By Veronika Millena
Edited by Emma Davis
Paris, France. Searching the famed city online will provide mixed impressions. The results start with some typical questions such as “What is Paris famous for?” and, as you scroll further, you’re met with Paris’s reputation as the “City of Love”. Seems like all the expected questions about a tourist destination, right? But all of a sudden, the question “does Paris smell like pee?” pops up. So what is really up with Paris?
La Ville Lumière. Paris is the capital of France, and it is located on the Seine river. The city is renowned for its unique European charm, romantic atmosphere, and beautiful scenery. Though, let’s be honest, Paris has quite a reputation. It is thought of as a city of proposals - yes or no? Who cares! They proposed in Paris! In our minds, the iconic Eiffel Tower, which contributes to the enchanting charm that is visualized in almost all films involving Paris, is less appreciated for its engineering feat and presence as an architectural landmark, and more for its romantic atmosphere. In less than a millisecond, a quick Google search results in about 3.9B results pertaining to the beauty and the glamour, as well as the flaws and the ugly of Paris. As an individual who has never been to the city, it is quite startling to see Paris from a different view than the romanticized western media lens.
Paris contains a lot more than just the Seine or the Eiffel Tower. It is the home to many local patisseries, mom and pop restaurants that represent the values of each Paris and its residents. The emotional presence of Paris lies within its heart. The 1st and 2nd arrondissements, which are now conjoined into a new district called Paris Central, are known to be the Heart of Paris. These neighborhoods make Paris the city it is now. From where Paris was at its beginning, the arrondissements have witnessed its collection of ups and downs, history and the present, the secrets and the known. These supply what it means to be in Paris.
Paris is faced with delusional expectations that are built on the exaggerated beauty that is portrayed in the media. Even a beautiful, established city is faced with presumptions of tourists that soil its image in both national and international eyes. Exactly how the media portrays Paris in an over-romanticized view, individuals are pressured by some external influence that if not met, are looked at like how the world looks like Paris now. In reality, just like Paris, life is full of endeavors, dilemmas, disappointments- and it smelling a lot like pee. However, just like the beautiful yet pitiful city of Paris, embracing what life really is and accepting that it isn’t always fresh baguettes in boulangeries and sipping sauvignon blanc along the Marne. People are sometimes just faced with trash, pee and dog poop.
One thing that seasoned travelers and local guides warn tourists about is the ‘Paris syndrome’ (or the syndrome de Paris in French). Paris syndrome is really a thing, yes. Coined by Hiroaki Ota, it is a form of culture shock felt by tourists who visit Paris for the very first time. According to The Atlantic, Paris syndrome symptoms include acute delusions, hallucinations, dizziness, sweating, and even feelings of persecution. Getting overwhelmed is one thing, having bodily manifestations is another. The syndrome is such a serious thing that tourist guides give out pamphlets about it. Paris syndrome may be felt at different extents. Some may just be overwhelmed, shocked, disappointed, some might reflect on their bodily conditions.
People tend to have high expectations. Paris is presumed to be the city of lights and romance, and since people have already reasoned their interest with Paris with these titles, being faced with the harsh reality takes a toll. Promoting Paris always goes by a consistent scheme; Old France. The global market promotes France with the classiness of its prior era. Everyone seems to agree that New France isn’t as appealing as Old France.
Everything changes over time. Paris changed with the way the locals were living. Even though it isn’t as charming as its past self, looking at the new taste that New Paris has to offer, it’s still as beautiful as ever. With its grunge, modern, and simple charm, it is obvious that it opposes the charm Old Paris had. Old Paris was all about extravagance, flare, and lavishness. However, the similarity that also carries the consistent beauty of Paris is its never-ending elegance. There are bad sides to Paris as well. Graffiti, Parisians giving attitude, muggers, pee– these are some of the pitfalls. Everything is overpriced and tourists are targeted as naive. New Paris is almost a big city dump. A fact acknowledged by everyone who has been to Paris.
Even though the great city of Paris has flaws, people are still willing to embrace the new charm of Paris. There is no denial that Paris is a beautiful city. Yet sometimes looking close enough is the only way to recognize that beauty.It is ideal for cities like Paris to preserve the charm and the image that’s been generating interest for over a century. However, modernization and the new way of life of Parisians are charming in a way. They’re individualistic and straightforward. Foreigners might say that Parisians are rude. However, due to their fast lifestyle, they are more straightforward and honest. This characteristic embodies Paris so well.
People who think that they have hit their peak and feel exasperated that they can’t go back to the way it was are the embodiment of Paris. In reality, looking for romance and the good in everywhere is your job as a person. It’s hard to hit the built-up expectations but the truth is you don’t have any control over what the expectations of others are. Some might take expectations as compliments- you might think otherwise, but they’re just expectations. You don’t have to ride with expectations so that you don’t get disappointed. However, hitting expectations should be perceived more as goals rather than chores. Disappointing yourself to reach another person’s expectations will not only exhaust you but also limit your capability to assume goals on your own. Just like Paris, everyone has different charms, and change- change is not a bad thing.
Paris will always be a beautiful city. The history, atmosphere, the people- they all contribute to the allure and elegance that Paris naturally exudes. It contains complexity and mystery that will always be with Paris. The attachment and admiration that come with their expectations are what make them highly disappointed- not because Paris is an ugly city but because it’s not the same as the image they created in their heads. Analyzing the beauty of every place, not just on the surface level, is what tourists need to do as respect for the place. Life will always be as interesting as Paris. It’s hard moving forward with such pressure, the feeling of everyone looking at your mistakes and it all ends with you feeling more disappointed than the people who put expectations on you. As much as Paris is a beautiful city, it isn’t considered that beautiful anymore because it’s different from what people expect. As much as you are a capable and competent person, the moment you don’t meet other people’s expectations, magically, you aren’t considered that anymore. So why play by them?
Everything is just a version of Paris. Every person is their version of Paris. Paris contains disappointment, just like the 7.9B individuals you encounter one way or another. Disappointment is inevitable, moreso, dodging disappointment in life is impossible.