As a quick taster for Survivor NZ, I thought I’d help all of you non-New Zealanders get a bit of cultural insight into what makes New Zealanders tick. Here’s seven things you should know about New Zealand culture and the NZ reality TV scene before you start.
Humility is probably going to be important
Humility is often considered an important quality for a New Zealander to have. Anyone who is considered to think too much of themselves gets cut down. Sure, you might have won the last five individual immunities on the trot, but it’s best to play that down and suggest you got a bit lucky and that the right kind of challenges were cropping up for you. Yes, you might have just made a great game move, but best that you remember to give everyone who voted the same way equal credit in the moment. It’s bad enough that you’re going to be making yourself a threat, but New Zealanders are also going to have to pretend as though they aren’t making themselves a threat at all.
As ‘mateship’ was a theme on Australian Survivor, here humility, or the lack of it, could be the underlying dealbreaker that decides the way entire votes lean.
But don’t act incapable either
On the other side of the coin, New Zealanders love a good battler. Again, for those who watched Australian Survivor, think of someone like Sue.
You might come into the game knowing you are terrible at everything, but not for a minute should you express anything less than full willingness to give everything a go. Cirie being afraid of leaves might have been an inspirational turn around in US Survivor. Here, people would probably suggest Cirie harden up and boot her for being too soft. People will get a lot of respect for throwing their whole selves into it, but I could see people finding themselves quickly on the outs if anyone suspects that they are giving anything less than their all. Especially when it comes to…
Expect survival skills to be a much bigger theme than it has been in US Survivor for a long time. If you’ve seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople, you’ll have a great cultural insight into how New Zealanders see themselves – rugged outdoors people who can take anything the elements can throw at them, even if they don’t look like it on the outside. (If you haven’t seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople… you should. That’s a better crash course in New Zealand culture than I could ever give you).
I wouldn’t be surprised to see New Zealanders treating the survival component as much more of a strategic tool (and bonding opportunity) than we ever really see in American survivor. Good survivalists are likely to come out edited as heroes.
To this end…
Killing and eating a goat is an act of heroism
Don’t expect there to be a debate about killing and eating the food people find. There might be a couple of dissenting voices, but overall it’s more likely to just happen (or not even go to a vote). And don’t expect the show to shy away from showing it if they catch something. Pigs, goats, anything that might be out there… it’s all fair game. If you’re hungry and surviving in the wild, you’re going to eat what you find.
Just as ruthless as people will be towards animals, I expect them to be towards each other. New Zealanders are, above all, a country that likes to win. In the 2016 Olympics, New Zealand achieved 18 medals – by far a record – and was third on the per capita table, amongst Caribbean islands that only need to win one medal to get to the top of the table. While many people were satisfied with that, there were a lot of people who were still down on the performance… because too many of them were silver. Going in to those games, New Zealand had in its history won 42 gold medals and only 18 silver. We don’t like to come second.
New Zealanders tend to have the killer instinct to do what it takes to win. Very few of this cast are going to be happy with second place.
When a sneak peek was released of the season, it showed the host, Matt Chisholm, asking players to raise their hands if they didn’t mind being a villain. Several raised their hands. I can’t ever imagine many people willingly volunteering this in America, and certainly not in Australia, where the merest hint of villainy was a black mark that couldn’t be expunged.
Whether it’s good strategy or bad, expect New Zealanders to try things in the name of outwitting and outplaying their adversaries.
Budgets are low
They may do their best to hide any careful budgeting, but this is essentially a low budget show. Don’t expect too many large challenge builds. However, it’s possible that they have managed to piggyback a lot of costs on to existing infrastructure built be US Survivor, so here’s hoping that helps them produce a better product. All in all, this season will probably succeed or fail based on how well they are able to hide the lack of budget behind the production curtains. Many New Zealand versions of reality shows have failed (or just aren’t that great) because they couldn’t.
I also wonder what impact a prize of only $100,000 could have on the willingness to be ruthless. Having said that…
The winner will not be jailed for tax fraud
In New Zealand, there is no tax on game show winnings. That means whoever wins gets to keep the whole $100,000!
Don’t forget, episodes are airing Sunday/Monday nights in New Zealand (which means they should be available by Sunday/Monday morning US time) starting May 7.
Because I went to school with him, here at TDT we are #TeamAvi. Hopefully I’ll convince at least some of you! I’ll also talk a little in my first recap about why, even if I had applied for this season, Avi would have beaten me for the "young 30s from Wellington" spot.
See you all later in the week for a look at the first couple of episodes!
By day, Ben Martell is a public commercial lawyer from New Zealand.
By night, he moonlights as a self-described Survivor 'expert'.
By day or night, find him on twitter at: @golden8284