We enjoy watching the hit series, The Apprentice with Donald Trump, imagining ourselves in the shoes of the young contestants to dream up solutions to the assigned task. Hopefully, we would never make similar ‘frank’ comments about teammates on camera. The UK has an equally popular version of Donald Trump’s show and millions of viewers tune in to the UK Apprentice each week. The announcer starts with: ‘It’s the job interview from hell’!
This hit show caused me to reflect on key differences between the US, France and the UK. The UK has a similar hit program, described below. But France has NO comparable show at all. The reason is simple; it’s politically incorrect to say ‘You’re Fired!’ in France. Since the election of Socialist President Mitterand in the 1980’s, France has gradually moved to a socialist model, elevating the role of government over private business. From the initiation of the 35 hour work week by the (now infamous) Dominique Strauss Kahn — including Labor Police to monitor hours — to an 81% marginal tax rate, the country has shifted to a socialist state where private enterprise is often portrayed in a negative light.
It has become so difficult to lay off employees even when a company is going bankrupt, that French business managers think twice before hiring anyone, much less an Apprentice.
A recent poll showed that 70% of young people’s career goal was to work for the government because of the six week vacation benefits. Given France’s national debt, it’s not going to be possible to hire all of them – but it will be a long time before private entrepreneurship is admired.
The English love to poke fun at the French, shown in an article on The News Biscuit, inventing a French Apprentice program called: ‘Restez en Place!’ or ‘Stay Where You Are!’ In tongue-in-check fashion, the writers tranpose the English version with a French twist. Contestants can't be fired, they can only be ordered to: ‘Stay Where you are!'.
French host, Alain de Sucre observes their attempts in the various tasks he sets them, such as selling over-priced stale baguettes at a French market in Hertfordshire or working as a Parisian waiter without smiling.After they have failed miserably he tells them what he thinks of them. ‘Vous etes une piece de … or ‘Vous n’avez pas un clue saignant!’ (as the British Alan Sugar says: ‘You don’t have a bloody clue!’) before he delivers the French punch-line; ‘Mais… Restez en place!’… ‘But, stay Where you are!’
Except for the French punch line, the writers used exactly the expressions we hear in the UK Apprentice from host Sir Alan Sugar.
The UK’s Apprentice is as popular as the Trump version. In the US version, Donald Trump has a sense of humor and markets the Trump brand well. He demonstrates a sincere effort to help young people learn to be good leaders … even if says ‘You’re Fired’ at the end of each episode. The candidates are generally experienced and have had verifiable success in their fields. The UK version is very different, starting with the host. The UK business tycoon on the Apprentice is the touchy Lord Alan Sugar.
It’s worth watching the show just to see the incredible panoramic London photos taken from a helicopter, including beautiful shots of London at prime locations near our London vacation rentals. The recent series featured a home In Notting Hill that was sold for £ 12 million at the end, a stunning restored Victorian home.
The Hornton Mews house is close to this Apprentice House in London.
Sugar started out with humble beginnings in East London at age 16, buying and selling electrical goods from his van. This is a common story in the United States, but rare in the UK. Sugar doesn’t let anyone forget how he pulled himself up by his bootstraps. After launching the first PC clone in the UK, his company Amstrad morphed into producing set top boxes and was sold for £ 125 million in 2007. Easily irritated, he pronounces ‘You’re fired!’ with gusto.Sugar was voted as the seventh scariest celebrity on UK television and made the infamous prediction that the iPod would be “dead, finished, gone, kaput” by Christmas.
Lord Sugar has a bias for male contestants who take crazy risks and make outrageous bold statements – possibly remembering himself when he started out. A few years ago, one contestant failed miserably at his task, lied on his resume but managed to hold on by promising: “I’m not a one-trick pony, I’m not a 10-trick pony, I’m a whole field of ponies – and they’re literally all running towards this job.” The phrase has caught on and British comedians joke about Sugar’s field of ponies.
On the other hand, a top series in France is ‘Top Chef’. The contestants demonstrates an enormous amount of talent, and the program is better than the US and UK Top Chef shows combined. All of France watches and discusses the dishes and techniques, rooting for their weekly favorite. The judges are demanding and the excitement heats up as the competition reaches the finale. The episodes that can’t be downloaded outside of France, but the clips are funto watch: http://www.m6bonus.fr/videos-emissions-4/videos-top_chef-5836/
What’s the lesson? Great cooking is the universal equalizer and yes, you can say ‘You’re Fired’ even in France.