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For Chinese, Paris is far from a city of romance

By Bloomberg ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-08-16 08:29:50

An epidemic is gripping Chinese tourists visiting the French capital: Paris syndrome.

Like their Japanese counterparts, first-time visitors from China - fed on media reports and movies like An American in Paris - arrive expecting to see a quaint, affluent and friendly European city with smartly dressed people.

Instead, they discover the grittier side of Paris - packed metros, rude waiters and pickpockets intent on robbing cash-carrying tourists.

"Chinese people romanticize France; they know about French literature and French love stories," said Jean-Francois Zhou, president of the Chinese association of travel agencies in France. "But some of them end up in tears, swearing they'll never come back."

For France, continuing to attract Chinese tourists, about a million of whom visit Paris every year, is key to rekindling an economy that stagnated in the second quarter, according to the national statistics office.

Tourism accounted for 7.2 percent of France's GDP in 2012.

Concern grows

Now, the boom in Chinese tourists is beginning to slow, partly because of reluctance to spend large sums in the face of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption crackdown, and partly because of concern about the welcome awaiting them in Paris, Zhou said.

For 20-year-old Jiang He, disappointment set in soon after landing in Paris. The college student from Shanghai, who chose the French capital for his first overseas trip last year, was told soon after landing at Roissy Airport that a fellow Chinese tourist's luggage had been stolen.

"I thought Europe would be a very clean place, but I found that Paris is quite dirty and French people don't really care about cleanliness," Jiang said.

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