When I found out that there was a new Netflix series called Emily in Paris I was a little salty about it for two reasons. One, I had previously created a character on TikTok called “Girl Who Lived in France for a Short While” who was also named Emily, who I had created in March and that seems suspicious to me. Two, I, like Emily, moved from the Chicago area to the Paris region to work there for a little while and I expected the show to be way different from my own personal experience—and I was right about that.
If you haven’t given in and watched all 10 episodes of Emily in Paris yet, here’s a short recap. A girl named Emily Cooper who lives in Chicago and has a cool social media job gets an even cooler job doing social media for a Parisian marketing agency. She doesn’t speak any French and her coworkers hate her because she doesn’t speak French and is loud and pretty annoying and ruins things all the time. That doesn’t matter, though, because she has a hot neighbor who is nice to her and is also a chef. There’s sexual tension between them, but he has a girlfriend who also becomes one of Emily’s best friends. It’s okay though because every other man Emily meets during the show also wants to have sex with her because she is Emily in Paris and is very hot. Her coworkers hate her less. And that is pretty much the whole show.
Before getting into the specifics about the whole Emily being in Paris thing, I do just have to say that the entire premise of this show is absolutely wild. She is given a lot of responsibility at her job despite constantly messing up (such as losing a client for being a basic ringarde bitch) but also always saves the day, even though she’s the one that always ruins the day. But I guess that’s just what happens when you’re a beautiful Emily in Paris who knows how to use Instagram.
Now going to all the France stuff, I am not sure about other people who are from America who moved to France, but I will have to say that Renée in Paris was an extremely different experience from Emily in Paris. Luckily for me, I had very nice coworkers who were super helpful during my whole stay in France. Even though I had a lot of help, the transition to getting settled down in a new country was still very difficult.
We saw Emily getting bullied a lot in her day-to-day life with her boss, her landlord, and the flower shop lady, but it really was not enough bullying. It would have been even more fun to see Emily also get bullied by a banker who tells her she doesn’t have the correct paperwork (or the correct sized paper for photocopies), or by La Poste who will take all her packages hostage and make her pay 400 euros in customs fees—just some fun little things that are the expat in France experience.
I had two major beefs with Emily the character. The first one is that she wouldn't take the Métro because it's "too complicated" when she's apparently from Chicago, a place that also has a train system, and the Métro is much nicer honestly. The second beef that I had with Emily in Paris was with the stark difference in our dating lives. On day one Emily was getting flirted with by every damn dude that she walked past. When she finally broke up with her plain-ass white bread Wrigleyville boyfriend and started fucking hot guy after hot guy, the show did get more interesting but the whole time I just thought to myself, “Damn that’s how some people live? What a world!”
For context I was 23 at the time that I moved to France and had never had good luck dating. I was hoping that while I was living in Europe and working 12 hours a week I’d have time to date and fall in love, or at least get eaten out a few times, since usually people have good luck with those things in France. That did not happen.
It turns out that when you don’t look like Emily in Paris, you don’t get your hot neighbor, and your friend’s brother, a pretentious guy who quotes Rimbaud (some undergrad flashbacks there), and a married man who is also fucking your boss be all romantic and possibly fall in love with you. My experience was more of that guy Emily met at a house party who talks to her for 20 minutes and then whispers, “I love American pussy,” except in my case he’d probably also ask if I do anal—super romantic stuff, like the stuff you find in movies. And no, I’m not at all bitter about this still.
The most realistic part of the show was with the language barrier. Emily foolishly thought that using Google Translate and listening to a few tapes was going to be good enough. I foolishly thought that taking French since middle school and getting my B.A. in it was going to be good enough. It was not. While I had enough knowledge to not say “je suis excitée” when I meant “excited,” I did have an issue with ordering bread using the correct gendered article like Emily does in episode 1. In my case I said “un baguette s’il vous plaît” and the woman at the counter really tried to act like she had no idea what I was talking about and then was like, “Oh you mean une baguette.” It was traumatizing, and I always struggled with gendered objects, especially when put on the spot, but the bread was good so I kept going back.
While Emily wasn’t really trying to learn French, the reality is that even when you are trying your best to speak French, if you’re not perfect, Parisians are just gonna be like “fuck you” and start speaking in English. From my experience, the rest of France is just happy you’re trying, though.
I could have definitely written a smarter piece about Emily in Paris or about my time living there myself. What I can say about the show Emily in Paris is that it is not a good show, but it was specifically made for ringardes like me who peaked when they went abroad three years ago. It also is not an accurate depiction of what it’s like to move from the States to Paris—at least in my case. If you, too, lived in Paris for a short while and felt like Emily in Paris was pretty similar to your own experience please let me know, I’d love to hear about it.