Gavin: Aw, there's a Filer-Fax!
Michael: Oh, boy, what? What do you call it?
Michael: It's a Rolodex in America.Culture Clash:
- Accidental Marriage
- Alien Lunch
- Arranged Marriage
- Culture Justifies Anything
- Deliberate Values Dissonance
- Fee Fi Faux Pas
- Fish out of Water
- Foreign Queasine
- Fumbling the Gauntlet
- Funny Foreigner
- Humans Through Alien Eyes
- Innocent Bigot
- Innocently Insensitive
- Our Nudity Is Different
- Protocol Peril
- Raised by Wolves
- Separated by a Common Language
- Your Normal Is Our Taboo
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- A German commercial for a bank features a Japanese bank CEO going to Germany and making a traditional greeting bow in front of his German counterpart. Suddenly, a female employee creeps up to him and cuts off his tie with a pair of scissors, and then gives him a kiss, in the course of Weiberfastnacht.
Anime and Manga
- In Space Runaway Ideon, when humans first encounter Buff Clan, they try to call a ceasefire by raising a white flag. Unfortunately, in Buff Clan culture, a white flag means the resolve to fight until death. Much bloodshed ensues.
- Played for humour in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, Kaere, a returnee is offended by various gestures that "In her country" mean odd things. Also Maria is a reverse example; seeing negative things in Japanese society as positive things. Her reaction to a pedophile accosting a little girl; "People in Japan are so nice to little kids".
- Major part of the background of the Skypiea arc of One Piece. Montblanc Norland comes to an island plagued by disease and worshiping a snake-god. He proceeds to cut down their sacred trees and slay their god(dess), all in their own best interest. Though his actions were for the better, his refusal to consult with them or even explain himself demonstrates an arrogance that eventually alienates him, setting up the requisite tragic backstory.
- Interestingly subverted in Ai Yori Aoshi, for the character of Tina Foster — a blond, blue-eyed American who grew up in Japan. Being American, she's never really accepted by her classmates, due to the highly ethno-centric nature of Japanese society, despite having been raised there from a very young age. Returning to America for high school, she discovers that she is culturally much more Japanese than American, and finds herself an outsider again. Her overreactions to this result in her clashing with both cultures, and prevents her from making any close personal connections in either Japan or America, until she meets open-minded protagonist Hanabishi Kaoru several years prior to the beginning of the story.
- Played for laughs in Ouran High School Host Club: commoner Haruhi's life is so different from her ultra-rich schoolmates that they might as well live in different countries, and the experience goes both ways (witness the hosts' befuddlement over "commoner wisdom" such as instant coffee.)
- In the Ramen & Gyoza volume of Oishinbo, one of Shiro's superiors takes some out-of-town Chinese colleagues to his favorite noodle shop; only to have them stop dead when they see the restaurant, accuse him of deliberately insulting them, and threaten to break off relations with the Tozai News. Turns out the restaurant's name uses an old Japanese word for China that many Japanese see as no worse than old-fashioned, but the mainland Chinese consider highly insulting. Good thing Shiro has the connections to set things right.
- In Kyou Kara Maou, Wolfram insults Yuuri's mother, so Yuuri slaps him. Wolfram's brothers beg Yuuri to take it back. Yuuri, who thinks he's just insulted Wolfram back, swears he never will. Turns out that's how they propose marriage around those parts. The engagement stands for almost three straight seasons, and by the third everyone either considers them married or has forgotten about the proposal altogether. It can sometimes be hard to tell.
- There is a major culture clash between Ichigo and Byakuya in Bleach's "saving Rukia" arc.
- One of the prevalent themes of Ikoku Meiro no Croisée.
- The Yuri Genre manga Flower Flower revolves around this. Two princesses from separate countries are wed but their cultures clash. This leads to some interesting situations.
- A bit of this is to be expected in Axis Powers Hetalia as it is about Nations as People. An example is Japan telling Italy he must "assume responsibility" (which is never actually followed up on) when the latter, who is much less reserved about his emotions and physical contact, hugs him.
- Princess Ugg is built around this trope, as Ulga's barbarian ways do not fit in well at a Princess Classic Academy. It's implied Jamsin once struggled with this as well, as she was reminded she did not know what western utensils were when she came (having grown up with chopsticks).
- Xavin from Runaways often runs into this, being a Skrull who has been raised to kill ever since hatching. Most notably, Xavin has difficulty understanding that the team views Victor, who's an android, as an equal whereas the Xavin only saw him as a useful tool. Xavin also deeply respects strength in all of its forms and therefore doesn't understand why the team doesn't try to Take Over the World with their superior powers. Also, Xavin doesn't get that being genderfluid is unusual for humans because, for Skrulls, "changing gender is no different than changing hair color."
- Klara, who joins the team later on, has her own difficulties adjusting, having come from the 1900s, where there were no Skrulls, no Majesdanians, and no androids, and where mutants and magic-users were viewed as possible demons.
- The TCB-Verse, where a medieval, High Fantasy pony nation turns up on Real Life Earth 20 Minutes into the Future, and tries to claim it in order to save it from inevitable environmental destruction. In many versions, it ends badly for everyone involved. Also notable for being controversial in its very premise, TCB became a Broken Base between fans who supported the idealistic pony cause since it was for the greater good and fans who felt the humans more than justified in fighting off the pony invasion.
- In Embers, an Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic by Vathara, failure to do a comparison is shown to have incredibly painful results... and arguably, this is one of the major reasons this story was written. A full chapter was dedicated to what the four elemental nations each mean when they say 'truce', each of which was different, and had different cultural reasons behind it.
- In the Water Tribes, a truce is decided upon by the women, who get together and decide that their men have wasted enough time and effort fighting, or are needed back home. Once they've determined that the men are rested and recovered, the truce is revoked and they go to war again.
- In the Earth Kingdom, the local King (or the Earth King, if it's a big enough deal), will declare a truce only as a final ceasefire, when either they or the enemy is thoroughly crushed. Truces aren't temporary... they end the war, and breaking the truce starts a new one.
- In the Fire Nation, the ranking officer can call for a truce at any time, but they will hold that truce without fail. They will not break a truce, but will revoke it and inform their enemy of the revocation before they attack.
- The Air Nomads don't have truces. They may stop fighting, or work together with an enemy for a while against a common foe, but there's nothing binding about it, and they can change their minds whenever they want, without informing anyone. This has led to them being generally liked but not trusted, and in Embers, has led to HUGE problems between the nations.
- In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover and its sequel, this crops up because the Trans-Galactic Republic's lack of an Alien Non-Interference Clause lets them (with permission) become involved with political systems quite unlike their own. Citadel Council race politics aren't completely understood when the Trans-Galactic Republic tries to help prepare for the Reaper invasion, leading to a slide into fascism. Even worse is the oligarchic galaxy next door, which makes even less sense to the "civilized" forces of the Republic. From casually nuking civilians to using alcohol in therapy, societal norms there make Trans-Galactic Republic authorities uncomfortable to say the least.
- As a Crossover, the Naruto/Justice League Crossover "Connecting the Dots" has lots of this, particularly in the Thou Shalt Not Kill department
- A plot point in Under The Northern Lights. The reindeer of Tarandroland have a very negative view of magic and have problems with unicorn-heavy Equestria. Equestrians get nervous with both casual violence and the use of animal products, both common in Tarandroland.
- Game Theory (Fan Fic) plays up the cultural differences of the TSAB as a society that has access to magic, and the fact that Nanoha is from Earth and lacks an understanding of the history of magic (and the dangers thereof) is of significant importance to the plot.
- There are a few disagreements or misunderstandings in The Hobbit fanfiction that often occur because Bilbo and the dwarves come from different cultures.
- One occurs in Bilbo's Hair, where hobbits see braiding as an activity only done by women and something that's not very beneficial, whereas dwarves braid as a sign of status, courtship and friendship, as well as training the fingers and their eye to hand coordination for fighting and craftsmanship.
- In another fic, Into The Fire, Thorin and a few other dwarves mistakenly come to think that Bilbo is nobility since he owns land and collects money from his tenants, and is also a prince since his grandfather is the Thain (which they think is a title equivalent to king) of the Shire. The concept of a middle-class gentleman is after all hard to reconcile with the feudal system which most of Middle Earth operates on.
- In Wear a Flower in Your Hair (You're Beautiful), Thorin calls Bella (femme!Bilbo) a halfling in reference to her being a hobbit. Unbeknownst to Thorin, "halfling" is an insult hobbits use to describe females who are barren. He is promptly horrified at how badly he stuck his foot in his mouth and disgusted that a culture would have such an insult; while children are prized among dwarves due to their rarity, no female is ever shamed for being unable to have children or choosing not to have them, in stark contrast to the hobbits who are family-oriented to such an extent that it's lead to immeasurable heartache for those in Bella's position. The author also notes that the dwarf culture, from their research, is surprisingly gender equal with the closest word to "queen" (what Bella will be after the dwarves' home is restored due to her marriage to Thorin) translating to "she who is the king's equal".
- Used rather frequently in Dragonball Z Abridged, wherein Vegeta has difficulties with differences between Earth culture and Space culture. Among other things, he didn't know what soap was (when the composiition of it was described, he thought it was food), and when Bulma asked about 'protection' before having sex, he put on his combat armor.
- Hivefled: Gamzee has a Slave Brand on his arm reading "namoha", meaning "one who is owned by a higher". He hasn't told his human associates what it means; they tried to look it up, but the only reference they could find, not being able to access the troll internet via a human computer nor read the alphabet used on the trolls' computers, is a porn site. Misleading and incomprehensible videos have led them to believe that Gamzee is a rapist who was branded as a legal punishment.
- Wings To Fly:
- Lucrezia Noin doesn't speak Navy. The most obvious manifestation is where she doesn't know what it means when one of her subordinates calls her "Skipper" and has to guess she's not being insulted from the reactions of the people around her. Later she looks it up.
- She similarly doesn't understand some Americanisms, being Italian, and has occasional visible reactions to sloppy protocol or ceremony from people who originally came from other backgrounds, as her own original service was a stickler for proper military protocol.
- To Absent Friends: Dul'krah, Clan Korekh comments on Kanril Eleya and Reshek Gaarra's relationship. (This is explained in the author's notes. Apparently romantic relationships among Dul'krah's species tend not to last more than about five years, and any kids are part of the mother's clan and are raised by said clan in its entirety.)
“It was not a secret, Commander Reshek,” Dul’krah says. “The only question I had was when your first children would be born.” There’s an oddly musical clunk from Warragul dropping his guitar. I feel my cheeks burning and Dul’krah has the good sense to start looking embarrassed. “My apologies. Clearly I have run afoul of, I believe the term Lieutenant Commander Bo’tok at the Academy used was ‘culture clash’.”
“Phekk’tem understatement,” somebody female in the crowd mutters in Perikian.
“Watch it,” I warn over my shoulder.
- A World Of Bloody Evolution takes the rather carefree Yang from Remnant and tosses her in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. While Yang enjoys the challenging fights, she is highly disturbed the the rampant zealotry and Fantastic Racism. Weiss, who transferred over 50 years before Yang, didn't have as much issue adjusting, though she still hates the place.
- Pony POV Series: The small nation Maasailand considers red, black, and scorpions to be symbols of peace and love and considers gold a symbol of aggression, which confuses the Equestrian characters.
- In The Greatest Generation chapter 3, Yvonne, being an American, attaches very different connotations to the term "expedition" than what Tenryuu and DesDiv Six were doing. This perception, and her subsequent behavior because of it, causes no small amount of problems, to say the least.
- In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, a good portion of the conflict between ponies and humans stems from complex issues like the humans' historical treatment of earthly horses as lowly pack animals, to things as banal as the ponies' all-herbivore diet.
- A major part of Neon Metathesis Evangelion, with Asuka's western views colliding with the Japanese views of everyone around her.
- With This Ring: Being from Britain, OL had a bit of a shock when he had to adjust to living in America. Supermarkets tend to creep him out.
- Kaldur is disturbed how surface-worlders tend to depict pirates as good guys in their fiction and how rare a negative portrayal is. Especially since pirates are a serious problems for Atlantians.
- In the aptly named Zootopia fic Cultural Clash, Nick playfully snaps at Judy during an argument, complete with stamping his foot. Judy immediately goes sullen and gives him the silent treatment for several days. Nick is originally under the impression that it's because of his sharp teeth and is hurt that she still doesn't trust him but when he finally calls her mother in desperation to fix things, he discovers foot stamping is a dominance display and Judy felt devalued when he did it to her. As Bonnie puts it, "You may as well have slapped a leash on her and dangled her in the air by it for what it said about your opinion of her."
- Avatar between the materialistic, militaristic greed driven Straw Man humans and the the Mary Suetopian one-with-nature Navii.
- Detective/action movie Black Rain contains a ton of this when two NYPD detectives catch a rogue Yakuza member in New York and have to escort him back to Tokyo. In some ways the film is more even-handed than some works, as it shows the detectives feeling out of their depth and threatened by a different culture, but it also shows how they seem to the Japanese, which ranges from the Japanese police viewing them as bumbling amateurs, (one of the detectives being a xenophobic Cowboy Cop while the other is a Life of the Party sort) who let the Yakuza captive escape, to many others seeing them as Funny Foreigners.
- More subtly, there is also something of a generational culture clash going on among the Japanese. Most obviously this is the case with Sato and the other young Yakuza who follow him in opposing The Don Sugai, but there are other small hints of this, like Japanese detective Mas reprimanding his son for what he sees as his son speaking out of turn to Nick.
- Red Sun involves samurai coming to The Wild West, and includes a scene where Charles Bronson's cowboy character laughs at a samurai and says that he's wearing a dress.
- East is East is about a Pakistani father struggling to come to terms with his sons being drawn more to British youth culture than his own Islamic values.
- In Bride and Prejudice some of the conflict between William Darcy and Lalita is because they both make cultural assumptions about the other.
- Outsourced centers on this theme as an American sales expert is sent to India to train call centre workers and only becomes successful once he starts adapting to his new home.
- The Gods Must Be Crazy uses this as its central theme. The main focus is on the Bushman !Xi venturing out into the world of modern South Africa, and getting into many misunderstandings due to his not knowing anything about its society's workings, and vice-versa. Said misunderstandings range from hilarious (accidentally sticking up somebody) to serious (getting locked up in prison).
- In the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid, Dre (who comes from the United States) claps and cheers loudly after his crush's violin recital. This provokes anger from the crush's father as the Chinese tend to stay silent out of respect after a performance of any kind.
- In The Baader Meinhof Complex, Muslim terrorists sharing the training camp with the RAF are not pleased about them sunbathing in the nude and both sexes having the same quarters.
- This tropes drives a lot of early interaction between Algren, the late-nineteenth century American soldier, and the Japanese samurai he finds himself among in The Last Samurai, particularly in their differing views on war. A stand out example is when discussing Custer's Last Stand: Algren believes that Custer was arrogant an incompetent for taking his men against a force of natives that vastly outnumbered them, while Kasumoto admires the man's bravery, and says it was a good death for Custer and his men.
- Around the World in 80 Days, the custom of suttee strikes the visiting Englishman (and the audience) as a horrible, horrible idea (though he doesn't act on his feelings until he learns the victim is unwilling.)
- In Cloud of Sparrows, Emily asks Heiko what a geisha is, and is shocked when Heiko explains that the closest English word would be 'prostitute'. Heiko considers her profession an honourable one, and can't understand why Emily freaks out so badly.
- Most of the stories in Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies deal with Indians (specifically Bengalis) living in America and struggling to assimilate into the culture for various reasons.
- Her other book, The Namesake, deals with the title character, Gogol, struggling to balance between his American side with his ties to his Bengali culture. Ultimately, neither ideal works out in the end.
- Gore Vidal's Creation shows the ancient world and its differing value systems clashing in polite debate via the travels of Cyrus Spitama across Persia, Greece, India and China, as he considers Socrates, Hellenism, Taoism, Jainism, Buddhism and Confucianism from his perspective.
- This is a big theme in most of Dave Duncan's books, but particularly the Seventh Sword series where a pacifist from present day America is launched into a fantasy world with an iron age culture, caste system and slavery. Hilarity Ensues.
- In Dragon Bones, Ward gets into an awkward situation when he forgets the name of a noblewoman and has to introduce her to his friends. He could call her Lady [Estate] or Lady [Husband] where he comes from, but such is not appropriate in her country. He opts for the simple solution of admitting that he forgot her name, aware that this is likely to cause less offense. As the circumstances of the first introduction were less than perfect, he is easily forgiven and her husband introduces her a second time.
- Robin Hobb's Soldier Son Trilogy is a showcase for this trope.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Only In Death, Ezsrah takes Gaunt's sword. He regards it as an essential part of his duty, to carry out a bludtoll; the Ghosts regarded it as robbing the dead and are shocked that anyone would do such a deed.
- In Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, the war between the humans and Zirrzh starts due to a type of culture (or technology) clash. Upon first seeing the Zirrzh ship, the human ship prepares weapons but sends a friendly first contact radio signal. This starts a serious war, with the Zirrzh insisting the humans fired first. It turns out they're both right, because Radio tortures the Zirrzh Elders (ghosts)
- In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar Tetralogy the reptilian invaders known as the Race have numerous issues of culture clash, aside from the shock that Tosevites went from rusty plate armor and spears to using primitive landcruisers and firearms. Even worse, they were engaged in active research on jet killercraft and explosive-metal bombs! All of this in the blink of an eye turret between their probe visiting and the Conquest Fleet arrival (about 800 years, they arrive in 1942). There is also all that biological weirdness. For starters, they're big and ugly, they stand up at too steep of an angle, have no tailstumps and these weird multi-colored strands on their heads. Speaking of colors, their strangely smooth and non-scaly skin comes in as many colors as their head-growths. Don't even get me started on their bizarre mating habits, it took the more liberal members of the Conquest fleet nearly the entire 40 years (20 local years) between the end of hostilities and the arrival of the Colonization fleet to reach a personal understanding that, for them, being capable of mating at all times of the year is just natural (an American Tosevite who has become an expert in Race/Tosevite relations commented to the insanely radical Shiplord Straha that, to him, Straha is "more hidebound than a Southern Democrat with 40 years seniority" after the Shiplord called himself a Radical. This occurred before the end of hostilities in the Local Year 1944). Their exclusive mating agreements are something only such a screwed up race such as the Big Uglies could find enjoyable. Speaking of mating issues, that herb Ginger should be wiped out, it causes nothing but trouble.
- Shogun has plenty examples of this being about an Englishman in 1600s Japan. A rather blatant example is when certain Japanese taking care of him, after being commanded to cater to his every need, politely ask him if he'd like sex with one of the girls looking after him. When he declines embarrassed, they ask if he'd prefer a man.... and then whether he'd prefer a boy!
- A minor example occurs in Chen Yi's house in Lords of the Bow. Khasar tries to figure out chopsticks, before getting frustrated and shoving them into a bowl of noodles so they stand vertically. To the Chin, this is quite insulting.
- Three Worlds Collide by Eliezer Yudkowsky features a clash between humans and two other Starfish Alien races; the babyeaters and the superhappies with each race having a morality at complete tangents to the other two with the baby eaters doing the obvious and the superhappies being completely hedonistic. Oh, plus future humans to most present humans, since they think rape is enjoyable for both parties.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs:
- In A Princess of Mars, Dejiah Thoris (princess of Mars) tries to appeal to John Carter (man newly-arrived from Earth), and fails.
As her gaze rested on me her eyes opened wide in astonishment, and she made a little sign with her free hand; a sign which I did not, of course, understand. Just a moment we gazed upon each other, and then the look of hope and renewed courage which had glorified her face as she discovered me, faded into one of utter dejection, mingled with loathing and contempt. I realized I had not answered her signal, and ignorant as I was of Martian customs, I intuitively felt that she had made an appeal for succor and protection which my unfortunate ignorance had prevented me from answering.
- In At the Earth's Core, David Innes fights for Dian. He does not realize that after it, he could take her hand to claim her as his wife, take her hand and let go to free her, or do nothing to make her his slave. He does nothing. She is not pleased.
- In A Princess of Mars, Dejiah Thoris (princess of Mars) tries to appeal to John Carter (man newly-arrived from Earth), and fails.
- In Chris Roberson's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Ravens novel Dawn of War II, when the Blood Ravens are looking for aspirants among refugees, one speaks to the old woman who is in charge of one group to try to get a boy from her. She contemptuously refuses to speak to him because he hasn't shown her his face. He considers and unhelms rather than use force. That granted, she only asks whether the boy will have a chance to survive if they take him, and being told that he will have a chance to live, tells him to take him.
- This is a huge, huge aspect of The Wheel of Time world. Although the world apparently shares one language (with many, many different accents and dialects), almost no other aspects of culture are universal, or even necessarily common among neighbors!
- Both averted and subverted in a scene in Frank Herbert's Dune. A young Paul Atreides receives "watercounters" (a symbolic currency) as a result of a duel with a Fremen fighter shortly after being accepted into the Fremen tribe. Not understanding their meaning, or how to carry them properly to reduce their noise, he asks his assigned mentor Chani, a female of similar age, to hold them for him, not knowing that doing so was a Fremen courtship ritual. Averted in that the Fremen recognize his cultural difference and accept it as a neutral, purely practical request. Subverted in that it was actually a prophetic act by the increasingly-prescient Paul, who had already foreseen becoming mated to Chani as part of his destiny, although he didn't fully realize who she was at the time.
- It is nothing compared to the earlier introduction of Stilgar to Duke Leto's staff. Stilgar spat on the table-an act that, among water-obsessed Fremen, was regarded as a gift of one's bodily water.
- In Patricia C. Wrede's Thirteenth Child, when Brent tells Eff that the feathers are a symbol of how high they can fly without magic, Eff declares that you can't fly without magic. He laughs and says he sees he will find this very educational in more than one respect — he meant metaphorically.
- In Wen Spencer's Endless Blue, Turk and Paige get into a furious argument when Turk discovers that she is partly descended from genetic modified Reds and Blues; Turk himself is a Red, traumatized by his upbringing in a society where Reds are property.
- In Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series, much is made of the differences in culture that have evolved between Hold, Craft, and Weyr over the centuries since the original settlement of Pern. Holds are charged with the management of the land and contain the majority of the population, supplying food to the more specialized Crafts and Weyrs. By nature they are highly conservative and resistant to change. Crafts are the professional tradesmen, operating on an apprenticeship system and preserving the skills of the Pernese people. Weyrs are the dragons and their riders, charged with fighting off the periodic Thread incursions that would otherwise destroy most of the organic life on Pern. There's also a very significant culture clash in the main series between the modern dragonriders and the Oldtimers that Lessa brought from the past to battle Thread.
- Honor Harrington uses this in several books and cultures. Grayson/Manticore Manticore/Andermanni, Manticore/Haven, and now finally Manticore/Solarian League.
- One of the most hilarious ones happens on Grayson, when Honor alarms her bodyguards upon seeing a group of men heading for a public park armed with "wooden clubs" and thinks there's going to be a riot. Her senior bodyguard can hardly stop laughing long enough to explain to her that these "clubs" are bats used in an ancient sport called baseball.
- A girl rescued by the Five-Man Band in Black Dogs is disliked by almost everyone because of her inability to follow the customs of the Funny Animals that make up most of the band. She shows her teeth when she smiles and laughs (a sign of aggression), pulls away from their touch (displaying disgust) and tries to intervene in a battle for dominance (suggesting that they are unfit for leadership). One of the more aggressive characters goes into a near-homicidal rage when she is around.
- In The Secret Garden, Mary expects to be dressed by the servants since she had been in India. "It was the custom." The English maid finds the notion silly.
- In the second book in the Petaybee series, the ordinary Petaybeans take issue with the customs of the cult that raised 'Cita.
- The women of the Dales and the invaders in Jane Yolen's Great Alta Saga. Garunian society is extraordinarily patriarchal, whereas that of the Dales is anything but.
- In the Incarnations of Immortality series, the Sassy Black Woman version of Atropos laughs at Japanese culture a bit. Also, Mym, a Hindu, is a bit offended by Western culture and the fact that its version of the afterlife is the "correct" one.
- Some of the most interesting parts of the Ring of Fire series are about how Germans see modern Americans.
- Rudyard Kipling has a fondness for this trope. Several of his short stories are light comedies about this.
- The New Jedi Order is all about this on an epic, Anyone Can Die scale. The two sides of the conflict are the familiar galactic civilization from the movies and the Yuuzhan Vong, who each see the other's society as repulsively, irredeemably evil (the fact that the Vong are a religious extremist, totalitarian dictatorship obsessed with both feeling and inflicting pain is understandably offputting, while to them the galaxy's rampant use of machines and especially droids is as horrifying as if they'd been using zombies, and a hideous slap in the face to their gods to boot). It's eventually revealed that the Vong's leader set the whole thing up as part of an insane plan to become a god, which nobody was happy about.
- In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, this is one of the main sources of conflict between the Mandalorians and the Jedi. Besides being a Proud Warrior Race, Mandalorians are extreme Mama Bears and Papa Wolves who treat protecting family as sacred as their love of battle. They find the Jedi practice of taking Force-sensitive children away from their families for training and the Jedi philosophy of forming no attachments to be repulsive.
- In John Barnes's A Million Open Doors, when the hero, from a planet founded on the ideals of the medieval troubadours by way of the 18th century Romantic movement becomes an assistant to the envoy to a culture dominated by Rational Christianity, best described as the love-child of John Calvin and Ayn Rand.
- From The Kingdoms of Evil: Everyone and everywhere.
- The war between the Steam Punk and Psychic Powers fueled Sharonans and the Magitek powered Arcanans in David Weber and Linda Evans Hell's Gate series stems from this. Also on Arcana itself the three main civilizations are a Proud Warrior Race, a caste system with magicians on top, warriors in the middle and everyone else as serfs and a mildly hedonistic republic.
- In Jorge Luis Borges short story "Averroe's Search" : This is the reason why Averroes, an Islamic philosopher, had Pop-Culture Isolation and never could understand the terms tragedy and comedy. Truth in Television too.
- Borges comments at the end that his own attempts to understand Averroes are presumably as unsuccessful as Averroes' attempts to understand those two words in Aristotle's Poetics - there must have been a whole load of cultural quirks that the people of Averroes' Andalus took for granted, but which we simply don't know about (like the live dramatic performances of ancient Athens, which had no counterpart at all in Averroes' day.)
- Elizabeth Bathory vs. all Slovakians in Count and Countess.
- The Clans and the Tribe in the Warrior Cats series are rather similar, but there's enough difference in them that they can clash at times - especially when the Clan cats insist that the Tribe try to live like them in order to drive off intruders.
- In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol story "Gibraltar Falls", Feliz, from a Matriarchy era, has to fight to see men as equal — just as men from other eras have to fight to see women as equal, Thomas notes.
- Found several times in Technic History. Culture Clash between Humans and Ythrians is a primary theme of The People of the Wind both on the Macro level between the Terran Empire and the Ythrian Domain and the micro level between the Human and Ythrian settlements on Avalon. In the first case it is a war and is brought on by politics, not Fantastic Racism; though ignorance and difficulty understanding each other is a problem, there is little actual hatred. In the second case it is more a matter of neighbors misunderstanding each other and occasionally rubbing each other the wrong way. Nonetheless, in both cases the cultural differences between Humans and Ythrians loom large.
- In Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, this is what causes some tension between the combined Clanker-Darwinist crew aboard the living airship: the Darwinists (who alter DNA to make and use genetically-engineered "beasties" as things from medical equipment to modes of transportation and communication and weapons of war and prefer natural aesthetics) see Clanker tech as cold, lifeless, and a mockery of nature, while the Clankers (who create machinery to fulfill needs, run their walkers (also called "Clankers") on kerosene, and prefer angular aesthetics) see Darwinist creations as "godless abominations." The two sides are caught up in an alternate-historical version of World War One, and when they are forced to work together they are very unnerved when having to work with the others' creations.
- In Greek Ninja, everyone suffers a bit of a culture shock upon arriving to Japan. Specifically, Dawson almost walks into a house without taking his shoes off.
- It takes time for immigrants to learn the rules of how Palimpsest works. Mild examples like making eye contact or speaking to the locals may be forbidden under very specific circumstances.
- In John C. Wright's The Hermetic Millennia, much of the story revolves about how many people from different eras and so different cultures — and the historical change was often one of bitter reaction and conflict — are woken out of cryogenic slumber together. Many conflicts ensue.
- A common theme of indie author M.C.A. Hogarth's books. In particular the Paradox Universe which features a loose Alliance composed of dozens of genetically engineered "Pelted" races who developed widely differing cultures during the exodus from earth on Generation Ships, as well as a few completely alien species.
- In The Dark Elf Trilogy the first time Drizzt Do'Urden meets a human, the teenage boy pulls a sword on him. Drizzt doesn't speak Common at this point, so he instead easily disarms him, juggles the sword on his scimitars, then hands it back. In drow culture doing something like that demonstrates that one is both more skilled and not an enemy, but instead it scares the living daylights out of the kid and he runs away screaming.
- A Song of Ice and Fire
- In A Clash of Kings a Lawful Good King sends his childhood friend to request aid from the friend's father, the lord of a group of islands. Said friend comes from an Always Chaotic Evil culture. The Lord decides he'd much rather just pillage the original King's lands since he's away and requesting help. The suggestion does come from his son, and it's meant to be a shock to the reader, but you'd think that *someone* would point out that the islanders come from a completely different culture that's prone to murder, raiding and deceit.
- This is heavily deconstructed in A Dance with Dragons, where it's probably the biggest problem with Daenerys Targaryen's reign in Meereen. She is of Valyrian blood, the people that annihilated the old Ghiscari empire, and she absolutely despises the cultures and traditions of her new nation. The biggest is Meereen's practice of slavery, a trade which Dany stops, causing Meereen's economy to crash and the other slaving cities to declare war on her. She attempts to walk a middle ground by marrying a Ghiscari noble and re-opening the beloved slave pits, but this backfires and causes things to go From Bad to Worse.
- Jon Snow similarly has trouble negotiating between King Stannis' people and the wildlings. For example, the sister-in-law of the King Beyond the Wall, Val, is viewed by Stannis' people as a valuable asset and a princess with many knights and nobles asking for her hand in marriage to seal an alliance between them and Val's people, the free folk. Jon Snow repeatedly has to explain that she is not viewed by her people as a princess since "King Beyond the Wall" is not an inherited position, but an earned one, and must tell Stannis that he cannot make Val, as one of the free folk, marry a man she does not agree to wed and if he does, she’ll likely retaliate. Jon further explains that even if Val does accept this man, it does not mean that Stannis will have the allegiance of the wildlings — as again — the free folk do not see Val as their princess but as simply the sister-in-law of their king.
- In the Foreigner series humans are initially unaware that the alien atevi form government-like associations that have no connection whatsoever to geography. Humans mistakenly thinking that they're dealing with a single government when they're actually dealing with multiple ones leads to a human/atevi war which nearly wipes out the human Lost Colony.
- Neal Stephenson frequently explores Culture Clash and Values Dissonance in his works. Friends or allies from different cultures and sub-cultures sometimes have to pause and step back a moment to understand where their companions are coming from. Many an antagonist in his works is a thoroughly evil villain from the protagonist's perpective, but is "good" by his own code as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, Knight Templar, or an example of outright Blue and Orange Morality.
- The Lord of the Rings has a very subtle example in Pippin's conversations with Denethor. After their first conversation, rumors abound that Pippin is a hobbit prince (which is technically true since Pippin's father Paladin Took is the current Thain, but the Thain's only function is to lead defenders if the Shire is invaded); that he is in Minas Tirith to negotiate an alliance, which is false (except perhaps on a personal level); and that an army of hobbits is on its way to reinforce Minas Tirith (HAHAHA–No). In appendix E, Tolkien states that Westron (the common tongue of Middle-Earth, which was rendered as English in the books), has two second-person pronouns, one formal and one informal, but that the formal one has fallen into disuse in the Hobbit dialect. The implication is that someone overheard Pippin talking to Denethor, assumed no-one who wasn't at least a Prince would dare to assume to be on First-Name Basis with the Steward of Gondor at a first meeting, and the rumor mill just spun off from there. Meanwhile, Pippin was just talking to the Steward in the same way he talks to everyone, from his neighbors to Gandalf to Orcs.
- During book 1 of the Tairen Soul series, one of the Fey flies over to a Celierian woman and talks to her briefly (throwing up a magical wall around both of them). The woman doesn't know his language and thinks that he's just told her he's about to kill her. In actuality, this was the Fey's way of saying "Hello, soulmate." The magic was just because he didn't want them to be interrupted by the understandably panicked crowd around them.
- A major theme in Hellspark, which is set in an interstellar future with a wide variety of societies, and features a community of people who were forced to live together without adequate preparation for their cultural differences. At the point when the protagonist shows up and starts mediating, there are people about ready to kill their neighbors over apparently little things like what kind of boots they wear.
- In the Dreamblood Duology, this is common between Kisuati and Gujaareen, even when the Gujaareen are of the shunha caste and stick very close to their Kisuati roots. The main point of contention is the dominant religion of Gujaareh, namely Hananja's Law. The Kisuati view the Gujaareen custom of Gatherer priests gathering — read: killing — people in their dreams when 'their time has come' as barbaric.
- Victoria has many, but the most obvious is the ultimate one: Azania versus the Confederation. Or, briefly explained, a society of mostly lesbian, tech-optimistic Amazons versus one of reactionary Christian fundamentalists. For just one example of the little things they disagree on: In the Confederation, women who do not dress modestly and femininely are subject to public disapproval, whereas Azania has actually outlawed dresses, considering them a symbol of the old female slavery their ancestors fought so hard to escape.
Live Action TV
- Game of Thrones:
- Part of Ned's fish-out-of-water reaction to King's Landing, notably when he compares haughty knights to strutting roosters.
- Balon Greyjoy's response to Robb's offer of alliance is to proclaim that "No man gives me a crown. I pay the iron price."
- Jon and Ygritte's relationship is full of this, teasing each other about their cultural blind-spots.
- Tycho Nestoris has a visibly low opinion of Westeros' feudal system of titles and bloodlines and seems to regard their conflicts as petty. He's also quite unforgiving of Davos' past as a smuggler because he comes from a Proud Merchant Race.
- This happens quite a lot in the Star Trek franchise.
- Star Trek: Enterprise:
- A milder example would be T'Pol suggesting to Captain Archer and Tucker that the crew's recently lowered efficiency might be due to lack of sex.
- A more severe case was the aliens who were shocked and offended by the Enterprise crew eating in their presence.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a Cardassian woman who misinterprets Happily Married Miles O'Brien's brush-offs as flirting.
- Star Trek: Enterprise:
- On Babylon 5 a cultural misunderstanding was the cause of the Earth-Minbari War. To the Minbari, opening the weapons hatches on your ship is a polite greeting; to Earthlings, it's a sign of aggression, not helped any by the selection of a hotheaded captain all too ready to resort to shooting, in spite of Sheridan's warnings that he was the wrong man for the task.
- In Season 9 of Smallville, Clark Kent now wears a black version of his future costume, as a homage to traditional Kryptonian garb, but Green Arrow says it looks ridiculous. Pretty funny coming from a guy who wears tights. To be fair, that black outfit that Clark was wearing was quite unpopular with much of the fanbase, and the showrunners were taking pains to make it clear that it was only temporary.
- In one episode of Stargate SG-1, Jack tries to teach Teal'c boxing, but Teal'c dismisses the footwork as "dancing". In a show with aliens, every episode has culture clash.
- In the last episode of M*A*S*H, Klinger proposes to his Korean girlfriend by saying he'd like her to wear one of his white wedding dresses. She is initially shocked that he wants her to wear a funeral dress.
- One story from Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction featured a man finding himself in the Wild West. He is accused of walking around in his underpants, even though he is wearing sensible sneakers, hiking shorts, and a t-shirt.
- Behind almost every plot and joke in Outsourced, which is based on the premise of an American manager heading up a call center in India.
- The basic premise, along with Fish out of Water, of both Amish in the Big City and Breaking Amish
- A central theme in Defiance, which has five alien races and humans all living in the titular town.
- In Martial Law, this occurs frequently between Sammo (China) and the other cops (United States). One example is Sammo lighting up incense in his office for good luck but his co-worker Dana was turned off by the smell and asked him to remove it due to smoking regulations in the office. It even occurs between Sammo and his disciple Grace due to Grace being raised in the United States.
- Minor case in Arrow: When in Russia, Anatoli offers Oliver and Diggle each a very strong glass of vodka before a mission. Diggle politely declines, but Oliver pours him a glass anyway. He doesn't say anything, but the message is quite clear: When a Russian mob boss offers you vodka, you drink the vodka.
- The 100 has a lot of culture clash between people from the Ark and the Grounders. Most significant is their handling of criminal punishment. While the Ark uses capital punishment left and right, they view it as a utilitarian measure (no sense wasting precious resources on someone who breaks the law), and so make it fairly clean and painless, and even then they refuse to execute anyone under the age of 18. This makes them pretty hesitant to hand Finn over to the Grounders for punishment, since Grounder executions a) don't have exemptions for minors, and b) are more about revenge than utility, involving lengthy torture sessions where everyone with a grievance against the accused gets a chance to go at them with fire and knives.
- in Judging Amy, a teenage exchange student from Africa caused a stir when he was discovered sleeping in the same room as his host family's daughter. Turns out that, in his homeland, people sleep communally, he consequently had difficulty sleeping alone, and he did not realize how his actions would look to Americans.
- In BattleTech, the Clans have spent the past three hundred years away from the rest of humanity, developing their own culture of military strength and honor. When they returned to the Inner Sphere, much Cultural Clashing ensued. Inner Sphere armies were shocked when the Clans simply asked who they were going to be fighting rather than spending resources on an intelligence network. The Clans were likewise shocked when the Inner Sphere lied to then and then arranged for long-term battles of exhaustion rather than the quick and clean combat Clan culture demanded.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- This is very prevalent within the Imperium. To start with, the Imperium itself is composed of the almost entirely separate Imperium proper and the Mechanicus, only united because they decided to agree that their gods are the same person. There's plenty of culture clash ranging everywhere from simple misunderstandings to outright bigotry on both sides. On top of that, with tens of millions of different worlds and relatively difficult travel between them, huge numbers of very different cultures have evolved. Every time someone from one world visits another, or even just part of their own world that they're not familiar with, you can guarantee this trope will come up. And then you have all the interactions between the various different military forces, with the differences in culture and traditions between regiments from different worlds being the least of it before you even start looking at the various fanatical superhumans.
- While most xenos and humans are usually too busy literally clashing to even look at each other's culture, this happens on occasion. Da Orks for example are rather confused by human command structure. Due to the way Ork biology works, an Ork's authority is proportionate to their size. It's easy to tell a Warboss from a Nob since the Warboss will tower over his subordinates. Humans on the other hand are more or less all the same size, and sometimes shorter ones are the ones in charge. Orks however have figured out that the humans in charge usually wear fancier hats.
- Warhammer also has quite a bit of this. The Empire is mainly based on part medieval, part early industrial revolution Germany, but the "good" factions also include various other European influences, particularly French aristocracy and British Arthurian legends (themselves largely based on the culture clash between traditional Celtic culture and the rise of Christianity). Elves, dwarves and humans are nominally on the same side, but often come into conflict due to misunderstanding, or deliberate dismissal, of each others' cultures.
- This is a constant theme in Rocket Age and the source of most of the setting's conflicts. Humanity makes huge assumptions about alien cultures, such as labeling the entire Martian courtesan sub-caste prostitutes, rather than the complicated geisha-like role they actually serve, or applying the moral norms of the 1930s to alien cultures with more open values. On the other side of the coin many Martians can't comprehend how human society works without castes or slavery.
- Cyrano de Bergerac: One of the principal themes of the play is to compare the conventional Frenchmen’s culture with the Gascon’s Culture. First Played for laughs, then played for drama:
- Played for Laughs: At Act I Scene IV, De Valvert and Cyrano engage Volleying Insults. De Valvert, part of the court De Guiche pays loses, but not because his insults are Lame Comebacks, but because his insults are really compliments for a Gascon mindset: being called Impoverished Patrician and “Poet” are not truly insults for Cyrano.
- Played for Drama: At Act IV Scene X: The Spanish Army is very surprised to see a single company make a Last Stand instead of retreating. Lampshaded by the Spanish Officer:
- The Teahouse of the August Moon is about the comedy that ensues after a green American officer is sent to a small Okinawan village in 1946 to oversee reconstruction.
- In Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, among the Echani repeated duels constitute a courtship and possibly foreplay if the proper rituals are observed. Your female Echani party member doesn't tell you that.
- Played for Laughs in Assassin's Creed III when Connor sets out to assassinate William Johnson in Sequence 6. Kanen'tó:kon gives Connor a hatchet, which he plants into the side of the Homestead. Achilles chews him out, but Connor explains that the Mohawk plant a hatchet into a post when going to war, and remove it when it is finished. Achilles' retort is priceless.
Achilles: You could have used a tree!
- The Elder Scrolls series is all about this. The Dunmer (Dark Elves) traditionally enslave the beast races (Khajiit and Argonians), which those races are understandably not fans of. In the other direction, the Imperials consider Dunmer ancestor worship to be equivalent to necromancy and severely frown on it, although they stopped short of outright banning it in order to avoid rebellion. The Khajiit have a somewhat loose view of personal property, which naturally leads to conflicts outside in other lands where this behavior constitutes "theft." . The Altmer (High Elves) consider themselves better than everyone else and think they should be in charge, which is a bit of a problem for the Imperials as they think exactly the same thing. When cultures aren't just clashing, it often escalates to full on Fantastic Racism.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Gerudo are a One-Gender Race of women, and as a result are shown to have a very hard time interacting with men. They have a special class dedicated to helping Gerudo understand how to woo men (one particularly bad student keeps flunking the lessons by being way too aggressive), and traveling Gerudo that Link encounters are often quite awkward with interacting with him. At least one actively flies into a panic when Link talks to her, whispering to herself to try and remember the lessons she was taught about what to do around a "voe".
- Harkovast features numerous clashes and misunderstandings between the different cultures.
- In Templar Arizona. Mose is betrothed to an 11-year old girl whom he only knows from letters and photographs. His friend-with-benefits Tuesday is utterly apalled by this.
- In Endstone, deer don't kiss.
- Played for drama (rare for the comic) in Axe Cop. On seeing a mermaid snarl at him, Axe Cop chops his way through the lot of them - only to learn that for mermaids, snarling is an expression of goodness and smiling a sign of evil. Axe Cop is stunned and rather saddened to realize he's just hacked his way through good people.
- Newman features a dark elf culture where husbands are the wives' slaves (quite literally, collar included and often chains).
- Stand Still, Stay Silent has surprisingly little of this in its Multinational Team. There is however one case between Lalli and Emil concerning the fate of a Plague Zombie dog to which Emil had gotten strangely attached. Emil ends up giving it a Mercy Kill, convinced that it is sufficient to free it from a Fate Worse Than Death, but has to delay burying until the next day. However, Emil is an atheist and the dog's spirit is actually still in there. Lucky for the dog, Lalli is a mage and knows the process to actually free its spirit, which involves separating the dog's skull from the rest of the body and putting it on top of a tree. Lalli decides to do this after coming back from his night scouting shift and Emil gets a nasty (from his point of view) surprise when he notices Lalli isn't having breakfast with everyone else and decides to bring him his bowl himself.
- In several v-logs and behind the scene looks, Benzaie is puzzled by many American customs.
- In the BattleTech animated series, the Clans believed that if you were captured, you had to serve your captors. The Inner Sphere believed that if captured, your first duty was to escape. This was the cause of much culture clash — the Inner Sphere suspected their captive of attempting sabotage... and upon finally being honorably freed by her clan, the prisoner was disgusted by the Inner Sphere's lack of honor, more convinced than ever that they were Always Chaotic Evil barbarians who had to be forcibly "civilized" by the Clans. Meanwhile, the treacherous Inner Sphere captive of the Clans went unsuspected because they believed in his promise of service. This is actually an aspect of the Tabletop Game lore which they decided to highlight.
- In Samurai Jack, The Scotsman and his family repeatedly mock Jack's outfit, saying he is wearing a basket on his head and a dress, and mock his katana for being small compared to their claymores. When Jack tries to greet them by bowing, they ask him why he bent over and stared at the ground. On the flip side, Jack cannot stand bagpipe music and most Scottish cuisine.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, both Jonah Hex and Batman's old sensei mock Batman's costume.
- The House of Mouse episode "Mickey and the Culture Clash", where Mickey reads a letter in the newspaper saying Minnie wants a more 'sophisticated' boyfriend. He tries to be more fancy, but then finds out it's all a trick by Mortimer so he can steal Minnie away from Mickey.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- An animal version of this happens in the episode "Bridle Gossip" when several of the locals mistake Zecora pawing for water as a threat display, and only Twilight Sparkle, who already knew about zebras, wasn't scared (at first).
- In "Luna Eclipsed," Princess Luna tries to be regal and gracious in Ponyville, using the patterns of behavior and speech that she remembers from over a thousand years ago. She terrifies everyone — save for Twilight Sparkle, who knows enough about both cultural history and royal protocol to realize what Luna is attempting to convey by her conduct.
- Happens in the third season opener of Bob And Margaret, when the titular couple moves from England to Canada.
- The Almighty Tallest (and likely the Irken society in general) of Invader Zim are completely baffled when they learn that humans aren't ranked by height. They have trouble wrapping their minds of people taller than the average Irken but on average incredibly stupid. Dib is similarly gobsmacked when he realizes the Tallest are only leaders by virtue of being, well, the tallest.
- One episode of Gargoyles had the boat from Avalon take Goliath and company to Japan, where they ended up assisting a group of Japanese gargoyles. As the sun was rising and they were preparing to pose before they turned to stone for the day, Goliath learned of differing customs. Whereas western Gargoyles face outward and assume intimidating poses to scare invaders, eastern Gargoyles face inward and assume poses of benediction to reassure the residents inside.
- The reason why translators, lawyers and diplomats exist.
- Although "coloured" is considered a pejorative in the USA and the UK, in South Africa it has no negative connotations, used ubiquitously to refer to mixed-race people.
- In the west, slurping food is generally rude, but in Japan, it's actually expected to slurp up noodles as loudly as possible since it shows you like them. Similarly, the Chinese shovel food into their mouths by holding onto their bowls with their other hand and putting them right up to their mouth, because putting your head down over your food while you eat is seen as eating like a dog.
- Most Western and Middle Eastern cultures consider food being left uneaten as a sign of disrespect to either the host's skills or hospitality. On the contrary, leaving food uneaten in China suggests that it was enough, and eating everything that you've been served can imply that the host has failed to provide you with enough food. Woe betide you if you're invited for dinner by a Middle Eastern/Chinese couple...
- As noted in the Japanese Politeness trope, Japan averts this with respect to flags. Not wanting to curtail the citizens right to Freedom of Speech, but also not wanting to show disrespect, Japan outlawed all Flag Burning except for the Japanese Flag.
- Much of Korea and China's dislike of Japan is the result of this trope. Japanese culture makes it extremely taboo to make your "group" look bad to outsiders. Your group includes things like your family, your class, your company, your nation, ect. Naturally, this led to Japan not liking to discuss their role in WWII, which comes off as insensitive to Koreans and Chinese war victims. The United States, with it's own share of shameful past, generally is a bit more forgiving of Japan, but some circles still are taken aback with how little the subject comes up in Japan's history courses. This is especially true when compared to Germany, which are very open about how they are remorseful for their WWII involvement.
- Just Following Orders is an example of this. In German Law, Degrees Of Murder is set by the motivation of the accused when committing the crime. Thus the sentence is set based on the charge. In Common Law motivation plays no part in the charges but rather the planning or intent to commit the act. Motive comes into play only after guilt is established. So, to Britain and American members of the court, the "justification" came off as more severe because not only were they admitting to playing a part in a pre-meditated crime (which is the most severe of the murder charges) but upon guilt, they could now say that at no point did they see their actions as wrong, which doesn't help at sentencing.