Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paris Syndrome

According to Wikipedia, Paris Syndrome "is a transient psychological disorder encountered by some people, in most cases from Japan, visiting or vacationing in Paris, France." This Atlantic article descibed it better:
And though it may sound like a disease unique to freshman girls with Le Chat Noir posters everywhere, it is a serious disorder that causes tourists, especially Japanese tourists, many problems on their trip through the City of Light. And what is Paris Syndrome, exactly? Simply put, it's a collection of physical and psychological symptoms experienced by first-time visitors realizing that Paris isn't, in fact, what they thought it would be.
I am not a first-time visitor to Paris. My passport is filthy with France stamps. My first time was on a trip funded by my grandpa when I was 19, when I spoke not a word of French, and this is my fourth time back. I love Paris and my whole being ached when I decided that the best decision for me was to leave. Such a beautiful city with so much rich culture and such a beautiful language that I could never grow tired of hearing or speaking!

I live in Chicago now, but. I repeat. I still love Paris and France, obviously, or I wouldn't have entered this competition and worked so hard to win. Just so you understand that.


People need to stop making such a big deal about Paris.

I mean, there's this Paris Syndrome thing, which is laughable, but apparently a real condition. Because people think Paris is this whimsical place, just like a Coco Chanel commercial. When really, there's dog poo everywhere and pretty much every metro station smells like old urine (with the exception of Line 14, which smells like sulfur). It's grey and rainy a lot, and the black/grey sidewalks make it seem even more dreary. The sidewalks are narrow as are the metro cars, so you always feel like the crowds are closing in on you. Rent's high, so most people live in small apartments. When you spend a considerable amount of time in Paris, these things come together and can make for a blue day or two.

There are amazing things about Paris. While I don't think any city in the world has anything on the Chicago skyline, Paris, the City of Lights, is very beautiful at all hours of the day and especially at night. I have met great people there. The food's yummy, the wine's cheap, the cheese is plentiful. The pace of life is slower than here.

What am I trying to say?

Maybe I'm just frustrated that people see Paris as a postcard and not as a real place where people live and work. It's not like Parisians are frolicking under the Eiffel Tower on their bicyclettes every day. It has this feeling of romance, but just as many people are in love in other cities in the world. A city is a city is a city. If you remind yourself of that before you go to Paris, maybe you will not be shocked to realize there are not mimes and accordian players on every corner. If you have the opportunity to go, do it, go. It is a city unlike any other and even if you only owned a disposable camera, your pictures would still turn out great because the city is so photogenic.

But keep your expectations realistic and watch your step because there's plenty of dog poo waiting to be stepped in.

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