Emily in Paris: Thoughts From a French Speaker Who Lived in France

The newest binge-worthy series on Netflix has sparked many debates online about the many issues the show presents. While watching I did notice some problems right off the bat, but instantly related to them because I experienced many similar situations when I lived in France. Many people have come out with their thoughts and opinions on the show and I felt the need to come on here and jot down my own.

Before going into my thoughts I want to preface this by saying that I did watch the entire first season and did really enjoy it. It allowed me to escape to Europe for thirty minutes at a time and be (partially) immersed in a culture I haven’t been a part of in over six years. It was nostalgic, familiar and comforting for me.

Furthermore, I did not live in Paris when I was in France, but I did visit the city several times. I was located in the south, just outside of Marseille. My first few months there were spent in Aix-en-Provence studying at the university. Afterwards, I lived in a small town called Martigues while I worked as an English Assistant in Primary Schools.

The French Like When You Speak French Their Way

While I am a native French speaker (it’s actually my mother tongue) I still felt as though I did not speak the language and able to properly communicate the the French while I lived there. By this I mean that often times while speaking to someone in France, in French, I was corrected about how to say things. The conversation would often veer in the direction of “that’s not how we say things here, this is what you should say instead”, and away from the actual subject at hand. This made speaking very frustrating and to be honest brought me to tears more than once because sometimes all I wanted to do was order a slice of pizza from a vendor on the street while walking home from class and instead was met with a French grammar lesson.

In the very first episode, Emily goes to a boulangerie and orders “une pain au chocolat” and is immediately met with the woman behind the counter answering her with “UN pain, Un pain au chocolat”. She insisted on correcting Emily’s grammar straight away, instead of acknowledging her request and recognizing the fact that she made the effort to communicate with her in French. I lived that exact same scenario while living in France, and the difference with Emily and myself is the fact that I am a native French speaker.

What You See Is Not What You Get

Were you watching the show and thinking to yourself how beautiful, clean and picturesque Paris is? Well, it’s not! This city is actually one of the dirtiest, least appealing places I have ever been to. Paris has such a great reputation and everyone always dreams of visiting the city of love. However, when I first set foot in Paris in 2005, I was shocked at what I discovered. The city was dirty, there was litter everywhere, there was dog feces on the sidewalks at almost every block, the streets are crowded with people, locals and tourists, and everyone in Paris either smokes, wears an abundant amount of perfume or both.

I’ve never been, nor will I probably ever be, a big fan of Paris. I do love so many other parts of France, but Paris just doesn’t do anything for me. That being said, the version of Paris shown on Emily in Paris is a place I’d gladly visit over and over again, and that’s why the show is unrealistic.

The Stereotypes Are Heavily Exaggerated

We are all aware of the many stereotypes that exist about French people. Some of these were very heavily accentuated on the show to create drama and comedy. Understandably so as the nature of the show is to shock and entertain. However, it may be time to veer away from portraying the French as rude, snobby and unwelcoming.

What is more accurate is the culture in Paris versus the rest of France. Parisians are typically much more “city” and the rest of France is more “country”. Meaning, life in Paris is fast-paced, business and a little cold, while the rest of France is more relaxed and easy-going. The French, like any people in the world, take some time to get used to and get to know but once you do, you’ve made friends for life.

There Wasn’t Enough French

Yes, this is an American show and yes people in the States mostly speak English. However, if you’re creating a show based in Paris, called Emily in Paris with the majority of the characters on the show being French, one would safely assume that there would be a more prevalent use of the French language in the show. The French characters in the show don’t even speak French to one another. Once in a while they will throw in a sentence or two in French, but it just doesn’t seem like enough French, especially since the French are extremely proud of their language.

Would it have been more authentic to have a lot more French and more subtitles? Most likely. However, it’s not a serious nor authentic show, so subtitles would have probably disinterested many people out of watching the show. I would have been completely fine with more French, but I know that many people would have clicked out of it if there had been too many subtitles.

Shows The Struggles of Moving Abroad

One of the good aspects and, in my opinion, well-demonstrated on the show is the struggle of moving abroad and working in a different country, with people who speak a different language than you do. I’ve experienced it living in France and Germany. The bureaucracy was my biggest issue with both of those countries but day-to-day would also be very different.

Should You Watch It ?

All in all I would still recommend this show to anyone who would like a virtual getaway to France during a COVID-19. It was, after all, directed, written and produced by Darren Star, most famously known for Sex and the City. The life of Emily that is portrayed in the show is far from anyone’s reality. Same as was Carrie Bradshaw’s life as a columnist for a D-list newspaper in New York City living in an Upper East Side apartment and buying a new pair of designer shoes every episode. You should always watch a show like this with a grain of salt. Take it in, appreciate it for what it is and realize that if you went to Paris, you wouldn’t be met with half of the beautiful scenery showcased on Emily in Paris.

Did I enjoy watching every episode ? Definitely ! Was it at times quite cringe-worthy? Absolutely! It’s a cute, fun, entertaining show to unwind with at the end of a long day with a glass of wine on the couch. Let’s not get too wound up over a silly show, but it’s also important to stop and think for a moment about the reality of what we are watching on TV.

Hope you are all staying safe and having a wonderful start to the month of November.

What other Netflix shows should I review on the blog?


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