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Paris Syndrome: Tourists’ expectations of Paris so high they are left feeling underwhelmed

Key findings: 

  • The Paris Syndrome is real: due to high expectations travellers considers Paris the most overrated major city
  • Stockholm comes out as the city travellers are most positively surprised about
  • Cape Town is considered the most ‘beautiful’ city while London’s attractions are referred to as ‘outstanding’
  • Prague is the ‘rudest’ city while Sydney is a the biggest ‘rip off’ city in the world

What is the Paris Syndrome?

This very real psychological condition is sometimes experienced by first-time visitors to Paris whose expectations of the city are so romanticised they get overwhelmingly disappointed when they are faced with the reality. 

The quaint and fairytale-like image of Paris portrayed in movies and books doesn’t always match the reality of this busy city, and the realisation can sometimes leave tourists in a state of utter shock. Symptoms vary, but hallucinations, anxiety, dizziness, acute delusions and sweating are among the most commonly reported. 

Here at Radical Storage, we wanted to find out how travellers really feel about some of the world’s most visited cities, including Paris, London and New York to establish which destinations don’t live up to travellers’ high expectations, and which major cities are exceeding expectations. 

To do so, we analysed 140,000 travellers’ reviews from some of the world’s most visited cities, including Paris, to look for words and phrases suggesting that the destinations didn’t quite live up to the hype (or whether expectations were exceeded). 

So is the Paris Syndrome really a thing? It seems so. Out of the 20 major tourist cities we analysed, Paris did indeed come up as the city where most people felt that reality didn’t live up to their expectations. 

Cities exceeding travellers’ expectations

We analysed the ratio of positive and negative descriptions of a city to establish how many times traveller reviews suggested the expectation of the destination didn’t quite live up to the hype, or where the city exceeded the expectations.

Out of the major cities that were analysed, travellers feel most positively surprised about Stockholm. Perhaps the Swedish capital is not as romanticised in the media as Paris, and therefore travellers’ expectations aren’t as high when they visit this Nordic city. Or perhaps visitors simply get swooned over by the rich history, idyllic archipelago or excellent choice of restaurants.

Cities where expectations don’t match reality

Our analysis verified that many travellers experience “Paris Syndrome”, with the City of Light coming up top of the cities where travellers’ high expectations don’t quite match reality. 

Second on the list of cities that have an image that doesn’t match reality is Hong Kong followed by Seoul, Bangkok and Singapore. 

Words and phrases used to describe cities

We looked at 29 words and phrases to establish how many times the word was used to describe a specific tourist city. 

Over expectation

When looking into words and phrases associated with being positively surprised by a city, we found that Los Angeles was described as “great” in 9% of the reviews mentioning the word, while “loved it” was referring to the City of Angels in 16% of the reviews that included the phrase. Cape Town was described as “beautiful” 8% of the times the word was mentioned. 

The attractions in Dubai were considered the “best” in 8% of the reviews mentioning the word. London ranked highest for “outstanding” (13%), “stunning” (14%) and spectacular (11%). Barcelona’s tourist spots are considered “must sees” by 12% of the reviews mentioning this phrase.

Below expectation

When looking at the words and phrases suggesting travellers’ high expectations didn’t quite meet reality, we found that London and Paris accounted for 11% each of the reviews that mentioned the word “overrated” while 18% of the reviews mentioning “below expectations” or “underwhelming” were about London. Paris accounted for 10% of the reviews mentioning “bad”.

Prague came out as the rudest city with 15% of the mentions of the word in the reviews, 10% of reviewers mentioning a destination was “not worth it” spoke about Tokyo, and Sydney came out as the biggest “rip off” with 15% of the mentions for this phrase.  

Methodology

We collected 140,000 Google reviews from most reviewed sightseeing spots, attractions, activities, parks, restaurants and hotels in 20 different cities. The list of the most reviewed locations came from https://www.top-rated.online/ and the data was collected in June 2021.

To analyse which cities are most overrated versus most underrated, we looked at the occurrence of a set list of keywords to determine the words that are most frequently used to describe a destination. We then worked out a ratio of how often words associated with “overrated” versus “underrated” were being used to find an average.

Sources

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/10/paris-syndrome-a-first-class-problem-for-a-first-class-vacation/246743/

http://www.minkowska.com/content/les-japonais-en-voyage-pathologique-%C3%A0-paris-un-mod%C3%A8le-original-de-prise-en-charge