'I was a real life Emily in Paris. Here's what the show gets right and wrong.'

Among the never-ending chaos that is 2020, I found the perfect antidote last week: Netflix’s new series Emily in ParisThe Sex and the City successor (it was also created by Darren Star) follows Emily, a fresh-faced, 20-something American junior marketing executive who moves across the globe to Paris for a dream job.  

If you haven’t binged it already, it’s lighthearted television, easy to watch while also scrolling Insta, and bordering on cheesy at times - basically it’s everything our brains need right now. Straight from your lounge room you’re transported to the magical streets of Paris (remember international travel)? 

It’s enough to make anyone wonder what it would be like to pack up and jet to a country where you don’t speak the language. 

Well, 15 years ago, I was Emily. 

Watch the trailer for Emily in Paris. Post continues below.

Video via Netflix.

Two years after graduating uni, I was working in Melbourne as the assistant brand manager for Vegemite. I thought I had it made, scoring such an incredible job straight out of uni. But then an opportunity came to move to Paris, and work in brand management for global stationery brand BIC. So I dropped my life like a hot potato and booked a one-way ticket to France.


It’s easy to dream about how glamorous it all sounds - particularly at the moment when international borders remain firmly shut. And I admit, there were plenty of pinch-me moments, and I spent the first year wandering around all starry-eyed not quite believing my life.

But just like anything, reality isn’t quite as shiny as the dream. I lived there for 2.5 years, and from my experience, here’s what the show gets right, and what’s more from the basket of TV fiction.

These shoes were (not) made for walking

First, let’s talk about the high heels. Emily (Lily Collins) has a seemingly endless supply of gorgeous stilettos.

I cannot stress this enough: one does not traipse through Paris in heels. It's just not possible.

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Emily and the city. #EmilyInParis

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Parisian streets are old AF, and the cobblestones are murder on your heels. Plus, you clock a lot of steps going up and down the Metro stops, so everyone wears practical shoes. 

Me in Paris, dressed sensibly. Image: Supplied.


I was actually surprised by how Parisians dressed for work. Forget chic - it was really very understated and practical. 

Parlez Vous Francais?

Like Emily, I also couldn't speak French when I moved to Paris. In the series, Emily's colleagues speak English during meetings as a courtesy to her. That was NOT my experience. 

Every meeting I attended (and there were several per day) was exclusively in French, and it was then my job to figure out what was discussed and make sure I knew the part I was expected to play. 


While this felt cruel and unusual at the time, it fast-tracked my learning, and I was fluent in French within six months. 

Living the dream?

Visiting Paris, your tourist dollars can stretch quite decently. 

But living and earning in Paris is a completely different story. I was earning about 35,000 Euros, which was barely enough to cover rent and the bare necessities in the City of Lights.

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live from Emily’s camera roll 🌹

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In the show, Emily lives in a tiny five-storey walk-up apartment. So far, so believable. Then opening up her window to the quintessential Parisian view, Emily quips that she feels like Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge

Even for the people who are on higher wages, affording a studio apartment in a bad suburb where the couch is also the bed is a stretch, let alone nabbing a beautiful view. And forget shopping at chic French fashion boutiques. 

My wage meant I was limited to shopping at H&M and Zara, and only occasionally at that.

Dining the French way.

Any holiday to France undeniably revolves around the food, and sitting alfresco at restaurants languishing over divine food and wine.

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really don’t see the issue here 👀

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When I lived there, eating out was a rare treat. 

Most businesses in Paris have their offices way out in the suburbs due to the prohibitive cost of rent. Instead of having your lunch in the sun in a nearby leafy pocket park, lunch at work is usually provided by the office’s cafeteria. 

Think beans that have been boiled for about two hours too long. And because of my wage, any time I did dine out, I’d have to carefully scan the menu to see what I could actually afford - usually just a soup or salad.

A little something on the side.

The TV series does nail one thing - flirting is the national pastime, and extra-marital affairs are the norm. 

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Gabriel answers the door and asks you this qq, wyd?

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I had a colleague proposition me the day after he returned from his honeymoon. There were many office scandals, and discussing them in the cafeteria at lunchtime was a sport.

Get the gig.

While the show is quite far-fetched - this is television after all - it’s perhaps not in the ways you may think.

For instance Emily, who is a junior marketer, gets introduced fairly early on to a senior haute-couture designer. I was invited to a Paris Fashion Week event for a very quirky designer as we were going to create a limited edition pen for her.

There were only around 20 attendees, and an older gentleman was making the rounds chatting to each person. 

When it was my turn, he introduced himself as the one and only Francois Louis Vuitton. Seriously. He was the main investor in the designer's label. 

So while my 2.5 years may have been far less glamorous than TV makes it seem, it was still littered with plenty of moments of magic like this. And yes - I’m still pinching myself about it to this day. 

Feature Image: Supplied / Instagram