There’s something very American about reality television. Maybe it’s the American Dream played out by people striving for their 15 minutes of fame, or else it’s the Orwellian nightmare of a life lived with constant surveillance. Either way, the United States has created a reality show for everything now, whether it be addiction, dating, pawning goods, cooking or just living in New Jersey.
Tired of all that? Maybe it’s time to check out other reality TV shows from around the world. There are great options, whether you’re looking for something to supplement your language learning or you’re curious about how other cultures have approached the vast genre of reality (though, to be fair, a lot of them are based on American shows). Here are a few shows from across the genre that show off some of the best the world has to offer. Maybe you’ll even find your next binge.
Japan —テラスハウス (Terrace House)
When you hear “Japanese reality television,” you might think of the really outrageous clips that circulate on the internet every once in a while. One example is that clip of four people taking an absurdly long time to climb up some slippery stairs. Terrace House, however, is not like that at all.
The premise is a bit like Big Brother: six strangers move into a house and start interacting with each other. What happens, though, is not the typical outrageous drama and ego-stroking as on most reality shows. Instead, the action is very relaxed and low-stakes. Unlike some reality shows, you can watch it without feeling kind of gross after. The show is now on Netflix so you can watch it pretty easily, and if you just want a taste you should check out the Terrace House out of context Twitter.
France — The Voice: La Plus Belle Voix (The Voice: The Most Beautiful Voice)
Where To Watch: YouTube
You have probably heard of The Voice, which has now been on NBC for 14 seasons (and counting). You may not know, however, that The Voice is also in many, many other countries. In fact, the original show was The Voice of Holland, a Dutch reality show, but that has been over for a while now. One country where it’s still going strong (besides the United States) is France.
Music, as we’ve said before, is a great way to learn a language. Combining that with reality television just seems like a natural combination. Many of the song selections may be in English, but you can watch performances from this show to see what more modern French music is like. It can be a nice break from the American version of the show, and it’s always good to open up to music from other parts of the world.
Mexico — Acapulco Shore
Can you guess from the name what this reality show is based on? That’s right, it’s Jersey Shore but on a whole different shore — on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. So whether you’re looking for fluffy entertainment to try out your Spanish or Jersey Shore just isn’t enough for you, you’re in luck.
Besides being in Spanish, the show is pretty much exactly the same. It’s a bunch of young, self-obsessed people living a life of partying and fun. Here are just a few of the quotes from cast members on the show:
“The rule is: if I don’t remember it, it never happened.”
“The important thing isn’t to have a lot of women, it’s that they don’t know each other.”
“Ripped guys also have heart.”
You pretty much know what you’re getting into with this show. Not recommended for children.
Germany — Die Kochprofis (The Cooking Professionals)
Germany has its own weird dating shows, but we would be remiss to not include at least one cooking show on this list. This show has been on since 2005 and is still going strong. It should be noted the show has been criticized and even sued in the past because of selective editing, but that’s pretty much par for the course in the world of reality television.
The format of the show is pretty predictable, as far as cooking shows go. There’s a restaurant that is having trouble in some way. The four “cooking professionals” show up to try out the food. Then, the cooking professionals take over to tell the kitchen staff what to do to improve the restaurant. Finally, there’s a closing dinner to show how far the restaurant has come since the beginning. And of course, there are emotions throughout to show the journey of the restaurant owners as their lives are transformed.
United Kingdom — Love Island
Yes, it’s not in a foreign language, but we really wanted to mention the United Kingdom. The most famous reality show out of the U.K. is probably The Great British Bake Off (or The Great British Baking Show, if you’re watching in the United States). It’s a lovely show where everyone is kind and you can hear the phrase “soggy bottom” over and over again. But that show is old news, and the new show the Brits are obsessed with is the exact opposite of all that: Love Island.
Love Island is a dating show on steroids. The whole premise is that people have to couple up in Mallorca, and the couple that makes it to the end gets £50,000. Throughout the seasons, people are given the chance to switch up their couples, contestants are regularly voted out by the audience and new contestants are brought in. Oh also, everyone is almost disconcertingly attractive and the sexual tension is extreme. Maybe there’s something to learn about the human condition when watching the show. Then again, maybe not.
Header photo courtesy of Netflix.