Posted on December 14, 2004

Japanese Get Dose of ‘Paris Syndrome’

Sapa-AFP, Dec. 14

Paris — A strange illness has descended on Japanese living in Paris, tipping many of them into a state of profound culture shock after realising that their ideals about the French capital were unrealistic.

This is according to a study published in yesterday’s Liberation newspaper.

More than 100 expatriates a year are sinking into a state called “the Paris syndrome”, characterised by feelings of persecution or suicidal tendencies, according to mental health facilities of city hospitals.

Their clinical depression stemmed from having to reconcile their romanticism about Paris with reality, psychiatrists said.

“Magazines are fuelling fantasies with the Japanese, who think there are models everywhere,” Mario Renoux, head of the French Japanese Society for Medicine, was quoted as saying.

After a relatively short period of about three months, Japanese immigrants expecting to find a haven of civilisation and elegance instead discover a tougher existence. “They make fun of my French and my expressions”, “they don’t like me” and “I feel ridiculous in front of them” are common refrains heard by the doctors.

The need to forcibly express oneself to be noticed — seen as vulgar in Japanese society — and exposure to a humour sometimes seen as offensive add to the unhappiness. “However, not wanting to give up their Paris dreams, the patients refuse to go back to Japan,” the newspaper said.

One Japanese psychologist underlined Japan’s ideal of collectivism as a barrier for immigrants who suddenly found themselves in a society based more on individualism.