That’s the thing about culture…

Ok, ok…I will admit it. I binge-watched all of Emily in Paris the day it came out. And I’m not sure if I am proud that I actually managed to watch through the entire season or I’m ashamed that I managed to get through the entire season.

Sure, I’ll admit some parts made me giggle but for the most part I watched with my mouth slightly agape at the numerous clichés while thinking WHAT?? HOW?? WHY?? (Disclaimer – I am married to a French man and the poor guy would get a barrage of texts filled with screenshots and *ahem* entertaining commentary).

When I first began the series I thought I would resonate with this show – Yes! Here is Emily, a young expat moving to Paris and having to discover the world exactly like I had to! I was quickly dismayed like many others how the portrayal wasn’t exactly like *I* had experienced my first time in Paris. Sure, we all experience things differently but at the same time, where were the endless amount of good looking guys Emily seemed to run into?


The expat community on Facebook seemed to be just as divisive, with some disliking it and others loving it – “this show nails it” and “spot on” and “it’s hilarious”!

There were lots of comparisons of the French versus [insert any Anglophone country] and it got me thinking – just because another country does it *differently*, does it make it inherently bad?

I have had several conversations with friends now on the topic of smiling. Quite a few Anglo-Saxon countries find it polite to send a smile in the direction of the stranger they are passing. When living in China, it felt like it was almost mandatory to smile at another foreigner to acknowledge that “hey! Look! We are two foreigners together in China, I see you and recognise that”.

Small-talk or “dead-talk”?

Yet, in some other European cities (like Paris for example), the concept of smiling at strangers isn’t necessary nor is having to engage in small-talk when entering a store as a part of “friendliness”. I even saw a BBC Culture video on Sweden, and how the Swedes avoid all kinds of small-talk with strangers. Apparently small-talk is even translated into “dead-talk”!

In the case of the French, many moans of “why are they this way” from the expat community are heard…and I have a counter-argument for that: Why not?

And that’s the thing about culture…who is to determine that one culture’s way of “being” is any better or worse than the other? After all, it is their culture and we are assimilating (or trying to anyway) into theirs. Sure it may irk us from time to time, however acknowledging it, silently venting to yourself (or sending an angry text message to your partner) and then letting it go is probably the best way to move on. Not harping about it, not stereotyping a whole population on it, and definitely not keeping a negative mentality of “this is how it is back in *my* home country”.

A different perspective

And if we look at things from a different perspective in Emily in Paris – she finds it odd and rude that the French don’t smile…however, the French find it odd and rude that she doesn’t even say “bonjour” when entering a store or her office. So in this context, who is the impolite one?

Acceptance is the key to letting go in this context. You may not need to *like* it, but accepting that it is part of who they are can help. There are things you may dislike in your own culture and yet, it’s just the way things are. You accept it and move on. And if you’re in France, after a while you’ll find that you will do as the French do – shrug your shoulders and say “bah, c’est juste comme ça” (that’s just the way it is).

What do you think? In which situations have you found yourself annoyed with in the country you’re living in? How do you overcome this and find acceptance? If you haven’t, what do you think you can do to help change your mindset?

Don’t be afraid to share your tips below, I’d love to hear from you!



*I’m putting this at the bottom because it doesn’t belong in the article but I feel like I need to vent…who asks for preserves at a restaurant instead of jam, jelly or marmalade?? I did a quick search and OK, there is a difference between them, but still! Let me know if you do and why….I’m curious.

**Photo credit to Daria Shevtsova on

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