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Emily In Paris: Demystifying French Stereotypes And Clichés

Emily In Paris: Demystifying French Stereotypes And Clichés

emily in paris french review

Emily in Paris is an American comedy-drama web television series created by Darren Star (Beverly Hills, Melrose Place, Sex And The City) that premiered on the 2nd of October 2020, on Netflix. The show follows the adventures of Chicago native Emily (Lily Collins), who moves to Paris on a one-year placement with a French marketing agency as a last-minute replacement after her boss falls pregnant. She is tasked with advising the French firm on their social media strategy but finds that they are not receptive to her input. In Paris, she struggles to achieve success in her new workplace while searching for love and experiencing a clash with Parisian culture.

Being French, I really enjoyed this series and I haven’t been offended by all the clichés on Parisian people. I think the clichés and stereotypes are so concentrated and exaggerated that they’re making the series comical. And, I think this is what makes Emily in Paris fun to watch. If you’ve been to France a few times, I’m sure you know it’s not reflective of Parisians’ real life, but it’s more a fantasy version of Paris. Parisian people are not like the people depicted in this show as they would never act like that towards a foreigner. Maybe only a few times, you could encounter Parisian people who are really rude and snobbish (but like in any other place in the world).

A Review On Emily in Paris By A French Woman

In my opinion, Emily in Paris is just a fun fictional show to watch, based on real places in Paris. Even if, I would have preferred the scenario to be a little more realistic. Indeed, Emily is always wearing expensive clothes, high heels in Paris, she never takes the metro, and she’s living in a 40 square meters flat in the 5th arrondissement whereas she’s working as a digital marketing manager. I think Carrie Bradshaw’s life in New York City (Sex And The City) is a little more realistic compared to Emily’s life in Paris (but maybe because I’m French and I know just a little about New York). The scenery is absolutely beautiful.

Being French and having lived a few years in Paris, I wanted in this article to compile a list of the clichés and stereotypes of Parisian people that are depicted in this series. And I wanted to discuss whether those clichés are true or not.

1. The Chambre de Bonne

Sorry to say but Emily’s Parisian apartment is not, as portrayed, a Chambre de bonne (maid’s room) which was initially intended as the bedroom for one of the family’s domestics and is characterized by tight proportions. A Chambre de bonne is a type of French apartment consisting of a single room in a middle-class house or apartment building. It is generally found on the top floor and only accessible by a staircase, sometimes a separate “service staircase”. The rooms usually have a surface area of around 6–12 square meters (65 to 130 sq ft), which is sometimes accentuated by being in a garret. They tend to offer minimal facilities: toilets are usually shared with the neighboring rooms, and located on the landing.

Emily’s Parisian apartment seems to be a nice 40 square meters flat, with a separate bedroom and living space. Located in the chic neighborhood a stone’s throw from the Panthéon, this type of flat in Paris can cost at least 1,700 euros per month. By the way, Parisian buildings are very old and it’s very rare to have a lift built in those buildings.

2. Parisians Are Mean

No, Parisians are not mean. As I said previously, Parisian people are not like the people depicted in this show, and Parisians would never act like that towards a foreigner. Yes, Parisians do have a bit of a reputation for being rude (not just internationally) but with their fellow French citizens, who frequently complain that the inhabitants of the capital are rude and arrogant. I think Parisians are considered rude because they’re very direct and sometimes even aggressive in the way they talk to each other.

For our defense, Paris is a very stressful city (what you’re not seeing in this series), and being aggressive in Paris is sometimes the ultimate means to be heard. I think Parisians are just very honest as they always say what they think, which can sometimes be considered as being rude in other cultures. But once you see beyond appearances and you really get to know Parisian people, they are kind, supportive, and loyal friends (like Julien and Luc in the show). I’m not a native Parisian and I’ve met so many great and nice Parisians that I consider now as my closest friends.

3. Parisians Start Their Workday At 10:30

There is a moment in the show where Emily shows up early at her office and finds it locked. Her colleagues are straggling to work several hours later with the boss finally showing up after 11 am. The reality is different. I’ve worked in several companies both in Paris and London and I’ve never worked as much as in Paris. It depends on your job, but Parisians usually start their workday between 9 to 9:30 (some people have 1 to 2 hours to commute), have a 1-hour lunch break, and usually finish their day around 7-8 pm.

Some of them bring work at home and continue to work during their weekends and evenings. For the French, presentism at work is very valued, and someone who is staying late at work always has a better chance to be promoted (even if he/she’s not very productive). Yes, the French have plenty of public holidays and vacation time (from 5 to 7 weeks per year), but French workers regularly top league tables for productivity.

4. Parisians Have Extensive Lunch Breaks

During workdays, Parisians do not spend 2 hours eating lunch each day. Instead, Parisians usually have a 1-hour lunch break. Proper lunch breaks are the norm in France and are sacrosanct. For the French, eating a sandwich at your desk while still working at your computer screens is generally regarded as a terrible Anglo-Saxon habit. Parisians usually have lunch with their colleagues at the company’s restaurant or at a nice brasserie. However, if a glass of wine with lunch is acceptable (on a Friday), raucous boozy lunches in the middle of a working day are not standard.

5. Being Greeted By Your Boss With La Bise

Rest assured, you would never be greeted by the company director with a double-cheek kiss. Except if you know him very, very well or if he’s family. La bise is for friends, family members, or colleagues that you know very well. That bise in the show would never happen in an office of professionals on a first meeting. But just to let you know, in a professional setting, French people usually just shake hands.

6. Parisians Smoke Everywhere

The truth is Parisians smoke a lot, but I don’t think it’s representative of French people in general. If you’ve been to Paris several times, you might have seen a lot of Parisians sitting on terraces, drinking their black coffee with cigarettes. When I was living in London, I was one of the only ones to smoke, so I quickly decided to quit. When I came back to Paris, I was the only one of my group of friends who did not smoke. But if Parisians kept this very bad and unhealthy habit, no one smokes in offices in France anymore (this habit is outlawed by France’s Public Health Code since Nov. 15, 2006). So, if in the series, Emily’s own manager happily puffs away on cigarettes in the comfort of her office, rest assured, this would never happen in real life.

7. Wearing Couture And Stilettos In Paris

In the series, it’s funny to see Emily arriving in every scene in a different pair of stiletto heels and flashy couture pret a porter ensemble that no Parisian would wear in real-life (even if I love her stylish outfits). Indeed, since Paris is a city where locals walk everywhere and move regularly using stairs, bikes, and public transportation, Parisian women are seeking stylish, cool but always comfortable shoes. And hardly any Parisian girl decides to choose high heels for the whole day. In Paris, it’s far more common to see Parisian girls wearing flat shoes such as ballet flats, slippers, loafers, and sneakers.

In the first episodes, Emily is always wearing very flashy colors like pink, green, blue, or red. It’s probably done on purpose in order for viewers to clearly identify her as an American woman (even if I’m sure not all American women dress like her). From episode 5 onwards you can see how Emily is adopting the French style, after being called “ringarde” by the French designer Pierre Cadault. Parisian style is not a difficult style to pull off and is not entirely unattainable. It is something effortless, classic, nonchalant, cool but not arrogant. And it’s all about finding the right balance between looking dressed up and laid-back at the same time. It’s not being obsessed about wearing bold shades, extravagant items, bright colors, and expensive pieces. For more, check out my ultimate guide to Parisian style.

8. French Men Are Great Lovers

If there is one cliché that French males would be happy to perpetuate, I’m sure it would be this one. Honestly, I’m not sure where this cliché is coming from and I cannot tell you if it’s really true or false. Maybe it’s due to the fact that French men are more likely to embrace their feminine side by showing, accepting, and claiming their feelings. But I can tell for sure, is that in reality, French men are not like the people depicted in Emily in Paris.

In this series, men are sometimes portrayed as incredible and insatiable lovers in bed, incorrigible flirts, sometimes sexist and retrograde, and not really attached to the concept of fidelity. Moreover, all the male characters encountered by Emily (apart from her colleagues) make some attempt to seduce her. Yes, there are boors in Paris but like everywhere else in the world. But men I know in Paris are kind, loving, supportive, respectful, and loyal and they are not acting like those French men depicted in the series.

9. Nobody Juges You For Doing Nothing

Yes, it’s true! Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And maybe that’s why the French practice the art of wandering in the streets of Paris just to admire the beauty of the city. As a Parisian, I love walking in the streets of Paris with nowhere to go, but just to stop for a sunrise in the morning or sunset at night and sometimes to take a photo of it. Also, Parisians love to have their coffee en terrasse in the morning to watch people. It’s a real satisfaction to watch the world waking up and to see people being in a hurry while being sitting down and enjoying a coffee.

The French lifestyle is just about enjoying the beauty of the moment. For the French, it’s important to slow down. And remember that if something doesn’t get done, the world will not fall off its axis. There is no rush for anything, and as it’s well said in Emily in Paris there is a verb in French for that: flâner. For more, you can read my previous article on how to live the French lifestyle.

10. Pas Possible Is The French Motto

France is a fantastic place to live, but sometimes it can also be an extremely complicated place (especially if you’re for a foreigner who doesn’t speak French). I lived and worked in London for three years so I’m able to do a comparison between the UK and France. Here are a few things that were pas possible to me when I came back to France.

  • French companies have a tendency to think the customer is always wrong. Also, La Poste (the postal service company in France) is a real nightmare. I’ve been stolen a few packages and sometimes they don’t even bother to ring the interphone to deliver a package.
  • In France, Sundays are days for rest and family time. So many stores, businesses, and services are closed (and sometimes on Mondays as well). So, just forget about doing your weekly grocery haul on a Sunday afternoon.
  • French’s tax system is over complicated and absolutely no information is available in English. And I think even French people sometimes don’t understand their own administration system.
  • As you might already know, the French administration system is one of the most complicated in the world. We’rere obsessed with documentation and even the simplest tasks requires to fill out forms.

The Final Word

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. —Ernest Hemingway

Did you watch Emily in Paris? Did you enjoy it? I would love to hear your thoughts! Please add your comment below.

View Comments (13)
  • I absolutely loved Emily in Paris. The clothes, the style, the scenery, everything. I realised it was an exaggerated view of the typical Parisian but it was so humorous in it’s presentation it was a joy to watch. As an older Brit who has visited Paris many times and tries to emulate French style I was glued to every word and movement Sylvie took. The antics in the office are reflective of many office cultures the world over not just Paris. Emily in Paris took me on a very entertaining journey that I will watch again with relish and hopefully it will be popular enough for Netflix to film another series. The series also was useful to me as a sign-posting tool to introduce me to actors, other films, blogs etc that I would otherwise not have been aware of but will now research to expand my knowledge and pleasure. Emily in Paris was a very welcome addition to my life especially in this period of world stress.

    • Thank you so much Anita for your comment <3 I agree with you on the review, I can't wait to watch the season 2 🙂

  • I agree with you and I thought the whole show was very cliched in general and the script-writing just meh. But I felt it also to be a true guilty pleasure because, hey, watching attractive people in a gorgeous city is really fun. Hot was unrealistic in many ways ( breaking up with a boyfriend from a long-standing relationship after a give minute phone call? Ultra-handsome dude conveniently lives below her and she chooses to use his shower when hers fails? C’mon!)
    But the scenery! The feel of the city! Makes me want to visit so badly. The shots at nighttime, the bakeries and bistros, the chateau and country, it’s all so beautiful. I showed my husband the Atelier des Lumiens and he gasped (he loves Van Gogh). This is why I watched it mostly. I caught on to the story but it was more like reading a silly romance than quality literature. I felt like Emily was a cross between Mrs. Maisel and Kimmy Schmidt.
    I’m so glad you clarified these points, though. I have faith in Parisian humanity!

    • Thank you so much for your comment Deb <3 I totally agree with you Emily in Paris is a real guilty pleasure 🙂
      I can't wait for season 2!

  • I visited Paris for the first time this past January 2020. Had tickets to return February 2021 but the trip is on hold. My experience traveling there left me feeling almost homesick when I returned home (US) The impact of Paris left me instantly wanting to experience it again . When Emily in Paris arrived, it felt like such a fun connection to a place I so enjoyed. The show felt comical and the cliches were evident however their was a balance by having characters that displayed their enduring side.

    • Thank you Kerri for your comment <3 I agree with you Emily in Paris is such a fun show to watch (especially during the pandemic going on). Clichés and stereotypes are evident and so exaggerated that they’re making the series comical. And the scenery is absolutely beautiful 🙂

  • I liked Emily in Paris, although I have read some negative reviews by US bloggers. I enjoyed reading your views. I agree, it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. It’s intended to be fun.

  • J’aime Emily in Paris. Adorable and about as realistic as Sex and the City. Who cares it is just FUN!! I love her blase’ ultra chic and sexy lady boss. What a hoot!!
    Thank you for your blog Leonce. Bon jour et merci!

  • This was on my might watch list but it has moved up to want to watch. I am definitely looking for some escapism right now and I loved your review. Merci!

  • ok so i was obsessed with emily in paris and i also lived and studied in paris in my 20s as an american—

    two things reading this (and yes i agree with your assessment of course!!):

    1. i know what you mean about the apartment. the reason it felt believable to me is because the apartment was originally arranged for madeleine, her superior. there are a couple lines about it in the first episode — so the rent (or maybe someone at savoir owns it?) is included in her relocation package and was established before emily was given the position.

    2. honestly it’s true not all french men are like that but as someone who’s been a foreigner living in france, a lot of guys really do say super strange things to american women that they would never say to local women, especially if they don’t know a lot of americans. we are sometimes portrayed as easy, as just partying on holiday, as kinky, etc. so again it was definitely played up for humor, but also … i didn’t think it was so far off haha!

    ugh loved this thank you.

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