An American au pair working in Paris for $114 a week says 'Emily in Paris' shows a 'distorted image' of French people

An American au pair working in Paris for $114 a week says 'Emily in Paris' shows a 'distorted image' of French people
Ayana Smith in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, and "Emily in Paris."Ayana Smith/ Netflix
  • An American au pair working in Paris said "Emily in Paris" gets some things right but a lot wrong.
  • Ayana Smith told Insider the Netflix show uses stereotypes and a "distorted image" of the locals.

An Arizonan au pair who lives in Paris and makes TikTok videos about her career said "Emily in Paris" gets little right about living in the French capital.

Ayana Smith, 23, who has over 40,000 followers on TikTok, said she started making videos in June, weeks before completing her degree in psychology and family services and becoming an au pair. She told Insider she got the job through the agency Rome Abroad, which placed her and gave her informal training.

After three months in Italy starting in late June, she began working for a family in the suburbs of Paris in October. They pay her 100 euros, or about $114, a week for child-minding services.

Aside from Smith's monthly salary of 400 euros, which she said is low but "1,000% worth it," the hosts cover accommodation in their family home, home-cooked meals that she can eat with them or alone, her phone bill, and a Navigo travel pass for all forms of transportation, she said.

In a TikTok video she shared on January 20 that had over 8,300 views at the time of reporting, Smith wrote: "Everyone: emily in paris is so unrealistic, nobody actually lives like that," before showing a compilation of herself shopping, eating, and partying. The caption says: "I'm lying but it's still a great time lol."


@postcardsfromayana I’m lying but it’s still a great time lol. #emilyinparis #americanabroad #americaninparis #movingabroad #blackgirlstravel #travel #aupair ♬ Mon Soleil (from "Emily in Paris" Soundtrack) - Ashley Park

When asked whether she really can relate to the Netflix character — a young social-media marketing professional portrayed by Lily Collins who unexpectedly moves from Chicago to Paris — Smith said some moments were applicable but that she thought it was broadly inaccurate.

"I definitely relate to Emily in the sense that I had never taken a French class before moving to Paris," she said, adding that she also struggled to grasp the "difficult" language and understand French humor.

Smith also said the show represents French people with "the stereotypes that you typically hear about," such as being unfriendly or rude.

"I have met so many nice French people, but in the show, you really don't get to see a lot of that," Smith said. "I just think that it shows a really distorted image of Parisians."

In October 2020, when the first season appeared on Netflix, some French people criticized the show for what they felt was a superficial depiction of their culture, as reported by 20 Minutes, a free daily newspaper in France.


"The berets. The croissants. The baguettes. The hostile waiters. The irascible concierges. The inveterate philanderers. The lovers and the mistresses. Name a cliche about France and the French, you'll find it in Emily in Paris," wrote Fabien Randanne, a culture journalist at 20 Minutes.

Smith told Insider that the show acts out the "fantasy" of what moving to Europe is like, rather than the reality. "Emily's life is the life that Americans dream of when they think of an American living in Paris," she said, adding that her experience has been quite different.

Speaking to Cosmopolitan's Emma Baty in a story published in October 2020, Lucas Bravo, who plays Gabriel in the show, said he understands criticism that the show offers a limited view of Paris, but that it couldn't possibly show everything.

"I think they're right, in a way. We're portraying cliches and we're portraying one single vision of Paris. Paris is one of the most diverse cities in the world," he told Baty, adding that it's home to many different nationalities and neighborhoods. "A lifetime wouldn't be enough to know everything that's going on in Paris."