What's Wrong With Emily in Paris - From An Actual Expat
In the past week, a day hasn’t gone by without seeing Emily in Paris flying through my feed. I figured I didn’t need to watch yet another American abroad story because honestly, I’m already living it... That was only a slight flex.
Initially, the responses were, “This show is hilarious you must watch”, “so funny, 10/10”. Then, as the first episode bliss faded, this is where the controversy began.
Divided, I decided to form my own opinion on the show. So I sat down, with my demi-baguette and pain au chocolat (let’s be honest) and dove right in. From the first episode, I was all in. The very realistic 5th-floor apartment, Julien the sassy coworker, it all made sense. Then I saw her “chambre de bonne”, and had a full wait a damn minute moment.
As a former au-pair, having seen many crusty, dusty, teeny chambre de bonnes... sis that ain't it. A double bed, a living area, and a view?! Honey, no maid is living that luxurious even in the bougie neighborhoods. If you’re renting a chambre de bonne in Paris it’s gonna be nothing more than an awkward 100 square foot room with a hot plate, terrible ventilation, and a publicly shared toilet in the hallway.
However, that didn’t deter me.
Attractive, friendly, English-speaking neighbors where? I was intrigued by how Emily’s story would pan out so I continued. Then open the door to Gabriel, the tall, dark, handsome, and somehow fluent English-speaking French man. I will give it to Emily, attractive, well-dressed men do flock this city, but they don’t always speak English. I myself have gone on a date with someone who brought his friend as a translator because he didn’t speak English (I can’t make this up). The language barrier is a real struggle. Inside jokes, references, and intimate moments often get lost in translation. Dating in Paris isn’t as fluent and effortless as Emily makes it seem.
The stereotype that Parisians are the meanest people in the world is only half true. The truth is, Parisians like to tell you how they feel, even if you don’t ask for it. I won’t lie, I hated it when I first came here, but I’ve learned to live with it. I guess it’s their own unsolicited (keyword) way of saying they care about you. On the other hand, even though it is true that I experience the occasional smug looks as I waltz my big, colorful, American a** down in 7eme, 8eme, or 16eme, my pleasant interactions usually outweigh the bad.
Being called the American. Emily arrives and Julien says “the American is here”. It is absolutely real to always be referred to as “the American”. I was even at a party and I told one person I was from America, and suddenly I had people coming up to me saying “oh so you’re the American”. Whether to be flattered or appalled by it, I still don't know girl.
Emily never took the metro. Girl how are you gonna be "broke" and abroad but take taxis everywhere. Make it make sense. Unless you're one of the bougey families with Au Pairs, you're taking the metro. Literally, everyone and their momma are on there. Let's face it - no one living in a real chambre de bonne is gonna have that kind of taxi money anyway.
People do correct your french. As I said, unsolicited opinions. Just recently, I walked into a bakery, ordered a pastry, and been corrected on the wrong tense of a word. Hey, French is a complex language. If it stems from a genuine interest in helping me improve my French, or if it’s just their ego not being able to handle someone not speaking French to perfection, (because both do happen), I brush it under the rug. They knew what I was trying to say.
Okay but... where is PARIS? The last major issue I noticed is the amount of Paris that is missing. Paris isn’t only the Eiffel tower, hot men, and baguettes. It is the Eiffel tower, hot men, baguettes, administration issues, smug looks, language barriers, and more. It is literally a city of 20 different arrondissements and the suburbs. In order for people to actually get a glimpse of life here, they need to see it all.
While things like the nosy apartment guardien, and 5th floor walk-ups are very real, Emily in Paris is only showing Paris from one perspective. A very privileged, romanticized one. No one is really walking these cobblestone streets in 5-inch heels every day. With this version, we miss all the little nuances of Paris. For example when you’re walking down the street and you’re greeted with the pungent smell of piss, or when you’re minding your business in a park and an aggressive pigeon decides to run upon you. All in all, I think it’s best to remember this is a show that is meant for entertainment purposes. I am not coming here to say the show is completely unrealistic, but don’t be surprised if you arrive in Paris and people aren’t readily willing and able to speak English with you. If there is a season two I hope the producers focus on adding more color to the story.
Weekly markets, picnics in the park, immigration struggles, awkward dates, Barbes Rochechouart, this is the real Paris for ex-pats.