Paris, je t’aime

Many people are acquainted with Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages develop feelings of sympathy or even defend their captors, but how many know of Paris syndrome?

Typical to French style, Paris syndrome is much more romantic and far less violent than Stockholm syndrome. The intense idealization of France has deluded people into thinking that Paris lies at the top of Mount Olympus, that croissants are the baked version of ambrosia, and that the language is lovelier than a siren’s song. Some people, when they finally land at Charles de Gaulle airport and step into their Eden, suffer psychiatric symptoms – Paris syndrome.

Camille Pissarro, Avenue de l'Opéra, 1898. Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm. Musée des beaux-arts, Reims.
Camille Pissarro, Avenue de l’Opéra, 1898.
Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm.
Musée des beaux-arts, Reims.

A handful of tourists a year suffer hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety, and dizziness among other symptoms. Interestingly enough, this has only occurred to Japanese tourists, with at least twelve Japanese tourists a year being flown back to Japan for medical reasons.

With a 24-hour hotline at the Japanese embassy in Paris for the purpose of addressing this disorder, which only plagues about twelve people a year in one geographic location, Paris syndrome is probably the most hotly-addressed medical concern.

Paris syndrome is accepted as a transient psychological disorder (it has its own Wikipedia page and has been referenced in medical journals), but it is a case of extreme culture shock and unrealistic expectations. Very little science lies in this diagnosis.

Paris (and France in general) is a place of love and beauty, being home to many talented artists and a rich history.

Vincent van Gogh, Café Terrace at Night, 1888. Oil on canvas, 80.7 x 65.3 cm. Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo.
Vincent van Gogh, Café Terrace at Night, 1888.
Oil on canvas, 80.7 x 65.3 cm.
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo.

If you’re too afraid of visiting France for fear of catching Paris syndrome, take the safer route and visit the exhibition Passport to Paris at the Denver Museum of Art, running until February 9, 2014. Or grab a copy of Parkstone International’s latest books on Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, or Camille Pissaro to enjoy a piece of French culture.

-D.R.

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