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I Asked Real Parisians Their Thoughts on ‘Emily in Paris’ & Here’s the Most Realistic Character

Here's what's fact and fiction from Netflix's show all about Paris.
Emily in Paris
Image: Courtesy of Netflix. Design: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

If there’s one thing we can agree on when it comes to Netflix’s Emily in Paris, it’s that … there’s not much we can agree on. A dinner party conversation will undoubtedly spark a slew of opposing viewpoints—from whether Emily’s outfits were outrageous or inspired to hot takes on the show’s portrayal of Parisian work ethic. 

For the uninitiated, the hit show, which stars Lily Collins, chronicles the adventures of a woman in her late twenties moving from Chicago to Paris. Her experience is rocky, to say the least, as she encounters the many shades of Parisian. 

As a midwestern American living in Paris, you can bet I have my fair share of thoughts (admittedly, most of them concern how Emily walks around Paris in those four-inch stilettos!) Turns out, I’m definitely not alone. In fact, the series has sparked international conversations for its fairly fantastic account of an American expat and (sometimes biting) portrayal of the Parisian people. If you’ve scrolled through TikTok recently, you’ve likely come across the slew of videos offering their commendations and critiques on the series—largely from those of us in similar situations to Emily. 

That said, as opinionated as I and my fellow expats may be, I thought it might be revealing to check in with some real Parisians about their reactions to the second season of Emily in Paris. What do they find most realistic about their city’s portrayal in the series? Most unrealistic? And what aspects would they change? (Alert: Spoilers ahead!)

"Emily in Paris"
Image: Carole Bethuel/Netflix.

It’s True: Parisians Don’t Mind Mixing Work & Pleasure 

One aspect of the show that continued to confound me were the dangerously blurred lines between professional and romantic life. I mean, when’s the last time you hopped a train to Saint Tropez on a romantic weekend with…your client!? Well, it turns out what’s taboo in the U.S. isn’t quite so forbidden in France. Pierre, a 36-year-old lawyer, commented on the lack of boundaries. “For the French, sex at work is not always taboo. In America, it’s problematic if you date someone in the same job, but we don’t really have that in France. In fact, I think it might actually be illegal to say you can’t date someone in a work contract! Everyone is free,” he said. Another Parisian, Nina, a 30-year-old news presenter, echoed a similar take. “I have this feeling that men are the same in both our worlds. Some cheat, some are faithful. It is true, though, that Parisian students have more chances to have an affair with their teacher, even if the teacher in question is married!” she said.

Camille Is Way Too Passive Aggressive For a Parisian

While passive aggression is an artform here in the U.S., the Parisian M.O. tends to be significantly more direct, as I’ve come to learn. This is particularly relevant when you consider how Camille handles her revenge against Emily. As Jenny, a 31-year-old journalist, puts it, “Despite all the faults of a Parisian woman, I think things would not have played out this way. Parisian women have no problems being direct and rude, so the fake approach seems very un-Parisian.” Ah, the age-old question—would you prefer to be insulted to your face or behind your back? 

The Most Believable Aspect of The Show Is Emily’s Colleague, Luc

It’s easy to wonder while watching the series if all Parisians are as they’re portrayed. I’ll admit, after two years in the city, I can attest that certain elements (ahem, their reluctance to make American friends) ring true, but I was eager to hear a real Parisian’s take. The most revealing response was from Nina, who noted, “I would say the character of Luc, who works with Emily at Savoir agency, is a little realistic. He is portrayed as a tormented man, who is aware of the absurdity of life, which is very French, because we all have read Baudelaire, Pascal and Flaubert. But I personally imagine a man like that working in a bookshop or at a university and never in a marketing agency!”

"Emily in Paris"
Image: Stéphanie Branchu/Netflix.

Parisians Would’ve Preferred a “Grand Amour” Finale

As someone who finished season two feeling like Emily got exactly what she deserved (the betrayal! the lying!) I was intrigued to discover that my Parisian pals felt a bit differently. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those living in a city renowned for its romance were rooting for the starring couple to succeed, despite their flaws. As Nina put it, “I was a bit disappointed that Emily opens her heart to another man in season two. In France and in our culture, the depiction of love in fiction is sacred. In our classic literature, people die for love! You cannot fall for a guy and fall for another one the next day. It is a discredit to ‘l’amour fou’ which was supposed to make Emily stay in Paris forever.” Interestingly, Claire, a 34-year-old event planner, agreed.  “I would have preferred that Emily and Gabriel live “le grand amour”, but maybe in season three?” she said.

Work Culture in Paris Is Rapidly Becoming More American 

I don’t know about you, but I finished season two with the impression that Parisians take their nights and weekends more seriously than they do their work weeks. I was curious — is this depiction true? Turns out, not exactly. “I don’t really agree with the cliches made about the work culture,” said Claire. “In marketing agencies (like Savoir), we work a lot of hours, and we can work during the weekends. Of course, it’s not as common as overseas, but still.” Jenny added to Claire’s critique, saying “The work life is totally wrong in terms of the ‘lazy’ portrayal by the series.” She added, “Not working on weekends or answering emails after hours is not illegal as far as I know, as I do it all the time and so do most people I know.” As for the impression that Parisians mock Americans’ work ethic, Nina commented, “I’ve personally never seen any ‘eye-rolling’ towards Americans. I would even say Parisian people admire Americans, because we have this cliche that everything is possible when you live in the U.S., whereas in France it could be harder to push the limits.”

"Emily in Paris"
Image: Stéphanie Branchu/Netflix.

The Cliches About Paris Are Predictable & That’s OK! 

Anyone who’s spent more than three days in Paris knows that the majority of what the series showcases walks a very fine line between reality and fantasy. While we catch glimmers of everyday realities in the Netflix series (i.e. the car nearly hitting Emily in the opening scene—a common occurrence for this transplant!) Paris is nowhere near as luxurious as the series would make it seem. Even so, this fantastic facade doesn’t actually faze the Parisians with whom I spoke, who are seemingly well-accustomed to false accounts of their hometown. As Maeva, 32-year-old chief of staff at a public agency, put it: “As a Netflix fictional show, it must be seen as entertainment. Parisian cliches existed before the show and will persist after it. Emily won’t help American spectators learn more about Paris, and that’s OK.” Nina also had a similar reaction and offered a slight word of warning, “I would say this to a viewer of the series: don’t expect from Emily in Paris what it is not. Take it for what it is: light-hearted entertainment. None of this is real, but if we were looking for realness, we wouldn’t watch series and movies! Take it for its magic and forget it immediately!”

Emily in Paris is available to stream on Netflix. 

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