Emily in Paris: Real or Fake? A Honest Review

“Emily in Paris” is a new show on Netflix that debuted in October 2020. The series follows a girl named Emily, played by Lily Collins, from Chicago, who got the opportunity to live in Paris for a year. As an American living abroad in France, I had to watch the show. But, is “Emily in Paris” reflective of real life?

I watched both seasons, and I have a lot of thoughts. Here is my take on some of the cliches shown in the first episode of “Emily in Paris” from an American perspective.

Warning: if you have not seen both seasons, don’t read on. This article will give all the spoilers away!


The first episode provides a lot of laughs. I felt a lot of similar experiences during my first few months when getting settled in France. As an expat in France, it was encouraging to see an actress on TV relate to what I have been experiencing since moving here. But don’t believe everything you see.

Okay, let’s break down ten of the stereotypes and cliches seen in the first episode of “Emily in Paris.”

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Photo by Anna Urlapova on Pexels.com

1. how french count floors

When Emily arrives in Paris, one of the first scenes is her walking up multiple flights of stairs to her new apartment. She stopped on the “fifth floor” and stated she walked up five flights of stairs, and this floor must be it. The French man helping her with bags educated her that the ground floor (or first floor in America) is 0, and the first floor is next (what we consider as the second floor).

Is this scene from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? REAL! 

This numbering is standard in all buildings.

We didn’t know this ourselves until we moved to France. Our apartment is on the eighth floor, but by American standards would be considered the ninth floor. Remember this before you take your next trip to France.

2. elevators in buildings

Emily’s apartment in France does not have an elevator, and she has to walk up to her fifth-floor apartment. Some older buildings, like her office, have been modernized to include a small elevator.

Are these scenes from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? REAL!

Many older buildings do not have elevators. The older buildings that do have elevators are very tiny to navigate between the stairwells.

An elevator was one of our must-haves when we were looking for an apartment. We did not want to have to lug up groceries up all those flights! When we first moved here and lived in temporary housing for a few months, we lived on an old Haussmann-style building on the fourth floor. The elevator in the building broke often, so we had to take the stairs. We only had to take the stairs a few times, but doing it every day would be a drain. Think about if you forgot your phone and had to go back up! No, thank you!

3. Frenchman being direct

As Emily was checking out her new apartment, the French man helping her settle asked her out. A few times! Emily stated that she had a boyfriend back in Chicago and was not interested.

Is this scene from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? REAL!

The French are much more direct at making advances than Americans.

True story: a guy stopped his car and ran after my friend to get her number. He had seen her walking on the street and wanted to take her out! Unfortunately for him, she was married.

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Photo by Paul Deetman on Pexels.com

4. smoking inside

On Emily’s first day at work, the company owner was smoking a cigarette right in front of her inside the office.

Is this scene from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? FAKE!

While it’s true that many French citizens do enjoy smoking, they do not smoke inside in a public place. In 2007, France imposed new regulations banning smoking from offices, schools, and restaurants. This regulation was adopted and widely accepted by the French. My husband works in a French office and can confirm: no one smokes inside!


5. being more reserved

When Emily gave her first pitch at her new office, she was loud, had a big smile, and very energetic. Her French colleague stopped her in the middle of her presentation and asked, “why are you shouting?”

Is this scene from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? REAL! 

The French are much more reserved with their tone and expressions.

In our experience, they are typically more soft-spoken than Americans. I’m very soft-spoken, and my husband is not. We have to watch ourselves at restaurants to make sure we aren’t too loud. The French also think that many Americans appear fake by how they compliment others. While we believe we are genuine, it is not always perceived that way. Some advice: when in France, tone it down a bit!

6. starting the workday late

On Emily’s second day of work, she arrived at 8:30 am. She could not get in the office and waited outside for two hours before leaving an angry voicemail with her boss. Her coworker arrived at 10:30 am and explained this was when the workday started. Her boss finally came around 11:15 am, and Emily was visibly annoyed.

Is this scene from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? EXAGGERATED, BUT REAL! 

The French workweek is only 35 hours, compared to Americans standard 40. And the French don’t work a lot of overtime. Legally, they cannot work more than 10 hours a day. But to start the workday at 10:30 am seems exaggerated. In our experience, the French typically do start the workday later, but not that much later.

On my husband’s first day of work, he arrived early at the same time he would start in the US. He quickly realized he was one of the first ones in the office! My husband now starts his day around 9:00 am when he goes to the office. However, he said a handful of people arrive early in the morning and then leave earlier in the afternoon. It may be up to the specific firm’s preferences, but this one is exaggerated.

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Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

7. french people being rude

Emily’s coworkers all declined her offer to go to lunch, and then she saw them all eating lunch together without her. While she was eating lunch alone, two children knocked over her lunch, and she met the woman, Mindy, au pairing for them. Mindy spoke French and had lived in Paris for about a year. She told Emily how most French people are rude to your face. Emily would have to get used to it.

Is this scene from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? FAKE!

We have heard multiple times from French citizens that it’s not everyone in France that are rude, but instead just the Parisians. We’ve even had a Parisian tells us that only Parisians are rude. While we cannot comment on that, we can comment from an American perspective. After living in France for seven months, we have only had positive experiences with the French. They are always willing to help us, even if it is a little clunky when communicating back and forth.

In one of the scenes, Emily went to the boulangerie, and the employee corrected her pronunciation multiple times. I would not consider this rude; I would consider this helpful! It may all be in your perspective on how you look at the situation.


8. getting by without speaking any English

Emily was a last-minute replacement for her boss and took the job in Paris without speaking any French. She would say that she did not speak French in every situation, and they would turn around and speak perfect English back to her. She did not have any trouble getting by in her first few days.

Is this scene from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? FEELS A LITTLE FAKE.

This experience is the opposite of the majority of the experiences we have had. First, Emily didn’t even try in French to say she didn’t speak French. So the fact that these people automatically (and happily) spoke English back to her is surprising.

In our experience, if we are in a situation where we feel over our heads, we will ask in French if they speak English. Do you know what the response is 75% of the time? They typically say, “No, I only speak a little English.” And then they apologize to us for not speaking English! Sometimes after they say no, they do talk in broken Franglish, and we make it work. Other times, we are left to fumble around in French, which is fine. The struggle makes us learn quicker!

I feel like the French take offense if you do not even try to speak in French. So from our perspective, this seems fake.

9. “work to live,” not “live to work.”

When Emily’s colleague joined her at a cafe, he explained that the French “work to live” instead of “live to work.” Emily was confused and told her colleague that she liked working. That working made her happy. Her colleague then told Emily that maybe she didn’t know what happiness was.

Is this scene from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? REAL!

I have written about it before; the French have a slower pace of life than Americans. We can enjoy more time outside of work and are generally less stressed. The French do not define success by how hard you work, and a lot of times do not even ask about your job. I find it a refreshing change from living in America.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

10. power outlets

Emily is on the phone with her boyfriend back in Chicago, and the scene starts to get a little steamy. She goes to plug her American electronic device into her power outlet. It turns off the power for not only her apartment but the entire building! It’s safe to assume that her electronic device was also fried.

Is this scene from “Emily in Paris” real or fake? EXAGGERATED, BUT REAL!

Not only do you need a travel adapter, but you need a power converter as well. A travel adapter works well as it allows you to use a French outlet with US electronics. An adapter is excellent for charging your phone. But for any larger electronic, you will need a power converter. The typical voltage in France is 230V, and in the US it is 120V. US electronics can vary. You’ll need the right size power converter to ensure that your US electronics will work in France.

It’s all based on how her building is wired, but let’s not get too technical. This scene is real! I plugged my electric toothbrush into the wrong outlet and quickly fried it. Thankfully, it did not cause any power outages!

additional scenes that are real

  • Pain au chocolate is fantastic. Get ready for the best chocolate croissants in the world. Emily’s expression was precisely how ours was the first time we had chocolate croissants after moving to France. And that’s why we enjoy them every Saturday!
  • Scooters are popular in many large cities. Many people, like Emily’s colleague, have personal scooters to get around the city. We use scooters whenever possible, as it is an easy and convenient way to travel around large cities.
  • Vaping is big. When Emily’s colleague sat down next to her, he pulled out a vape pen immediately. We’ve already established that smoking is prevalent, but we also see many people vaping in France.

questions I still have after episode one

  • As someone trying to grow my Instagram following, I know posting a basic picture with a minimal caption, no location, and no hashtags isn’t the way to go. But she went from 40 followers to over 200 in the first episode! She is the social media expert, though, not me!
  • Is Paris really that romantic of a city when you live there? Even when we visited Paris after moving to France, it didn’t feel very romantic. I think a lot of people romanticize it.
  • How did she know to sit down at a table at the cafe? In the US, you have to ask for a table. But she just sat down like she owned the place! This trick was something we learned to do after moving here.
  • How did Mindy know that Emily was automatically American other than her friendly face? I need to know!

In summary, I felt like many of the scenes accurately portrayed what an American may experience after moving to France. Some were fake, and some were exaggerated, but that’s showbiz, baby! It’s not a documentary; I don’t expect it to be fully representative! Will I be watching the rest of the season? Yes!

Have you seen “Emily in Paris”? What was your take on it? Do you agree with my assessments?

Let me know what you think about the show in the comments!

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One thought on “Emily in Paris: Real or Fake? A Honest Review

  1. That was all cute Laura! Doubt I’ll ever see the show. Just as with your mother going to Hilton Head, I’ll live vicariously through both of your experiences.

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