At some point in your life, you probably dreamt about being rich and famous.
I definitely did.
Then, I realized, it wouldn’t be all that great...
“I wish everybody could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of, so they know that it’s not the answer.” -Jim Carrey.
First off, it’s wouldn’t be easy because there’s a lot of competition.
Then, I realized it wouldn't be fun at all if I were extremely rich and famous. I wouldn’t be able to do normal things without being bothered. I wouldn’t be able to prank people because they’d recognize me. Most celebrities don't seem happy anyway.
But, what if I got rich and famous in a country on the other side of the world? That’s what I’m on a quest to figure out.
Maybe you’re interested in going on a TV show in a foreign country. Or, maybe you’re just curious to know my secrets about how I got on a Vietnamese reality TV show.
Either way, keep reading. I’ll reveal all my secrets below.
First off, let’s look at the requirements that the TV show I went on was looking for.
-Foreigner and male (let’s be honest, they wanted a white person)
-Must speak Vietnamese
-Be good on camera (fun, outgoing, have talents, etc.)
-Must be low-maintenance (be able to poop in the woods, sleep on the floor, shower in the river, etc)
-Must commit to at least 21 days on the show
-Must be young and vibrant (probably under 30)
Sadly, there just aren’t that many foreigners that can speak Vietnamese. I’ve been living in Vietnam for almost a year and a half now, and I’ve met less than 30 foreigners that can speak Vietnamese conversationally.
And, of the ones that can speak, most of them have been here multiple years and have families. Quite often, they’ve lived in Vietnam for a year or two, found a husband or wife, and then after another year or two they realize it’s time to learn Vietnamese. By that time, they’re not qualified for a Vietnamese reality show. Plus, I'm not sure what kind of husband would abandon his family for a TV show. Sorry daddy!
So, basically, the producers of the show didn’t have that many options (even though on the TV show they claimed that I was a huge fan of the show and begged them to be on it. That's besides the point).
But, still, how did they find out about me? How did I seal the deal? Why me?
It all started with a Facebook post. Oh geez, good ole Facebook!
One of the recruiters for the company posted in an expat group saying,
“Hello, we are looking for a foreigner who can speak Vietnamese to participate on a TV show to travel to places no other foreigner can go. Please e-mail me if you are interested.”
My brother tagged me in the post and I sent her an e-mail ASAP. I tried to show off my Vietnamese in the e-mail. But, looking back, it was poorly written and had many mistakes. But, what did I have to lose?
Well, soon I got a call and she wanted to schedule an audition. I said, “sure”.
You’d be surprised how many opportunities can come in life simply by showing up.
A few days later, I went for the audition. I thought I’d be alone, but there was another foreigner there with me. He was about 30 years old, from Italy, and his Vietnamese was even worse than mine. That gave me some confidence.
I still didn’t know much about the show. To be honest, I didn’t fully understand the show until 10 days into filming.
After 5 minutes, the Italian guy left and said it wasn’t something he was interested in.
But, I stayed. I was already there; mine as well give it a shot.
I couldn’t understand much of what the directors was saying. I didn’t understand the show. I knew we’d go to cool places, I knew I’d be the only foreigner, and I knew it’d be a sweet and unique experience. My biggest concern was if they were going to allow me to bring my camera so I could take my own videos for personal (and for this BLOG) use.
I kept telling them that my Vietnamese wasn’t good enough, but they encouraged me and said it was fine. After a few minutes, I got the sense that they didn’t have very many options besides me...
I was probably one of the youngest candidates. Most people don’t move to Vietnam at the tender age of 22. Well, unless they studied Vietnamese at a college or university or grew up in Vietnam(I actually have friends who grew up in Vietnam and still don’t speak Vietnamese).
One of the guys got out this phone and filmed me. I played excerpts from a Vietnamese song I sort of knew and just made up the rest. I didn’t realize they posted it on YouTube until earlier recently. Here’s the video:
So, this was my scenario. I walked in unsure of what to expect. But, once the Italian guy left, I wasn’t trying to impress them anymore, rather tables had turned, and they were trying to convince me.
Keep in mind this is a reality show no foreigners have ever heard of, and they were asking for a 21 day commitment. 21 days without any connection to the outside world, and everything was a secret so they couldn’t disclose any information.
They told me we were going “up to mountains, far, far away where no foreigner go before. Maybe you can have cell phone to call someone, maybe you cannot! We don’t know.”
Not that many people are crazy enough to agree to such terms. I am.
If you want to achieve what other's can't, then you have to do things that others won't.
But, everyone is different. This is just my story.
If you’re hoping to get on a TV show in a foreign country, here’s my advice.
1. Learn the local language. This may seem obvious, but it’s true. Even if most of the country speaks English, learn the local language.
In countries like Spain or France, it may not be so unique that you can speak the language, but learn the local language. Learn the slang words that you don’t find in the textbooks. Learn the funny accents from the countryside. Learn the language that the people speak in everyday conversation, not just the language that they can understand.
The fewer foreigners that speak the local language, the better. When I was living in Ghana, I went on a few radio shows and danced in the background of some music videos. Mostly because I was white and could speak the local language. Ghana is an English speaking country, but the radio shows wanted to here me speak in Twi and Pidgin, because that’s what the locals were speaking to each other.
2. Know and love the culture. This goes hand-in-hand with #1. The more you learn the language, the more you’ll learn about the culture. If you don’t care about the people, the country’s history, and the culture, why would they care about you? Be a culture chameleon and blend in as much as you can. That’s a story worth telling.
3. Show them that the camera likes you. You don’t have to be an amazing singer or a professional dancer, but having prior experience in entertainment will let them know you are serious.
For me, it was my YouTube videos, and I’ve also got some footage of me performing comedy and music. Maybe you have a video of you juggling, or just a couple videos of you talking to the camera. You gotta have something to show that you’re comfortable on camera. If you can’t get on camera in your own native language, then how are you going to do it in another language?
4. Say, “yes” to everything. Having an open mind can take you farther than you think. Some opportunities may seem sketchy. Some may not pay well, or even at all (the reality show I went on didn’t pay me, but it lead to other TV opportunities that did).
You never know who you are going to meet on one of these shows, and who is going to like you and want to give you other opportunities.
I went on a show as an extra:
( at 6:08 you’ll see me in a blue shirt) and though nothing much came of it, it was fun, and one of the camera man liked me and told me that I should get better at Vietnamese and call him two months later and he’d have a show for me.
After I got back from the reality show, I gave him a call and he helped me get on a comedy competition that was incredibly fun (it was all in Vietnamese, but can’t talk much about that until it airs!).
5. Tell people about your intentions. Everyone assumes that everyone else wants to be rich and famous. It’s not the case, especially in a foreign country. If you want to get on TV, tell people about it so they can help you.
It may sound cool to get on TV in another country, and I’m sure many people want that. But, how many people are actually going to go out of their way to do so? How many people are going to ask strangers for help? Not as many as you think.
If you go out of your way, ask around, and tell people what you want, you’d be surprised how much easier things get.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it” –The Alchemist.
If you want to be on TV, let people know. If you meet someone who works for a TV station, network with him/her and tell them about your goals, ask help, advice, and for other connections.
Be intentional with whatever it is you want. This isn’t just if you want to go on TV in a foreign country, but with anything in life.
6. Be polite. This is just another golden rule of life. Be nice! Don’t burn any bridges. No matter how good looking, funny, smart, or talented you are, no one wants to help rude people. Just be nice. Period.
7. Have a flexible schedule. A lot of TV shows film out of town for days (and sometimes weeks) at a time. If you’re working 50-hour weeks, it’s going to be hard to say “yes” to auditions and other opportunities when you are so busy. I’ve been happily “under-employed” for the last year. Am I getting rich? No.
But, I have a lot of freedom. I have the freedom to go to yoga at 11am, I have the flexibility to film a music video after lunch, and I was able to say ‘yes’ and go on a Vietnamese reality show because of it.
If you’re the type of person who always has a full schedule and rarely has free time, then chances are your priorities need some tweaking if you’re going to want to get on TV.
“When you plan nothing, anything can happen.”
All of that being said, please take this all with a grain of salt.
I’m just one small VietNomad who’s been on some TV shows in only one country. I’ve never lived in Europe or Australia. Things may be way different out there.
If you’ve been on TV in a foreign country in a foreign language, please let me know. Did I miss anything?
If these tips don’t help or you’ve got additional questions, feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me. Seriously.
Thanks for reading,
Jeremy Ginsburg, The VietNomad
PS I have one episode translated into English and I’m working on getting the company to post it ASAP. Thanks for being patient!
PSS I'm not rich and famous yet. So far, just a lot of FB requests from Vietnamese teenagers.