Living in China

What it’s like to be on a Chinese TV quiz show


My first appearance on Chinese TV came this July when I participated in the quiz show called Hello中国 (Hello China). Guangdong TV Station started the show in May 2014, so it’s a relatively new show in television. Every week they broadcast one show, where four foreign contestants answer questions about Chinese language and culture.

People who work in the show business probably know, that what you see on TV is very far from what is happening behind the scenes. That’s what I learned as well when I jumped right into the world of making a Chinese TV show.

After the interview in June we were given dates to shoot our introduction videos to be shown on TV. My video was shot at our home, showing how well my mother-in-law cares for me, albeit sometimes a bit too much. Shooting this very short video clip took three hours and multiple takes from different angles. The two guys shooting the video were very nice and in the end did a nice job!

Then it was time to shoot the actual quiz show. Me and the three other foreigners arrived to the TV station on Saturday morning. We started with make-up and hair, all to make us look pretty and handsome in front of the cameras. The staff had asked me to wear my wedding qipao to the show and I felt amazing wearing it again with proper make-up and a nice hair-do.

Hello中国 isn’t a live show, but in order for everything to go smoothly we practiced the show a little bit before lunch. Where we needed to stand, how should we react to the host asking us questions and what to do when the winner is finally revealed in the end. I started to get a bit excited, but also a lot nervous.

Luckily we had gotten a rough written outline of the show beforehand, with some lines to remembers, central themes of the topics and even hints to the questions that would be asked. I knew that we couldn’t go without preparing, as the TV show needs to be entertaining to the viewers.


After a take-away lunch we started the four-hour shooting. It really takes a long time to create a show that on TV lasts one hour, and still most of the situations were shot only once. I could see that the staff was professional and the two hosts, one Chinese and one foreign, fit the job perfectly.

When we had shorts breaks in shooting, the TV station staff would come to us and remind us to be more active, make more funny comments and just be more entertaining. I was happy to hear that they seemed to be pleased with my performance and I did my best to forget my previous nervousness and help everyone to make a good show. And it was a lot of fun!

Things didn’t go without problems of course. I accidentally called my husband (he and his mother were in the audience) kaifang (often understood as unconstrained in one’s sexuality) instead of kailang (easy-going and open-minded). Oops!

I also ended up walking straight into this huge gap between the stage and the audience, I really didn’t see there was no ground under my steps before I fell half into that hole. I got a bruises and scratches to my arms and legs. Everyone came to me asking if I was okay, but as the pain was manageable, I told them the show much go on. I’m pretty sure it looked very interesting on video!

Soon it was time for the one final question. Me and an American guy had 3000 points both, the two other girls a bit less. The final question was worth another 3000 points and no matter who could answer it correctly, would be the winner of the night. With good luck and good preparation I was the first one to get the change to answer and the answer was correct!

I was taken into the center of the stage and felt amazing! Wow, I never could have guessed! The Chinese host had just told the audience that I had won 6000RMB and an electric scooter from a sponsor.

That night my husband decided we should celebrate by going to the delicious and expensive Italian buffet nearby, after a great and interesting day, I of course agreed!

The episode where I’m in will come out in August.

p.s. As I learned the day after, the prizes and awards were only for show. We all four contestants received a flat pay of 1000RMB for our “acting”.


  • Nanó

    I find it quite odd that they made it seem like you won 6000RMB + a scooter just for the show! Perhaps it tells something about Chinese society, how important a nice facade is. It is a bit sad to know that that’s how it actually works…

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I know, it really didn’t give me a good impression on how the business works here in China. Especially that they mentioned about prizes during my interview, but didn’t tell me it was all for show.

  • Núria

    It’s interesting that you all know about the flat prize afterwards XD. I think if it was me I’d have agreed to participate knowing that, but if they told me afterwards I’d have been really disappointed.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    The TV station had chosen a very strange way to handle that. For some they didn’t mention anything about awards or prizes, for some they mentioned, but told them it was all for show during the make-up. For me they told about the prizes on my interview and completely “forgot” to tell me it was fake. The experience would certainly had been better if the TV station would have been honest with us.

  • kent

    Well, TV shows in China most of it were fake. Just don’t like the idea of giving these prizes that were not there, all these just for the purpose of entertainment. Anyway glad that you enjoy yourself there. Will be expecting your performance in the TV show.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Yes, they really seem to be more fake than real.

  • ToTheLighthouse

    Thats one of the most ridiculous things i can imagine, even to me, a provincial rural dweller in China.
    I hate this kind of country our parents and grandparents have chosen for us where no semblance of light of honesty can reach any corner.
    The word “honesty” or “credibility” written on a red tablet could be seen in every chinese classroom at a conspicuous place, as if it is the most cherished characteristic they can show off, as if the values of honesty are not infused into the children’s brains through what their teacher do but by the simple eye contact with these abstract phrases.
    To most of Chinese, honesty is a disease which could be gradually “cured” during the time they grow up in which they will find how it is unfeasible and painful to be honest.
    In their mind, honesty is not an integral part of their personality but only a kind of adventitious, decorative trappings, like the tablet inscribed “honesty” in their classrooms,like clothes which shelter their body physically but could be shaken off unscrupulously as long as they find it expedient to do so.

    Hello, Sara. This is first time i leave a comment in a foreigner’s blog (meaning a non-chinese blog to me, xD). Hope Im not doing it awkwardly >_<

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I’m honored to be the first foreign blog you comment on, thank you and welcome! :)

  • Boilingwok

    That is so dishonest. I cannot imagine people announcing it on TV and not giving the prize. How can they conveniently forget to tell in advance? I bet that means more people would not join their show.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    To me it really does seem like the try to get more foreigners to join the show by telling about prizes that don’t exist. Haven’t figured out any other reason for this.

  • ordinary malaysian

    Everything looked like fun except for the “prizes” So cheapskate lah! Couldn’t the station themselves find a sponsor for that tiny weeny bit? Oh my, China, China, China….If they want “face”, they show show they deserve it. I am Chinese myself and I feel so bad about this. China needs to wake up! “Face” is important, but not when it is outright pseudo and undeserving!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for the support! I would imagine that the sponsor did pay for the show, as their brand will be mentioned on TV, that probably isn’t free.

  • Anabel Bulgarin Meza

    It wasn’t fair and honest after all you did and the fallen into the hole, you deserved your prize..really sad to know that all was for show :(

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for the sympathy. Well, at least I found out how it’s really like in that business over here.

  • shineflower

    Your every posts made me chuckled. Was very entertaining. I stumbled upon your blog on HSK resources n u hv great tips.. after that i moved on reading your love story n then hooked into your marriage n so.. still browsing d archives n found this.. tq for great post. Informative n amusing. Keep it coming..

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for your sweet words.