeting upon exiting the station. In fact, I could not find the exit I was told to take at all. I ended up returning to Narita defeated and teary-eyed.
But despite my minor experience, I could turn up on reference to Tokyo syndrome. I conclude that if severe culture shock happens in Tokyo, it must involve Bill Murray or it didn’t happen.
Paris will remain magical for me for so many reasons. It is a city I love to experience whether with others or traveling solo. So the risk me developing Paris syndrome is very low. Nonetheless, I will remain vigilant.