Empty. Cliché-filled. Irritating. Funny. Surprisingly accurate. Everyone seems to have an opinion about the hit Netflix show Emily in Paris, even if they’ve never seen the show. But has Emily outstayed her welcome in town now that the highly anticipated season 4 finally begins filming?
On January 19, Lily Collins, who plays Emily, posted a scripted selfie to her Instagram page. Filming had started. However, the reaction at many of Paris’ key locations was far less positive than that of Collins’ Instagram fans. Across the city, and especially near Place de l’Estrapade, in Paris’s 5th arrondissement, where Emily’s fictional apartment was found, locals made their disdain known.
The actress’s face has been scribbled on billboards for the new series. “F… off Emily,” scribbled on the grill of a cobbler’s shop. A slightly more polite “Emily not welcome” was plastered on the walls of the character’s on-screen office, as well as on the shutters of the Café de la Nouvelle Mairie on the Place de l’Estrapade. The staff at the café in question told me in no uncertain terms that they were tired of Emily and the show’s selling of the ‘Parisian dream’.
Was this unfriendly reaction provoked by hordes of cheerful tourists, or by the sometimes unflattering representation of Parisians in the series – or both? Does the city need, or even want, all these fans, in a city that already welcomes more than 40 million visitors a year (the number for 2022), a figure that will increase astronomically this year with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris?
“I’ve seen ‘Emily go home’ scrawled in bars before,” says culture writer Katherine McGrath. McGrath, an American expat, moved to Paris in 2011. ‘I understand. Emily in Paris ruins places for people. Paris never used to be an Instagram playground, and now people go to places just to have their picture taken.”
In one episode, Emily visits Carette, a teahouse in the 16th arrondissement that dates back to 1927. Emily’s favorite places go viral in the series, and in the real world it’s the same story.
“It wasn’t a tourist attraction, but it just blew up,” McGrath laments. “Suddenly people only started posting their chocolate chaud with chantilly on Instagram.”
For McGrath, Emily in Paris shows the worst of American culture, the parts it would like to distance itself from.
“Americans don’t realize how selfish and selfish their culture can be,” she says. “All these TikTokers and content creators are making a spectacle of themselves, and they’re treating Paris like a beautiful backdrop. They invest so little in it that they might as well have stayed in New York.”
To other American expats in Paris, the series is innocuous, but should not be taken as a true reflection of Parisian life.
“Emily in Paris is a fantasy version of our lives. The dramatization is entertaining at best,” the American Club of Paris said in a statement The Telegraph. ‘We need to know that we are the real Emilys of Paris. Would we consider Emily’s application to join our club? She’ll have to sign up to find out!”
Expats may despise the image Emily in Paris gives, but for the locals living in Emily’s Paris, the series is worse than an unflattering portrayal, affecting their daily lives. Ella* works in the area and had to find a new lunch spot due to an influx of tourists.
She said: “I often had lunch on the benches of the Place de l’Estrapade because the research laboratory was just around the corner, on rue d’Ulm. If you go to the square today you will either be in all the photos or you will be the one taking them, so I won’t be going there for lunch anymore. The clothes of the Americans (usually women) who visit are often inspired by Emily’s.”
Magali* also works in rue d’Ulm and discovered that the prices of the locations where filming took place were too high.
“My team and I often went to the Italian restaurant [Terra Nera] on the Place de l’Estrapade. I have to admit that we don’t go there that much anymore, because it has become too expensive and it is always full.”
Terra Nera is the restaurant used as the setting of Les Deux Compères, where Emily’s love interest Gabriel (Lucas Bravo) works. This is where the team receives Emily in Paris fans cordially.
“It is wonderful to see our square full of people again, especially after Covid,” says Valerio Abate, owner of Terra Nera together with Johann Barmes.
A small restaurant with only 40 seats, they have never had a problem filling it, but the type of restaurant coming in has changed. The restaurant was no stranger to the spotlight, having been used as a setting for several French films in the past, but it used to be the meeting point of senators working in the area. Now their guests are much more international.
“Japanese, Koreans, Americans, people from all over Europe,” says Abate. “It’s nice to have so many nationalities, and they all ask questions: ‘What are the actors like? Are they nice?’
“We had no idea about that Emily in Paris was going to be so popular, but we’re really looking forward to welcoming the team back here to film in a few weeks.
Other companies in the area have also noticed the change.
“There are more young tourists, especially Americans,” says Lou Chatelenat, the social media manager of Bar Le Piano Vache, a five-minute walk from Emily’s apartment. “But we still have our regular customer base, so it’s nice to have the mix.”
With the Panthéon around the corner, Chatelenat is used to seeing crowds of tourists in the area, and the crowds don’t bother her. However, for many of her friends, that is not the case.
“Many Parisians I know don’t like the representation of their city Emily in Paris, they think it’s too idealistic,” she says. “It’s true that when my friend from San Francisco came to visit (inspired by the series), they still thought Paris was beautiful, but it wasn’t as perfect as it was depicted. They discovered that not everyone was so friendly when they walked in Emily in Paristhe roads were dirtier and there was a lot of poverty that wasn’t shown on TV.”
Anything viewed this widely (an estimated 58 million households saw the first season) is bound to be divisive. But beyond the injured American expats and happy entrepreneurs making a profit, do Parisians really care as much as the graffiti suggests? I raised the subject in my French office and was surprised to learn that no one else there is watching or particularly concerned Emily in Paris.
“To be honest, the influx of tourists is quite cute,” says Louise*, who lives near Place de l’Estrapade. ‘They’re cute with their little berets. I just hope Paris doesn’t disappoint them.”
*Some names have been changed at the request of interviewees