Paris! Paris! Oh, the city of love!
Or the city of hate? We love to think of Paris as the city of love, the city to fall in love with, the city to fall in love in… But then when we get here, we get such a shock.
For some this shock is worse than for others, tourists (in particular Japanese tourists) coming here in hope of loving warm French kindness are so bowled over by the rude coldness of the arrogant stand-offish Parisians that they end up psychologically damaged. This syndrome is so particular to Paris that it has been dubbed Paris syndrome (take that Stockholm!). Who can blame these poor tourists? The image of Paris from outside is that of wonderland or as the French would call it “le pays des bisounours” (carebear country). You picture quirky little Amelie Poulain adored by all her Parisian neighbors, poetry-quoting Cyrano outside your hotel window, a beret-bearing striped-shirt-wearing accordion player at the road corner… No, it is not so!
Paris has such a magnificent backdrop that you could picture filming every romantic film here. Romantic strolls along the Seine, kisses in the Luxembourg garden, cuddles and more in between the sheets in some Hausmannian building… Instead you don’t even look at the scenery as you dodge pedestrians who hiss at you angrily (yes – they hiss!) if you so much as brush against them all the while tiptoeing through a minefield of dog shit (the French love their dogs, but don’t clean up after them).
The beauty in Paris is not in its people – at least not in the plural. The individual Parisian is lovely if you ever get a chance to know them. But they won’t make it easy. They are so accustomed to the same rudeness that you experience in Paris on a daily basis that they have built up all sorts of defenses to keep you away from their vulnerability. But don’t give into Paris syndrome just yet. Be patient. Hidden in a Parisian is all the beauty of Paris. Fall in love with one and all the ugliness disappears and you will see Paris as it is meant to be. You too will become Amelie Poulain in this magical world.