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How can watching Emily in Paris improve your knowledge of French culture?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Are you among those who haven't yet watched the TV series, Emily in Paris on Netflix? If not you should!

This is one the rare American TV series where you can get a ton of lessons on French language and culture that will facilitate your immersion in France.

I might be writing a bit late about it since it has been released in October 2020, but I think that " il n'est jamais trop tard pour bien faire" (it's never too late to do good) as said in this famous French saying.

I have watched it personally and liked it despite all the criticisms it received.

For those who like romance and comedy series, they will find Emily in Paris very interesting to watch. It takes less than half a day to finish the full season 1, so I would strongly recommend it to any French lover.

Keep on reading if you want to know why you should watch Emily in Paris on Netflix and most importantly what you can learn from it to improve your knowledge of French culture.

Lily Collins and her partners at St Tropez for starting season 2 of Emily in Paris
Crédit photo : IG Emily in Paris

Watch out! The 1st floor in France is in fact the 2nd floor in the US

In the first episode, you’ll see that Emily arrived at her place in Paris and found out there was no lift and she had to go up to the 5th floor carrying her luggage. But when she arrived at what she thought was the 5th floor, she was disappointed to hear that she was only on the fourth floor. Why this difference?

In France, the first floor or the ground floor is called le Rez-de-chaussée. It's kind of like if that floor doesn't count. The first floor in France is in fact the second floor in the US.

So, when going to France, remember this little detail and choose wisely your floor number, especially if there is no lift in your building.

How do French people greet each other?

The way people greet each other depends on the country and their customs. French people are known for the "bise étiquette".

In France, to greet each other it's true that people like to make kisses on the cheeks. But they also shake the hand depending on the situation.

The number of kisses to make can be one, two, three, or even four depending on the region. In Paris, generally, people do two kisses on the cheeks. It is important to know these elements and also on which side to start the kiss to avoid a "couac" (a problem) like accidentally kissing on the mouth. For instance, Camille and Emily accidentally kissed on the mouth in episode 4.

In general, you should pay attention to the direction taken by the person you are kissing.

Better be well prepared before traveling to France

Before going to any country it is essential to know a bit of its culture and language. That will help you communicate better with people and understand their context.

What Emily Cooper did was arriving in Paris unprepared. She didn’t know much about French and that became a barrier to her professional and social immersion.

For instance, to talk to people she was using a translation app on her phone that will tell the sentence she had typed in. To be honest, that could be perceived as rude and as a lack of consideration towards French people.

Her misadventures with her bathroom wouldn’t have been solved if she didn’t have this neighbor Gabriel who played the interpreter role with the plumber.

So, what you need to remember is to make sure you know basic French sentences like how to say hello, how you are, asking for directions, basic conversation starters. Sentences Like Bonjour, je voudrais... j’aime, pourriez vous m’aider svp, would have been of a great help to Emily.

Les faux amis or false friends to be aware of

English and French have similar words that can be a great match sometimes.

But some are false friends.

Learn some of the most common faux amis to avoid Doing a "faux pas" while in France. Emily learned it after she made the mistake.

She said "I am très très excitée to be here" She meant in reality that she was glad or happy to be here but she said in fact “I am horny to be here”. I am sure no one would have liked to be in her shoes. She should have said je suis très ravie d’être là or je suis très contente d être là.

Another mess she did was when she mistakenly ordered a "croissant avec les préservatifs". And the waiter was scandalized and told her that there was an automatic machine for condoms. A condom is "un préservatif" in French. She actually wanted to order a croissant without preservatives.

These two episodes remind us about what not to say in France if you don’t want to be taken as a fool or a rude person. Be aware of the faux amis or false friends.

The Art of the table in Paris

Eating on a table is a matter of art that you should master to avoid a quiproquo or getting categorized as "mal élevé" (someone with little education).

No talking with the mouth full, hands on the table, no use of bare hands to eat, are among the most common well-known rules. But another rule that we have seen when Emily visited Camille's parents is that women must not touch the bottle of wine. The elegance wants that men serve ladies. It’s weird to see the lady serving herself wine.

Keep in mind that words can be feminine or masculine

You might wonder why things are so complicated in French. How can the same word have a feminine and masculine version?

But sadly, this is how the French language is. Words have gender and depending on it, the articles used with them can be different.

It was difficult for Emily to understand why vagina which is "le vagin" in French is a masculine word, and she finally posted about it to protest by saying that the vagina was not masculine.

If you are going to France, make sure that in your French crash course there is a part dedicated to the words gender. This particular lesson will give you the strategies necessary to quickly identify the gender of nouns.

Of course, All French people are not mean

Are French people mean?

This is a cliché presented in the series EMP. But when dealing in real life with them, depending on the persons and relationships you will certainly find nice people and mean people just like in any other country.

For example in the first episodes, everybody was mean to Emily but she met Camille, Gabriel and by the end of season 1, her two colleagues were now on her side.

So, some people can be mean like everywhere but not all French people are like this. There are many nice people out there.

6 Words and expressions to learn from Emily in Paris

In the TV series Emily In Paris, you will certainly hear some basic French words and also new ones. Let's take a look at these words and expressions I have selected for you.

  • Le vagin = the vagina

  • Un préservatif = a condom

  • Ringard, ringarde = outdated

  • La Plouc = dowdy

  • Va te faire foutre = go f_ck yourself

  • La petite mort = literally means the small death but in fact, it refers to an orgasm.

To wrap it up

Emily in Paris teaches you some lessons about living in France and French culture.

It is fun, interesting and full of romance in the city of love Paris.

It has been criticized because of some of the clichés presented about French people, but it is worth watching as you will learn a lot from it: dos and don'ts, common mistakes to avoid when traveling to France, and certainly new vocabulary.

It is really a nice TV series for those who want to learn French culture and cross-cultural chocks that may occur when going abroad. I strongly recommend you to watch season 1 if you haven’t done it yet.

Lily Collins and her partners are already working for Season 2 to come out soon. Can't wait to see it!

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you come to click and make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost for you. And as an amazon associate, I will earn a commission for qualifying purchases.


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