Stream These International Reality Shows & Find Your New Fascination

by Jessica Lachenal

Though tastes for it may change from person to person, the fact remains that audiences almost universally respond to drama. And for a section of those audiences, reality-based drama is even more thrilling. Whether the subject is romantic pairings, arguments over fancy dresses, love letters to food, or the rescue of adorable, fuzzy animals, the genre is all the same: a catalogue of the human experience. So why not try something a little different than the usual American-focused reality TV fare? These nine international reality television shows are streaming now, and your new obsession might be among them.

There really is something to watching other people — especially those who we think are dramatically different than us — go through real, emotional moments. Sure, movies reach the same end, but there's always that element of fiction to it. On some level, we know that we're watching a movie, and we're grounded in that knowledge. When it comes to reality television, the suspension of disbelief present in movies is still there — after all, we understand that there's a very specific formula these shows are following in selecting their cast, setting, and circumstances. But we as viewers can still project ourselves onto the people we're watching. And when we do that with international reality shows, the world begins to feel a lot smaller.


'Terrace House' (Japan)

While the formula might seem very familiar — six men and six women, all strangers, live together in a really nice house in a cool location with romantic consequences ensuing — there's something particularly nice about watching this show. One fun twist Terrace House boasts is the the meta-commentary that happens with select moderators and showrunners before and after each episode. There are three seasons to enjoy on Netflix: Opening New Doors, Boys & Girls in the City and Aloha State, with a fourth season coming Sept. 10.

Available on Netflix.


'Love Island' (UK)

Yes, it's another romance reality show, and yes, it's that show that everyone on Twitter is talking about. Stranding beautiful people on an island is one thing, but incorporating that Big Brother audience participation element by allowing audiences to vote on ships and dump people from the island? Incredible. Hulu has five seasons of island romance for you to stream.

Available on Hulu.


'Taco Chronicles' (Mexico)

Perhaps more docuseries than stereotypical reality television, Taco Chronicles is a love letter to taquerias and the humble yet much beloved taco. The vast majority of the locations profiled are in Mexico, with a few exceptions in Southern California. It's all enough to make anybody hungry for a taco or two (or five). Thus far, there's only been one volume created, but given the vast diversity of tacos and cuisines, there's hope for even more.

Available on Netflix.


'The Only Way Is Essex' (UK)

According to the Hulu description, it's a "living soap [opera]," with "the tears, the tantrums and the triumphs just like a real soap opera." In that sense, it's a lot like Real Housewives: packed with drama, conflict, and the odd love triangle or two packed into 23 seasons, all available online. This series has drawn a bit of controversy over its somewhat structured events, with many fans rejecting its "reality television" label, according to The Guardian. But it's still addictive.

Available on Hulu.


'The Posh Frock Shop' (UK)

This series, which only has one season streaming so far, follows fashion designer Ian Stuart and profiles the customers who come in to his boutique to buy his high-end designer dresses. Here's a tip: check out episode four, which features a really touching look at one transgender bride's experiences shopping for a wedding dress.

Available on Hulu.


'The Great British Baking Show' (UK)

There's a whole lot to love about this baking show, not the least of which being its absolutely endearing cast of hosts and contestants. It's hard to call this a "game show" per se because it doesn't quite fit the super-competitive nature that other game shows have. Everyone is incredibly supportive of each other, and even go out to help their fellow contestants when they're in need — not something you see all the time! Not counting spinoffs and specials, there are six seasons of wholesome goodness to enjoy online.

Available on Netflix.


'Nailed It! Mexico' (Mexico)

A variation on the popular baking competition show, Nailed It! Mexico exclusively features Mexican chefs, hosts, and guest judges designing cakes based on Mexican themes such as quinceañera centerpieces, telenovelas, and luchadors. There's only one season, but it's still plenty of fun.

Available on Netflix.


'Kitten Rescuers' (UK)

Watch as real-life veterinarians and kitten aficionados rescue cats and find new homes for them. They also profile a few owners, like the woman in the clip above, who lives with 50 cats. Note that the show was originally broadcast in the UK under a different name: Jo Brand's Cats & Kittens. Sadly, there's only one season available to stream.

Available on Netflix.


'Chef & My Fridge' (South Korea)

Chef & My Fridge has two seasons available online and features a really fun concept: take some of the best chefs in Korea, introduce them to celebrities, then combine them with the contents of those celebrities' fridges to produce a completely improvised meal.

Available on Netflix.

Though the shows might all feel just a little different from what American audiences are used to, the universal appeal of near-reality comes through all the same.