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Emily in Paris: What was True vs Fake, Cliché & Unrealistic?

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Last Updated on 22nd November 2020 by Sophie Nadeau

Unless you’ve been hiding away from technology for the past few weeks (which seems like a pretty good idea given the never-ending bad news cycle that is 2020) then you’ll have undoubtedly heard of Emily in Paris, the glitzy and glamorous new show from creator of Sex and the City and released in early October on Netflix.

But for uncovering what Emily in Paris is like in real-life and how to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the show? Read on for more insider info…

Shh: If you’re looking for even more content from the real-life Paris, then, for the price of a coffee each month, you can become a member here to unlock all sorts of Paris goodies such as secret stories, insider recommendations, and extra photologues. 

Emily in Paris update: On the 11th November 2020, it was announced that Emily in Paris has been renewed for a second season and we are happy to know that the hit show will be back on our screens soon!

Terra Nera, 18 Rue des Fossés Saint-Jacques, 75005

Terra Nera- the restaurant is re-imagined as a French bistro for Emily in Paris

The show has taken the interwebs by storm and has sparked both incredibly positive and negative reactions from residents and visitors to Paris alike. Critics argue that the show paints an unrealistic view of Paris (and I have to agree with them on some aspects- more on this to come), while fans say it allows them to reminisce of times gone by and enjoy the beauty of Paris.

I recently posted a brief caption on Instagram summarising my thoughts on the show. Personally, I binge watched the show in one sitting! Yes, it’s ridiculous and not at all very realistic… But I miss pre-pandemic Paris and it was like a candy box of postcards I could enjoy from the comfort of my couch. If you’re interested, I even wrote a post about some of the top Emily in Paris filming locations.

Emily in Paris: What was Realistic vs Cliché & Unrealistic?

Sophie Nadeau (article author) in Paris

However, with the ongoing mocking of and outrage at the show (i.e. a very Instagram vs reality situation), I thought I would dive deeper into the realities of the show: i.e. what in Emily in Paris was realistic vs what was a complete cliché or simply untrue and fake?

And if you’re wondering as to what my qualifications are for talking about Paris? Well, I’m a Francophile who had always dreamt of moving to Paris… And then somehow actually managed to make it happen through a combination of sheer luck and hard work! I also happen to run some France-related websites as my full-time job so spend most of my days talking/ photographing, and writing about l’Hexagone, and more specifically, its capital city. 

Lack of diversity in Emily in Paris

Before getting into the more frivolous aspects of the show, it must be said that there is a complete and utter lack of diversity and representation in the series. Paris is one of the most multicultural and diverse cities in Europe, and yet, in Emily in Paris, almost every main character is white and wealthy. This article sums up the issues presented by the show well and delves deeper into the lack of diversity.

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Moulin Rouge at sunset- many arrondissements of Paris simply don’t appear in Emily in Paris

Fake: Getting around Paris – Using public transport vs walking in Emily in Paris

One of the biggest gripes that many viewers have with Emily in Paris is the fact that Emily never once takes the metro! If you’ve ever been to the city, then you’ll know that the cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to explore intra-muros Paris is by hopping on the métro.

A single ticket when purchased in a carnet (a pack of ten) is just €1,69, making it more than a little convenient. In the show (save for a few taxi and scooter rides), Emily simply appears in new locations and we don’t see her journey from A to B. Of course, the fact that Emily only frequents and lives in central Paris (aside from a few trips to Montmartre) means that she can easily walk everywhere, but this certainly doesn’t reflect the reality of most Parisians.

On the note of getting around Paris, upon arriving at the airport, Emily takes a taxi from the airport to her new accommodation in the 5th arrondissement of the city. In the taxi ride, she would not pass by the Eiffel Tower which is in the 7th arrondissement of the city as they would instead take the road around the city ‘the Paris Peripherique’.

metro paris

Classic Paris metro sign

Fake: Emily’s ‘Chambre de Bonne’ in Emily in Paris

If there’s one thing you should know about living in Paris, it’s that finding an apartment is just a complete and utter nightmare which results in an incredible amount of stress (and, for me personally, a lot of tears!)

Of course, the show never reveals this side of things as everything has been set up for Emily prior to her arrival. One of the most difficult aspects of finding an apartment in Paris is that you need to have a bank account in order to secure an apartment. In order to get an apartment, you need to have an address- a true chicken or the egg situation! 

Of course, this difficulty is not discounting the fact that many agencies and landlords are reluctant to rent to foreigners in the first place! Though the staircase going up to Emily’s ‘Chambre de Bonne’ is a pretty accurate depiction (as is the lack of elevator), the actual room itself is most definitely not!

The smallest legal apartment size that can be rented in Paris is 9 square metres of liveable space (the ceiling has to be high enough for the metres to count) and Emily’s is probably around 40 metres squared, meaning that it’s a very large studio (the majority of my friends who live alone live in around 15-35 metres squared). 

Last but not least on the subject of Emily’s apartment, it’s that the location and size of the apartment are completely unrealistic for someone who is in their 20s and is in the beginnings of their career in PR. Place de l’Estrapade is one of the most exclusive addresses in, not just the Latin Quarter, but all of Paris. With this prestige comes a high price tag, the likes of which Emily could probably not afford!

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Sophie Nadeau’s (article author) writing desk in Paris

Wrong: Emily’s Wardrobe in Emily in Paris

Let’s start with the good: I personally loved that Emily’s wardrobe evolves throughout the first season of the show. While she always wears ridiculous hats, her beautiful clothing is truly one of the main pillars of the show, with viewers constantly wondering what kind of crazy ensemble she’ll put together next.

There are a few things to unpick in the wardrobe section of Emily in Paris. The first is the sheer number of clichés which are used in dressing the French characters of the show! While it’s true that everyone wears a more muted wardrobe in Paris (particularly in the winter months when you tend to see everyone dressed in black, beige, white, grey, or muted colours such as burgundy and forest green), people don’t dress up all the time! 

It’s perfectly normal to walk around the city in white sneakers (and, quite honestly, encouraged since one of the best ways to explore the city is on foot) and no one wears stilettos full-time. For me, this was one of the most unrealistic parts of the show due to the sheer number of cobblestone streets in the French capital. If you were to wear stilettos all the time, you would probably be forever tripping over!

looking out of a parisian window

Dressing like a Parisian in a monochrome wardrobe

Fiction: Dating in Paris (for real) vs in Emily in Paris

If there’s one aspect of the show that I simply can’t get behind, it’s Emily’s experience of dating in Paris as opposed to the reality of the situation! First things first, Emily moves into her apartment, only to discover that her neighbour below is an incredibly cute guy with whom she shares great chemistry!

I’m sure that this occasionally happens, but it’s definitely more fiction than fact. You’re more likely to never see your neighbour or, worse still, have disputes with your neighbour, than actually discover that they’re your age and someone you’d actually want to date!

When it comes to meeting eligible men in the city, one of the most unrealistic moments of the show is when Emily simply happens to find a date while sat in a café (and at Café de Flore, no less)! The simple truth of the matter is that, like in other places across the world, online dating apps are King when it comes to finding a potential match.

While many people would love to imagine that there is wealth of eligible singles to date in Paris (and, of course, there are!), they don’t simply appear in your life. Instead, you’re more likely to have your share of horror dating stories and be ghosted more than once before you meet someone you’re actually compatible with! Dating is difficult wherever you are and the scene in Paris is no easier than anywhere else.

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Rooftops of Paris

Wrong: Growing your social media presence & becoming an ‘influencer’

Even when someone is an overnight success, you don’t see the many years of blood, sweat, and tears that have been put into getting to that place in the first place. One of the biggest clichés about Emily in Paris that Emily arrives in Paris, simply starts posting some (pretty awful) snaps of the city and voilà, she suddenly has 25k followers on Instagram!

Not only is this unrealistic, but it also doesn’t portray the sheer amount of time and effort that most content creators put into their work. You can’t simply move to a glittery location, start posting photos, and expect to start earning a reputation and money from this- that’s just not realistic at all!

paris apartment tips and styling

Fake: Paris is depicted as really clean!

One of the most ridiculous aspects of the show (aside from the lack of the metro), is how Paris is depicted as one-dimensional, glittering destination where, even when things go wrong, they’ll be alright in the end.

Though the show does show Emily stepping on some dog poop (which happens to even the best of us at one point or another- there really is dog poo EVERYWHERE in the city), the show doesn’t show the gritty, dirty side of Paris.

There is literally trash everywhere and I’m not sure I even saw a trash can anywhere in the show, let alone the amount of garbage lying around. Even when I was snapping a photo of the now iconic restaurant which starred as ‘Gabriel’s Restaurant’ in the show, Terra Nera, I was photobombed by a trash can!

Place de l'Estrapade: A Delightful Square in the 5th Arrondissement

Realistic: A culture clash when arriving in Paris

One of the driving points of the show is how Emily experiences pretty extreme culture clash when she arrives in Paris. This is true for anyone who is arriving in a new country and, while the show takes this to the extreme, there are some elements of truth to it.

For example, there is the extreme relief you feel when you meet a fellow foreigner to become friends with (I have a tight-knit group of fellow British girls in Paris with whom I can discuss the peculiarities of French culture and aspects we miss from back in the UK). Emily meets Mindy and the two immediately hit it off and find comfort in each other.

Sacre Coeur, Montmartre, 18th arrondissement, Paris, France

Realistic: Smoking in Paris

I remember when a heartbroken friend arrived in Paris for a post-breakup visit in January of this year. She’d just broken up with her long-term boyfriend and so I convinced her to download the dating app Bumble.

Her first observation? Just how many ‘casual smokers’ there are on the dating apps! To be honest, I’ve been on many many dates with French men and every single one of them has smoked! When I lived in London, I definitely didn’t encounter as many smokers. People aren’t smoking all of the time, but more people smoke on an infrequent basis than anywhere else I’ve ever lived.

cutest parisian cafes

Unrealistic: It’s always sunny in Paris

Upon watching the show, one of my best friends (an American in Paris) told me that he thought it was ridiculous how everyone in the show is always dressed for summer and that it’s always sunny in the city! To be honestly, I thoroughly agree because we actually have a lot of rain here in Paris.

In the rain, Paris is still beautiful but it makes it harder to make plans, get around, and indeed wear pretty, floaty dresses (and again, if you wore stilettos in the rain in Paris, you would literally slip and fall over due to the slipper cobblestones). Throughout the year (particularly in the spring and autumn), it’s pretty common to have light rain showers on and off throughout the day.

paris apartment view

Final thoughts on Emily in Paris

Though there were a number of problematic aspects of the show, many of which I’ve discussed above, I couldn’t help but binge watch the entire show in one sitting! And if you’re looking for a more accurate depiction of life in Paris? Check out my post on what would have happened to Emily in real-life in Paris

Enjoyed reading about Emily in Paris in real-life Paris? Pin this article now, read it again later:

Real Paris living: Emily in Paris: What was True vs Fake, Cliché & Unrealistic?

Emily in Paris: What was True vs Cliché & Unrealistic?

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!

3 Comments

  • Krista
    7th November 2020 at 5:16 pm

    Interesting read! I actually watched the show purely so I could see different parts of Paris.

    Reply
  • nadinearab
    7th November 2020 at 11:42 am

    That’s a very interesting read! I can totally relate to each and every single point, especially the ones about becoming an influencer overnight and taking the metro!

    Reply
  • postcardstoriesblog
    30th October 2020 at 8:27 pm

    Oh, yes, regarding metro! I also couldn’t believe how she can walk through Paris in those heels…

    Reply

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