‘I spent my summer on the Chinese version of Big Brother’
He had to speak Mandarin the entire time
A brave second year spent his entire summer competing in a Chinese reality TV show where he could only speak Mandarin.
Cameron Patterson, 20, went on Big Brother-style show Chinese Bridge where he was filmed 24 hours a day for a massive audience of over 300million.
Putting our reality television to shame, Cameron’s gruelling tasks included snacking on bugs and dressing up in a full rugby kit to teach the Chinese audience about the sport.
The Lancaster Physics and Engineering student managed to come in second place overall and was even named the European champion.
Contestants all came from outside the country and lived together in a space ominously named the “Chinese dormitory”.
Cameron told The Tab: “It’s mostly a competition for Chinese proficiency speaking and writing, via the 24-hour surveillance Big Brother style thing.
“We were only allowed to speak Chinese, but I used to live in China for eight years in Guangdong Province so luckily I’m fluent in Mandarin.”
Over 300,000 wannabe contestants applied for the show and eventually 153 from 93 countries made it to the provisional round in China.
But just a final 15, including Cameron, were selected for the live reality section of the programme.
Cameron said: “I used to watch the show when I was living in China, it’s actually the 14th year its been running now so I thought it would be a good idea to apply.
“You could say it was like Big Brother in terms of being filmed but also like I’m a Celebrity when we went out to do trials.”
The theme of the tasks was the Silk Road, an ancient Chinese trade route which Cameron says is a “huge part of their culture”.
He added: “In one trial they put us against each other to eat bugs, there was bee larvae, crickets and all sorts of deep fried salty insects.
“They didn’t taste that bad actually and were actually kind of like marmite.
“In another task we went to a village and had to do find certain things – silverware, a big leg of ham and a tub of salt, it was all completely random.
“The audience voted in the arenas we were in, and also judge votes also counted for points – so it was a mixture of both.”
While some of Cameron’s teammates had a dance off, he had to prepare a traditional Chinese noodle dish.
“It was one big long noodle in a snail shell-like spiral and it had be be made without breaking it.
“Your right hand has to cook the noodle out and the left hand has to stretch it, it was difficult.
“Then I had to eat the whole thing in one – but it was lovely and I went back for another bowl after.”
The competition was partly organised by audience vote and partly by judge scoring, with each city having a celebrity guest invigilator.
Cameron said: “One you might know is the anchorwoman from CCTV news, who does the news report every night for the whole of China.
“We even got to meet a Princess from Sri Lanka whose relatives had travelled along the Silk Road.
One of Cameron’s favourite moments is when he put on a full rugby kit to teach the Chinese all about rugby and his native Wales.
He said: “In the preliminary competition we had to give a speech on a present we’d like to give to the Chinese Bridge’.
“I turned up in rugby gear and told them a bit about Wales. Then I gifted them a rugby ball which I had everybody in the European group sign.
“I’m a big rugby fan, never a player but I’ve always watched.”
If this seems a little odd, the final itself was even more unusual – with all the contestants acting out a play about the Silk Road, where Cameron played Marco Polo.
Overall, the experience of having cameras following him 24 hours a day was “really strange”.
Cameron added: “When I was sleeping there were people coming into our room to changer camera memory cards.
“There were no love triangles inside the Chinese dormitory, though they definitely tried to make some sparks fly but I don’t think anything caught on.”
Cameron said: “My prize was a scholarship to go to a university in China. I’ll be applying to a few universities once I leave Lancaster.
“I’m doing Physics and Engineering here and will carry it on in China.”