You may think you’re a quarantine expert by now. You’ve learned the importance of sticking to a routine, putting on pants with a button, and ignoring 85 percent of the “friendly advice” emails from your perpetually cheerful co-worker. But the time has come to level up with some expert lessons from Terrace House, a show about six strangers living together with only a beautiful home and automobiles. Over the course of five seasons and approximately 718,029 episodes — most of which are on Netflix for your viewing pleasure — an endless parade of starry-eyed youths have mastered philosophical dinner chats, awkward hand-holding, and — most importantly — the art of staying at home. Here are their 12 most important lessons.
1. Take off your damn shoes
This is something you should already know, but the audacity of some people never ceases to amaze me. Waltzing into the living room with your sneakers still on is a total amateur move and something foreigners often do when making their grand Terrace House entrance. Learn from the mistakes of Peppe (Tokyo 2019-2020) and Arman (Boys & Girls in the City): Shoes are for outside. This rule isn’t about obsessive cleanliness — no one’s asking you to Clorox your box of Pop-Tarts before it goes into the bunker — but rather about general respect for home textiles. Your couch deserves better than being covered with bits and pieces of grass/concrete/whatever’s on the floor of Trader Joe’s.
2. Get some ambition
Terrace House is built on a sturdy foundation of hopes and dreams. If you don’t stay busy with a clear goal communicated to everyone else, your philosophy toward life’s purpose will be questioned. Whether in Tokyo or Hawaii, laziness is the ultimate crime, and those without an ambition alibi will be interrogated to the point of tears (see: Mizuki and Tap in BGITC). If you’re looking for some inspiration that doesn’t involve a sourdough starter, perhaps you could consider the traditional path of the aspiring model/actor seen in nearly every season? Or maybe mix it up and work on your own line of jaunty hats (Arisa in BGITC), bikinis (Avian in Aloha State), or lingerie (Mizuki in Opening New Doors)? You could also consider bringing some chaos to the scene with a budding parkour career, like Risako did in Tokyo, or even more boldly, follow his housemate Ruka’s goal of literally becoming Spiderman. Whatever you do, keep in mind that these are dark times: Sorry Kai, but there is not a quarantined household on Earth that would benefit from a newly self-proclaimed stand-up comic.
3. But not too much ambition
Season after season, Terrace House reminds us that being too busy with your goals is almost as bad as having no goals at all. It’s all about balance — a delicate dance of being busy enough that no one would dare call you lazy, but available enough as to be part of the group. Sure, you can toil away on your architecture thesis (Hansan in BGITC) or manga launch (Peppe in Tokyo), but don’t be making a big scene of it. It’s important to set aside ample time to lazily smoke cigarettes and give fatherly advice so everyone still thinks you’re chill as hell.
4. Stay away from Reddit
While a bit niche, there’s a lot to glean from what happens when housemates get meta. In the most recent season, internet drama infiltrated the show when Kenny, during what we could only assume was his daily self-Googling, discovered on a “message board” that Haruka and Risako unfollowed each other on IG. Unless you have Gwyneth Paltrow on a cleanse levels of self-control, nothing good is going to come from perusing Reddit right now. What starts as an innocent li’l trip to r/catswithjobs will quickly devolve into a day-ruining wormhole of anger. In the words of my therapist, “Will an obsessive hunt for more news have any effect on your current course of action?”
5. Take facial hair risks
Terrace House is the land of questionable goatees and chin straps. If you’ve ever wondered what you’d look like with facial hair, there’s no time like the present to experiment. This applies to all genders: Grow it out, shave it down, dye it pink! It’s just hair! Who needs Botox when you can literally shave the cruel effects of time off your face, as Taka demonstrated in Opening New Doors by ditching his mustache after Ami offhandedly wished he were five years younger?
6. File your taxes
Sure, the IRS is giving us all a few extra months, but do you really think you’re gonna want to stuck clicking through TurboTax once your favorite restaurant has opened its patio for extremely limited capacity business? This year already blows and having Daddy Government on your back is the last thing you need right now. Just look at Tokui, the wacky panel host who was recently fired from the show after getting busted for tax evasion, only to have the remaining hosts consistently troll him in his absence. Pay your taxes, keep your dignity.
7. Upgrade your pajamas
This is essential. I’m willing to bet your ratty underoos and some ex’s old hoodie aren’t exactly kawaii. Take cues from the most recent Tokyo season and consider gifting some matching PJs to your crush, or perhaps remotely bonding with your pals by shopping for a new lounge lewk together. Keep it ethical and avoid supporting any corporate overlords who may be taking advantage of their employees if at all possible. Another thing to keep in mind: Swanky pajamas should be about treating yourself. If you prance around in a new negligee to get the attention of your mates (cough cough, Misaki in BGITC), someone will absolutely throw you under the bus for your hastily laid thirst trap.
8. Absolutely no acoustic sets
Who are you trying to impress at this point? Get that attention-seeking nonsense out of here or you’ll end up like Yusuke in Aloha State, eating dinner alone with a fresh fade after his date ghosted. In a parallel universe, my dude could have quit the jam session rubbish back then and be attending a virtual Comic Con with his cute Marvel star of a girlfriend right now. And Yusuke was a genuinely good musician! Imagine what ill fortunes may befall your shitty John Mayer covers. During these trying times, just say no to ukuleles.
9. Set plans well in advance
Having something to look forward to is key. There is nothing sadder than finding out your already sad Zoom date can’t go down because your love interest has something else on the agenda. Terrace House castmates have nothing but respect for each other’s time and don’t believe in spontaneity, especially when it comes to venturing outside. Instead of “u up?”, consider “Will you be up sometime in the next three to seven weeks?” This is about creating ample time for physical and mental preparation, but more importantly, the thrill of placing a hearty bet on future you!
Oh, and an important reminder: In life and in Terrace House, Costco is always a bad idea. You do not want to end up like Yuki, BGITC’s bespectacled, pretentious fashion-hat bro who suggested “going for a drive,” only to have his crush Arisa suggest “going for a drive … to Costco … with the rest of the roommates!” This is very bad “yes and …” energy that you should avoid at all costs. Keep it cute and Costco-free.
10. When it comes to insults, go big or go home
This may be controversial, but the mates at Terrace House have taught us that passive aggression is totally fine. The key is to make it count if you want results. Sure, you could call your roommate “an elderly gorilla” or “Corvette incarnate” behind their back, but that’s just petty and not good for the collective juju. But spelling C-O-W-A-R-D out on their rice omelet in order to finally get them to make your relationship official — or maybe just get them to finally address the mildew towel that’s been curdling on the couch for three weeks? Legendary.
11. Put on your own mask first (a metaphor)
You aren’t reading this because you need more information on masks. Instead, the lesson here is that a little bit of selfishness isn’t a bad thing. Terrace House has taught us that there is no “love worth dying for”: Taishi used the phrase so often in Aloha State, the panel went above and beyond their normal mocking by making shirts with his catchphrase. You already know that self-love and acceptance are paramount for mental health, but they’re also key for keeping your thirst levels at bay. Stay hydrated and do whatever ya gotta do to avoid flailing around in poetic desperation.
12. Don’t eat someone else’s meat (not a metaphor)
The most illustrious moment in all of Terrace House was the notorious “meat crime,” where the BGITC housemates cooked up some primo steaks that hairdresser Uchi had received as a gift from a rich client. They even had the audacity to complain that it was “too fatty” while housing it down in Uchi’s absence! We’d think it’d be common sense at this point, but any food that isn’t yours simply is not yours. The end. And this rule is not bound by those without dietary restrictions. It definitely also applies to your roommate’s cache of Rancho Gordo beans, or your girlfriend’s Cadbury mini eggs leftover from the Easter basket her mom mailed even though said girlfriend is 29 years old and lives 40 feet from a Walgreens.
Now go forth and be kind to each other! Just kidding, don’t go forth anywhere beyond the bounds of your apartment. Have you learned nothing from this hellscape? [Cue the door closing sound.]