Since Season 1, Emily in Paris has taken some turns and has faced some choices. Gabriel or Alfie, Chicago or Paris, Sylvie or Madeline. Along with the plot developing, the show has refined its approach to presenting the French culture. Although I had mixed feelings on Season 2, Season 3 surprised me with its more accurate nods to French culture, more dynamic plot and more French language. While Season 1 crossed off the major clichés of French culture, its third season dives deeper into la richesse de son patrimoine, or France’s rich heritage. While still plenty Americainized, I thoroughly enjoyed the French culture references peppered throughout the season. Here are 15 French culture references explained from Season 3 of Emily in Paris.
La Fête de la Musique
In Episode 2 of Emily in Paris Season 3, the group enjoys an outdoor musical festival called La Fête de la Musique. Virtually every French person knows this said event as it’s observed all over France. Each year, it takes place on June 21, the longest day of the year. (Also known as my birthday!) Musicians fill the streets all over France every year on the summer solstice. The first Fête de la Musique took place in 1982, and since then, this tradition has spread to other countries. I love that they sprinkled this French cultural reference in Emily in Paris as it’s my favorite day of the year.
In Episode 3, Mindy is preparing for her jazz show and looks up at the framed photos of famed singers, including Edith Piaf. You may never have heard of her, but you certainly know her work. This singer crooned the classic, “La Vie en Rose,” and created a name for herself in the music industry, particularly during the 1940s.
Mindy also gives a nod to Josephine Baker, another musical star whose photo hangs in the dressing room. A St. Louis native, Josephine Baker migrated to France where her entertainment career flourished. She also participated in the Resistance during World War II, and she’s one of five women buried in the Pantheon, next to other French heroes such as Marie Curie, Victor Hugo and Émile Zola. I loved that they included this French cultural reference in Emily in Paris since this icon hails from my hometown.
No air conditioning
Also in Episode 3, they make a comment about how the French don’t believe in air conditioning. Don’t even get this me started! In my personal experience, I’ve noticed that many French people are extremely reluctant to turn on air conditioning and believe that it makes them sick. Many are appalled that I grew up with air conditioning on for months at a time.
Angelina hot chocolate
In Episode 4, Emily briefly mentions Angelina hot chocolate, an American tourist favorite in Paris. Located on Rue Rivoli just steps away from the Tuileries and the Louvre, this patisserie-café serves up crafted pastries and — you guessed it — thick, creamy hot chocolate. If you want a table, be sure to reserve one in advance. I’ve tried multiple times to queue for a table, to no avail. If you forget or simply want a quick peek, hop in the à emporter (to-go) line, which goes much quicker.
Monet’s water lilies
Emily also references Claude Monet’s famed water lilies paintings. You can appreciate this Impressionist painter’s craftsmanship at Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie. If you’re looking to admire the wall-long Monet paintings in a curved room, head to the Orangerie Museum, which is smaller than Musée d’Orsay. In Episode 9, Camille and Gabriel admire a Degas’ statue of a dancer and pass the gigantic clock in the Musée d’Orsay. I love this nod to French culture as museums and art are at the heart of its patrimoine.
“Too bad we don’t work for tips here.”
It’s true: you generally don’t tip in France. And unlike much of the United States, you can make a living wage by working as a restaurant server. No tips needed. That was something that surprised me lots about life in France is that working at the mall or a restaurant is enough to support yourself. Oftentimes, working retail or in restaurants in the U.S.A. is seen as a part-time job for students. But the reality is that in France, these jobs still pay the SMIC, or France’s minimum wage. It’s not a crazy amount, but with government aid such as CAF, you can make it.
“I don’t do well sitting still.”
In Episode 4, Emily makes a comment about not being able to sit still. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest differences between French and American cultures. And it was what I struggled most with in terms of adapting to French life. Americans are more like human doings than human beings; as a culture, we’re busybodies. The French, however, have grasped the concept of simply being. Some might call it lazy, but the French understand what it means to be in the moment and to rest.
In this same breath, I’ve noticed that unemployment in France doesn’t carry the shameful connotation it often does in the U.S.A. In a country with capitalist roots and little government aid, unemployment can be seen as failure and may generate much fear for some. But in France, the French don’t fear unemployment nearly as much. First off, it’s extremely difficult to fire employees in France. And unemployment benefits are livable and can be used for up to two years at a time (for those age 52 and younger).
In Episode 5, Emily and Sylvie uncover the foibles of paperasse, or paperwork, involved for Emily’s visa. Hellooooo and welcome to my world! This French cultural reference hit home for me. I’ve already had four different visas and haven’t even lived in France for three years. Applying for jobs in France as a foreigner is a workout because it’s more complicated for a French company to hire a foreigner than another French person. In my experience, it meant lots of paperwork, a medical visit, big fees and visits to la préfecture, or the French administration that handles visa applications among other tasks.
Emily winds up on “La Liste” in a newspaper called Le Monde. Although there is no Janine Dubois at this newspaper, Le Monde is one of the major newspapers in France. If you’re looking to brush up on French language, subscribing to their newsletter is a great way to practice. If you’re looking to simply catch up on French news, you can subscribe to the newsletter’s English version.
Americans and Australians colluding
There’s a very quick reference to Americans and Australians colluding in Episode 5. This is a subtle reference to a not-so-little submarine incident. In September 2021, Australia ditched a $66 billion submarine deal with France to make a deal with the United States and the United Kingdom. Let’s just say Macron was not happy about it and had a big talking-to with these ambassadors.
In Episode 6, we get a glimpse into a major part of French life as well as one of the things I love most about living in France: train travel. The TGV, or train à grande vitesse, is a high-speed train connecting major cities. For the French, trains are ubiquitous, but for this American who grew up driving everywhere, I am amazed by the train system. I can get to Marseille to Paris in 3.5 hours, thanks to the TGV. If I were to drive, this trip would take about 9 hours, depending on traffic. See what I mean? Life-changing.
Emily and Gabriel visit a restaurant called L’Esprit du Luberon. According to Ici, the crew filmed in Gordes, Apt, Bonnieux and Buoux. In reality, the restaurant where they filmed is called Clover Gordes. My boyfriend’s family lives nearby, and we’ve visited the charming village of Gordes, which is part of the Luberon, a group of mountain ranges in Provence. If you’re itching to road trip through the Luberon, take a peek at my guide to the most darling villages.
In Season 3, Luc does his best to not give away the identity of his friend, who is a Michelin inspector. Like Gabriel, chefs strive to earn and keep Michelin stars. When giving Michelin stars, these anonymous inspectors consider five elements: “the quality of the ingredients, the harmony of flavors, the mastery of techniques, the personality of the chef as expressed through their cuisine and, just as importantly, consistency both across the entire menu and over time,” according to the Michelin website. Restaurants can earn up to three Michelin stars. You can see if there are any Michelin-starred restaurants near you on their website.
From its cultural events to lifestyle, its rich cuisine to idyllic villages, Emily in Paris Season 3 peppers out quite a few French cultural references. Sure, it’s still a TV representation with many Americanisms and clichés, but I found that Season 3 did a better job of showing some nuances to the French culture. What did you think of Season 3 of Emily in Paris?