‘Emily in Paris’ is a Netflix hit. But is it accurate?
Maybe Emily’s fancy marketing job gave her more cushion room to spend money, but Paris is undeniably expensive. It feels strange how she never complains about it
The popular Netflix show “Emily in Paris” debuted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2020, giving the audience a sunny escape to Paris, far away from problems of political upheaval and disease.
There Emily was, prancing around Paris in her silly outfits and uploading every picture she took to Instagram. A certain obviousness surrounded everything the little-Miss-American did in Paris, whether it was eating croissants or visiting the Louvre.
I lived in Paris for a short period of time a few years ago as a part of a study abroad program. And I did visit the Louvre (twice), and eat chocolate croissants. But, to me, the show looked at the whole experience with rose-tinted glasses.
The show is rated TV-MA for language, nudity and smoking.
What to expect from ‘Emily in Paris’ Season 3?
Even though watching it felt like a guilty pleasure for many, it was Netflix’s most popular comedy series of 2020, according to Netflix. “Emily in Paris” even managed to snag two Golden Globe nominations for best comedy and best actress for Lily Collins. Meanwhile, Season 3 made its debut on Dec. 21.
In this season, she has decided to stay in Paris and that will mean she has to deal with all her problems head-on, including the troubling relationship between her love interest Gabriel and her friend Camille, per Vogue.
As viewers dive into Emily adopting the French ways for a whole new season, here is a look back at what she was like in Season 2. She had been in Paris for a while, long enough to take off her rose-tinted glasses, halfway at least.
Instead of choosing between two love interests, she decided to put her heart into work. That didn’t exactly pan out as she struggled to adjust to her professional life among her French colleagues.
I relate to her excitement which quickly switched to apprehension. When I arrived in Paris in 2017, I was certain that I would fall in love with the people, the scenery, the sights and the sounds, like Emily. Words cannot describe how thrilled I was. And then reality hit me. So, did the show get anything right?
The hefty price
Barmleys, a group of property specialists, broke down just how much it would cost to live like Emily, who probably earns €60,000 a year, or $67,991, considering she is a social media strategist for a boutique marketing firm. Turns out, her cost of living totals €133,845. I, on the other hand, was living on €24,000 a year — a tight budget.
Emily lives in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, a stone's throw away from the Pantheon, a former Roman temple from A.D. 607, which makes her location an expensive one to live in, costing her at least €1,700 a month. I lived in the 11th arrondissement, a much more edgy and ethnically diverse area away from the tourist spots, costing me €600 a month.
Maybe Emily’s fancy marketing job gave her more cushion room to spend money, but Paris is undeniably expensive. It feels strange how she never complains about it.
Reality: Emily might have an expensive Birkin purse and a fancy location for her apartment, but she is definitely living beyond her means.
Parlez vous Français?
I had taken French lessons all throughout middle school and high school, but my knowledge was rendered useless anytime I tried to practice the language in real life. My ear couldn’t catch the swiftly pronounced sentences that I couldn’t even mimic in my dreams.
Now, I watched Emily on-screen, struggling to keep up with her French classes, which follow the same charade of writing letters or interviewing classmates in a foreign tongue. The best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it, but everyone in Emily’s circle spoke English to her.
Paris wasn’t that kind to me. Making friends with the language barrier often led me to play charades to explain what I was trying to say.
I remember trying to order at a restaurant but struggling to read the menu. Neither the waiter nor anyone else on the staff spoke English, so I did what I had to — I pointed at a random dish with a complicated-looking name. The waiter nodded and brought the “poisson et frites,” more commonly known as fish and chips.
Buying the wrong products at the store was a recurring problem. Emily bought dog shampoo instead of regular shampoo and I bought some syrup instead of a bottle of iced tea. But c’est la vie!
Reality: Living in a foreign place without knowing the language is hard and the show represented that through Emily’s struggles. But everyone around her conveniently spoke perfect English, just with a French accent, which isn’t always the case in real life.
Emily’s very colorful and overly coordinated style is a great contrast to the effortless Parisian fashion, dominated by basic shades of black, gray and white. The idea behind it is to dress casually while maintaining a chic look and the best way to do that is by using a capsule wardrobe full of basic and classic pieces.
My own wardrobe went through a major upgrade during my time there. Out went the clunky patterned shirts and pants and in came slacks and a gray coat, nicely paired with a beret, obviously.
During Season 1, Emily always had a full face of makeup accompanied by a pink lip combo, but in Season 2, she leaned into the Parisian way of life with a red lip, black eyeliner and a pop of color for her eyes. Her s-shaped curls in her hair also become looser and less perfect.
Reality: “Emily in Paris” showcased the contrast in American fashion style compared to the Parisian, and now, we watch Emily transition into more subtle looks.
In one episode, Emily’s co-workers, Sylvie, Luc and Juilian, were not willing to help her on a Saturday and said, “It’s illegal to work in France on the weekend.” Emily was supposed to be on vacation in St. Tropez but she couldn’t unplug from work, while her French counterparts had no problem at all.
Her boss, Sylvie, encouraged Emily to shake off her uptightness. “Emily, you’ve got the rest of your life to be as dull as you wish,” said Sylvie. “But while you’re here, fall in love, make mistakes, leave a disastrous trail in your wake.”
I wish I had a mentor like Sylvie to tell me to loosen up. Making adjustments is hard. It frustrated me how Parisians rarely ate at their desk, so when my trips to the post office or the bank coincided with lunch hour, it meant that I was in for a loooong wait. I suppose the exquisite cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating — wooden chairs with small and round tables, always dressed with an ashtray — are very inviting. The importance of a work-life balance is heavily protected by laws as well, like the law that doesn’t allow you to work more than 35 hours, compared to the legal limit of 40 hours in the U.S.
Reality: The cultural differences around work-life balance exist exactly how the show portrayed them.
Is Paris the ultimate dream city?
Ultimately, Emily’s love interest, Alfie, a British banker played by Lucien Laviscount, revealed the truth behind the city of love: “Look, this place is portrayed as the end-all, be-all in all romantic settings in books, movies and Instagram, right?”
But the reality is much different.
“Paris is full of traffic and overpriced restaurants, just like any other city,” he said. “They are selling you something that is not real.”