Learn English – Word for the “fakeness” of extravagant places


When visiting Casinos, Vegas, Hollywood blvd, Dubai etc one is overwhelmed with marketing about how fabulous they are. But once actually there, something feels off. There’s nothing specific one can single out to explain this feeling, but it just feels as though the surface-level extravagance is hiding something. Like the brilliance is only skin deep. Like pretty wallpaper covering a rotting wall.

Is there a word for this?

Dictionary and thesaurus searches only seem to show positive words like “grand” or “extravagant”, or negative words that have a sense of obviousness eg “fake”, “tacky”. These words seem to describe either good or bad. There is no sense of an underlying, hidden, negative aspect.

Ideally one could use this word in a sentence like: “Vegas is x”, “Vegas has a sense of x”, “Vegas makes me feel x”.

Thanks guys

Best Answer

Given appropriate context, superficial could convey such a property.

not thorough, deep, or complete; cursory. "he had only the most superficial knowledge of foreign countries"

lacking depth of character or understanding. "perhaps I was a superficial person"

(From Oxford Languages, from the Google results)

While it can be used to mean various things, I think if you described a city as superficial it would usually be understood to imply that, as you say, "the surface-level extravagance is hiding something". However, depending on the specific instance this could be misunderstood (for example as describing the people rather than the buildings).