Penny Among Diamonds

Spencer: "I toldja, its like an turning an old lamp into a chandelier"
— Half & Half

A commoner (or poor person) is thrust into rich culture for whatever reasons, but without becoming rich themselves. Most commonly, it will be a poor student who receives a scholarship to a prestigious school, or a commoner hired to work as a butler/maid for someone rich. Usually the story is portrayed from the view of the commoner. Contrast Rags to Riches, where the commoner becomes rich but may still face taunts and derision from those with Old Money. A classic of the Culture Clash trope, contrasted with Slumming It when jumping from the opposite side of the fence especially when doing the Prince and Pauper routine, expect Fish out of Water aspects in both this and the inverse tropes.

This is a Super Trope of Princess for a Day and Scholarship Student. Sub-trope of Fish out of Water. Also see Mock Millionaire.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • He Is My Master: Two sisters are forced to work off a very large debt to a filthy rich kid, and become his maids.
  • Ouran High School Host Club: Ouran Academy is a very prestigious school attended by the children of the extremely wealthy... and Haruhi, a working-class girl with middle-class aspirations on an academic scholarship. Wacky culture-clash shenanigans are inevitable.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate is left with a huge debt from his parents, and works to pay it off as a butler under a small rich girl.
  • Hana Yori Dango: Makino's parents force her to attend a school for rich kids so she may get a rich husband.
  • Dark Chick Alpha Bitch Satomi Ozawa and later protagonist Shiina of Naru Taru attend the prestigious Banda Academy despite being from poor and middle class families, respectively. Satomi's descent into villainy is mainly fueled by her obsessive need to prove herself superior to everyone in spite of her humble background as a result of her difficulties fitting in at such a fancy school, where by contrast Shiina's cheerful and friendly personality wins her plenty of decent friends who don't care about her background and she doesn't really take popularity or social status seriously, anyway. Which, of course makes Satomi resent her even more...

Film

Literature
  • In A Brother's Price Jerin saves the life of a princess, and as a reward the royal family offers to sponsor his coming out in society, which will enable him to find rich brides. He and the sisters who accompany him are given expensive clothes, so that they don't have to spend more money than they can afford, or look poor. Some of the nobles who do know who they are do look down on them, but all in all it goes rather well.
  • Jo's Boys (the second sequel to Little Women) musician Nat goes to Europe for school. Due to having wealthy and influential friends everyone thinks that he's wealthy and influential as well. Too bad he's an orphan who spent a number of years as a street musician, and thus has little idea of how to handle money. Cue the nineteenth century version of a Credit Card Plot.
  • The Great Gatsby: Gatsby was this in his youth, before he made a fortune bootlegging and became Nouveau Riche. He's still struggling to rub elbows with the Old Money, however.
  • The Raven Cycle: Adam Parrish is a ScholarshipStudent who grew up in a trailer park and has to work three jobs. The other boys at Aglionby Academy frequently drop hundreds of thousands of dollars with barely a second thought.
  • The Kiki Strike series has Ananka, who subverts this as well as Scholarship Student. At her elite private school, where there are a lot of actual scholarship girls, Ananka is the outsider because one of her relatives left the family money that can only be spent on education and nothing else. So she is neither a scholarship student or rich enough to fit in.
  • In the Private series, Reed is a Scholarship Student at the elite Easton Academy. Many of the girls hate her for becoming a Billings Girl despite being at the school on scholarship.
  • In the Bloody Jack series Mary "Jacky" Faber, a ha'penny at best as a former London street urchin and ex-Royal Navy ship's boy, is a very rough fit in Boston's Lawson Peabody School for Girls.

Live-Action TV
  • Gilmore Girls: Rori goes to a private high school and Yale thanks to some funding from her grandparents, but her family remains rather poor.
  • The Nanny: The entire show revolves around Fran Fine leaving Flushing to become the nanny for a rich Broadway producer's children.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air revolves entirely around a West-Philadelphia-born-and-raised hoodrat named Will catapulted into his rich Aunt and Uncle's Bel Air community, resulting in many humorous moments as he finds himself at odds with the townspeople and characters, socially and financially.
  • Burn Notice season one episode nine, has for a client of the week Nick Lam, a house sitter who's fiancee has been kidnapped. Problem is, he's just a house sitter who's had increasing difficulty telling people he's just a house sitter.
  • In an episode of My Name Is Earl, Joy and Darnell (plus Dodge and Earl Jr.) are relocated as part of Witness Protection after Darnell's identity was accidentally revealed. Joy keeps outing the family so she'll be able to live in a gated community...and eventually gets her wish. But she doesn't fit in at all with the other women, and her family is not actually wealthy. Earl has to help her fit in.
  • In the first season of Chicago PD, Lindsay tells Halstead that when the Voights took her in, they transferred her to a private school full of rich kids who were only friendly until they learned the truth about her background.

Tabletop Games
  • The core book for Hunter: The Vigil mentions that Ashewood Abbey will, once a year, take in a vagrant and give them the good life. If they prove decadent enough, the Abbey extends membership - and, presumably, keeps them buoyed.

Theatre

Video Games
  • Final Fantasy XII: Vaan and Penelo are poor orphans who go on an adventure with Ashe (The queen of Rabanastre, who's on the run) and Balthier (formerly a Judge of the Arcadian Empire)
  • Delita starts as this in Final Fantasy Tactics. Arguably Rags to Riches (to tragedy) by the end.

Western Animation
  • Family Guy: one episode has Chris sent to a prestigious school with some influence from his grandfather, but he is teased as he still doesn't actually have any money. The rest of the family all take on part-time jobs to pay for his tuition.
  • The Simpsons: When Marge buys a designer dress at a discount and gets invited to a country club.
    • One of Homer's male relatives in "Lisa the Simpson" hopes to be the trope.