In A Nutshell
First-time visitors to Paris are occasionally stricken with a disorder characterized by acute delusions, anxiety, feelings of persecution, and various psychosomatic conditions like dizziness and sweating, among others. For some reason, Japanese tourists are much more susceptible to this disorder, known as Paris Syndrome.
The Whole Bushel
First noted in 1986, by a Japanese psychiatrist named Hiroaki Ota, Paris syndrome affects a very minute portion of the six million yearly visitors of the French capital. In fact, according to Miyupi Kusama, an administrator at the Japanese embassy in Paris, only 20 cases occur each year. (It also seems to affect women in their thirties more than any other age or gender.) When afflicted, the victims suffer from a number of maladies, including hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, anxiety, and feelings of persecution. Physical manifestations occur as well: dizziness, sweating, and tachycardia (a heart rate that exceeds the normal range).
While a source has not been explicitly discovered, it is widely believed the culture shock the Japanese experience is a leading cause for the disorder. In Japan, culture dictates that a customer should be treated with high regard, but when the tourists visit Paris, they are treated with disdain or outright contempt. In addition, Japanese magazines tend to romanticize the city, proclaiming it to be a bastion of civility, sophistication, and beauty. (Many of the pictures or articles depicting Paris give the illusion everyone in the city is a supermodel, dressed in the finest clothes.)
Another cause, perhaps more likely, is the simple fact most Japanese tourists don’t speak a word of French. This makes it extremely difficult for them to communicate, leading to much more informal relationships than the Japanese are used to, in stark contrast to the rigid structure of Japanese society. Jet lag is said to play a factor, but can’t account for the fact these symptoms only seem to strike the tourists who visit Paris more than those who visit other cities or countries. And there’s only one real cure for Paris syndrome: Get out and never return.