Posted by: tikawa1 | November 30, 2011

Say “Adieu!” to Boring Books!

A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke is a book about a twenty-something year old British businessman, Paul West, who is sent to France to open up a new British café chain. However, he struggles with cultural differences between France and Britain. Also he has troubles with his colleagues, who does not respect him a whole lot, and his love life gets messed up after having a relationship with his boss’s daughter. He also finds out that his boss is importing cheap, British beef illegally. As the story goes on, Paul finds a way to deal with his boss, his colleagues, girls, the French, and the Parisian way of life.

The main theme of this book is difference in culture between countries, in this case, Britain and France. One of the cases where this is seen is where Paul cries to his boss, Jean-Marie, that his colleagues are useless and want to get rid of him if their salary comes out of his budget. Jean-Marie explains how that cannot be done because it would cost a lot of money to fire people who have been working at a company for very long time in France. There is also a scene where Paul is surprised how unproductive the conferences are in France. Paul and his team tries to come up with a name for their project, but after the long meeting, the team ends up with nothing. Paul was surprised to see that no one had been upset with the fact that they did not accomplish anything.

Though I had known that the British and the French have not been the best of friends historically, since they are close geographically, I thought their people’s characteristics would be somewhat similar. However, I was wrong. The differences in people’s characteristic between the France and Britain seemed to be as major which was interesting to read. I can assure that person of any nationality, even the French and the British, can have a good laugh Paul’s experience and would recommend this book to anyone.



  1. I lived in the UK and I had no problem with the cultural differences. But I guess it’s easier to adapt yourself when you’re young and without responsibilities. Comparing two cultures that seem to be similar is an interesting idea. However I hope the author doesn’t assume that things are always the way he experienced them :D. I think when you come in a country as a foreigner you should not compare things and just assume that it’s the way it is and you have to act like everybody else. You adapt faster and easier.

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