Very British Problems Abroad by Rob Temple
|Very British Problems Abroad by Rob Temple|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A fun if generally slight look at the bizarre attitudes of British travellers, and how every molehill they meet needs crampons…|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: September 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
Meet, if you haven't already, the phenomenon of the Very British Problem. In this format they're in pithy little comments (of, ooh, about 140 characters in length, for some reason…) and detail the minor things in life that we like nothing more than to inflate to a major factor of life. They can involve manners, staring at things until they mend themselves, hitting things ditto, or the fact that nobody apart from you and I know how to queue properly. And if the idea hits the world outside our shores, then – well, you certainly have a book full of content regarding our attitude and ineptitude abroad.
You can certainly identify with a lot that's here – and don't say that it's just me. The bodies that come out of their shell(suit)s at the beach to resemble a large sack of mashed potato, the worry that is eternally unfounded that your passport will not be accepted, or that the 'nothing to declare' channel staff might jump on you, even the etiquette when two people want to read the same museum informational panel at the same time… All are there, all are problems if you're of the mind to think them such, and all seem particularly British. Do the Germans pack socks for hiding their feet round the pool?
Reading the book all in one go (which is seriously not recommended, even if it does open out with different chapters here and there such as translating travel industry terms, or listing some real life nightmare journeys) you do find a preponderance of things regarding feet, for some reason. I also don't think the queue thing has ever been true – I have never known the Brits to be at all that good at it, let alone world-beaters. But there's a Britishness here that is spot on – the worries before, during and after the holidays about the office meeting e-mails, the failure all fortnight to remember the left hand does the gears on the hire car – and said Britishness is brilliantly typified by the illustrations, Mr Benn-styled office workers reluctant to shrug off their British office uniform. Clearly the ability of the Brits to slightly rib themselves is not a problem.
Like I say, this is very much a book for flipping through, picking choice entries out for others, or for silent contemplation on the porcelain throne. It's too much in one go, even if it never has more than three small entries on each page. But it's definitely a fully thought-through book, adapting contributions from people online (at a guess) to provide a full picture of one definite meme – the inability of Brits to say what they mean, dress appropriately, or remember whether the tap water is potable or not. A different idea for you now is the VBBP – Very British Bookseller's Problem. One is what they do with all those novelty gift books come December 27th that they didn't get on sale or return. Chances are that where this title is concerned they'll have successfully shifted.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Take our Mr Benn back home and see what he enjoys, from class issues and underdogs to Marmite and Breakfast tea – it's all in Stuff Brits Like by Fraser McAlpine. Would you like to hear more about British problems?
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You can read more book reviews or buy Very British Problems Abroad by Rob Temple at Amazon.com.
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