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Eagleland Osmosis

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Louis Ciccone: Your honour, may I approach the bench?
Judge: You've been watching too much American TV, Mr. Ciccone. No one "approaches the bench" in a Canadian court.

A special case of Reality Is Unrealistic, Eagleland Osmosis occurs when people outside the United States consume American pop culture and start to believe that aspects of their own society work like they do in these imported films and television shows.


The most common forms of this concerns the legal system, with people expecting to be read a Miranda warning when they are read their rights upon arrest, expecting that police should have a search warrant in cases where they do not need one under local law, or calling a serious crime a "felony". Another one is expecting 9-1-1 to be the number for emergency services, even when the actual number is usually displayed prominently on phonebooks and phone booths. note 

This isn't new, or indeed limited to the United States—it's a side effect of World Power status. Elements of the major power's culture and language bleed into the popular culture of other countries. The Japanese adoption of Western customs like Christmas, Valentine's Day or wedding ceremonies is a good example. In older tales, an astute reader will find Limey Osmosis, Frenchie Osmosis, and even Kraut Osmosis. Granted, modern mass media and the Internet certainly accelerate the effect.


This kind of power can make Hipsters reject whatever country's most powerful, and even have a poor view of the people living in that country (which is where the "Boorish American" stereotype comes from).

Compare with Hollywood Provincialism, where Southern California serves the same function to the US as a whole as the US does for the world in this trope.

Contrast with We All Live in America, which is when Americans themselves assume that things work elsewhere the same way they do in America.



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  • Parodied in a 2006 advertisement for a digital satellite television service in Greece. A poultry thief is confronted by a policeman in what seems to be a country village. He screams at him to freeze (in English) and when he finally reaches him, he tells him to "put the cot down, slowly" (cota is the Greek word for chicken) and remarks "you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in the court of law". All this is said in English with a Greek hillbilly accent. The concept was later re-used in another hilarious variation, in the same village with an old lady and her donkey. This was Played for Laughs, since the company's channels would mostly feature Hollywood flicks.

  • A fictional example in Rush Hour 3: Lee and Carter hitch a ride from a Parisian taxi driver, who assumes that all Americans are violent action movie characters, and it seems that he is proven right when Carter and Lee are chased by motorcycle-riding thugs. The taxi driver gets to shoot the Big Bad in the back and kill him, and becomes really excited that he felt what it was like to be "an American".
  • Attack the Block had the street youths constantly refer to the police as the "Feds". Although originating from the US, this slang phrase is used very differently in the UK due to the lack of a federal system like the US employs. It's mostly found among certain youthful demographics within London regions and does indeed refer to the police.
  • 12 is a Russian remake of 12 Angry Men and has the same central conceit of the Rogue Juror as lone holdout for acquittal who gradually talks all the other jurors into his point of view. The only problem is that after a Russian jury has deliberated for three hours only a majority vote is required for conviction and a 6-6 tie will result in acquittal. The film shows the jury continuing to deliberate until the evening when they finally get a unanimous Not Guilty verdict.
  • Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion: A random young Italian communist has been arrested by the inspector's State Sec police.
    Random commie: I want a lawyer!
    Cop: We're not in America!
  • Some of the cases of Just Train Wrong in The Cassandra Crossing, a film that takes place in Europe and was shot in Europe, but that was written by Americans, are rooted in this:
    • Extreme long-distance "transcontinental" trains with both sleepers and diners running all the way through have been common in the USA for decades. In post-war Europe, however, there wasn't such a thing anymore. And the closest there was was the classic Orient Express which, however, didn't have regular coaches for its entire run.
    • Nuremberg main station is actually a freight station in Italy, so the train stops on a platform-less track. Having a long-distance passenger express stop over regularly on tracks with no platforms whatsoever is absolutely normal in the USA outside of big cities and metropolitan areas — but absolutely illegal in Europe.
    • And then there are the couplers that can be remote-uncoupled from some unit under the floor of the dining car. For one, this requires automatic couplers which have been standard in North America since the 19th century. At least the writers took into consideration that European railroads were way more high-tech and sophisticated than those in the USA, what with widespread electrification and all. So they thought that central coupling controls sounded credible. In reality, Europe still mostly uses manually operated, chain-like couplers that are way behind the rest of the world.

  • In the Rivers of London series, Peter gets rather annoyed when British youth refer to him or his fellow police as "the feds" or "the cops" (as opposed to "coppers"), merely because they've been watching so much American TV. Even "the filth" would at least be a British slang term.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of the 1980s Canadian comedy-drama TV series Seeing Things, the main character, journalist Louis Ciccone, is in a courtroom and asks the judge if he may approach the bench. The judge responds "You watch too much American TV, Mr. Ciccone, no one approaches the bench in a Canadian court!"
  • In the Corner Gas episode "Hair Comes the Judge," at Wanda's first "case" a defendant addresses Wanda as "Your Honor" and asks to approach the bench. Wanda, though flattered that Lacey would call her "Your Honour," has to inform her, "But in Canada it's 'My Lord.'"
    • Although even this is somewhat wrong — "My Lord" (or "My Lady") isn't used universally, only in some superior/appeal courts (where appeals processes, jury trials, and the most severe crimes are tried). An ordinary provincial court (where at least 95% of crimes are tried) still retains "Your Honour". But most Canadians aren't even aware of this distinction... thanks again to this trope and readily available access to American media.
  • An old survey showed that many Queenslanders (and presumably other Australians) think that the emergency number is Nine One One. This happens in Mexico, too: even though the emergency phone is usually 080 or 066, some local police departments actually have arranged for 911 calls to be rerouted to emergency services.
    • So much so that Rescue911 included a regular segment with host William Shatner reminding viewers in Australia of the correct number, which is 000.
      • The same thing happened for the UK showings, with Shatner giving the emergency number 999.
      • And, in Brazil, his dubbing gave the partially-correct number 190 (which is exclusively a police number).
  • From the German Sketch Comedy Switch!: A judge tries to overrule a lawyer's objection, but the lawyer protests that it's not possible to overrule an objection in German court. Later the defendant protests that he doesn't want the jury to be swayed by the prosecutor's language, but the judge points out that there is no jury. In German court there is only a "jury" of three professional aldermen.
  • Parodied in The IT Crowd when Roy says to call 911 for an office fire and is reminded by Moss that 911 for the US and it's 999 in the UK.note  In reality, calls to 911 (as well as 112) will actually be rerouted to 999 on most (if not all) British phone networks.
  • Used in Home and Away when Kirsty Sutherland suggests getting the coastguard to bring her grandfather back after he takes his boat out when there's a storm on the way.
    Rhys: We don't have coastguards, love. That's American. note 
  • Parodied in the Icelandic sketch show Mið Ísland where a defense lawyer in an Icelandic courtroom addresses the judge as "yðar hátign" (or "your highness" in English, bungling even the American term) and asks permission to address the jury, only to be informed there are no juries in Iceland. He then asks whether he may approach the bench (with the judge asking "what bench?") and explains that his whole case hinges on a moving speech before a jury that includes minorities. After the judge assures him there is no jury the defense lawyer advises the defendant to admit guilt before the charges are even read.
  • Every British legal show ever shows the judge banging a gavel to quiet down the court. They don't (there's no gavel). This overlaps with The Coconut Effect.
    • This also happens in Judge Rinder,note  where they have the flag of the United Kingdom on display and see him using a gavel. Real British courts feature neither of these.
  • The Israeli skit show Ktzarim featured a lawyer giving a powerful speech in defense of her client, until the judge asks her what she’s doing, and explains that the people she’s addressing are not the jury because Israel doesn’t use juries.note  She asks in shock who the people she was addressing actually are, and he tells her they’re just spectators and friends and relatives of the people involved. She quickly proceeds to gather all the gifts she gave them, and tells one man, ‘Don’t you say a single word about last night.’
  • In the 1981 Australian TV movie Airhawk, Hawk's brother is involved in a scheme with some criminals, who beat him up. Because he doesn't want the police involved, he tells the detective he doesn't want to press charges against the men who assaulted him. The detective replies curtly that he's been watching too much American television; in Australia it's the State that presses charges, not the victim. (In fact, the same is true in the U.S.; but American prosecutors almost never press charges when victims don't want them to, so it's common to phrase it as if it were the victim's decision.)

  • Les Connards Boiteux have a song American Wave about this. Appropriately, its lyrics are pidginized — an unholy mixture of French and English.
  • Rammstein's music video for their song "Amerika" contains the line 'We're all living in America' and features people from around the world engaging in American activities such as watching tv and talking on cell phones while eating McDonald's food, while the lyrics repeat American staples.
  • Averted by The Clash's "London's Burning."
    "London's burning dial 9-9-9"

     Puppet Shows 
  • An episode of Spitting Image had a Bruce Springsteen parody bemoaning this trope as "Bored with the UK of A".
    When my kids say "pants", do they mean jeans or knickers?
    Now Treets are M&Ms and a Marathon's Snickers.

    Video Games 
  • The video game KGB made by French developer Cryo is mostly an impressive case of Shown Their Work when it comes to the game's Soviet Russian setting. However, there is an odd slip-up where the Russian main character gives his estimate of an object's weight in pounds instead of kilograms.

    Western Animation 
  • Pasila constantly parodies American legal requirements in Finland versus America.
    • Being read your rights:
      Hooligan: This is an illegal arrest! I wasn't read my rights!
      Lieutenant Pöysti: They don't read you your rights in Finland, idiot! (after which Pöysti goes on to read the hooligan his hilariously over the top "rights," including gems like "Anything that you say can be used against you in court. Some of it will turn against you by itself, some of it will be turned against you through legal maneuvering just to be irritating.")
    • Search warrants:
      Suspect: Do you have a search warrant?
      Pöysti: We don't need a search warrant! That's only done in America!
      Officer Neponen: *whispering* We DO need a search warrant!
      Pöysti: *whispering* Yeah, I know, but they always buy that America thing.
  • Total Drama includes one of the characters saying "That's it, I'm moving to Canada," before realizing that he already lives in Canada.

    Real Life 
  • Reader's Digest once ran an article on how American cop shows caused some French people to demand to see a warrant before having their home searched, which wasn't required in France. This was in the 1980s.note  They would also quote "rights" from the American constitution, even though they have their own "Bill of Rights" called "Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme" ("Declaration of the Rights of Man").note 
    • Many French judges also get annoyed at hearing themselves being called "Votre Honneur" ("Your Honor", the American form of address) instead of the correct French address, "Monsieur/Madame le juge" or "Monsieur/Madame le président/e".
    • The problems with forms of address also appear in Germany. "Euer Ehren" (Your Honour) is incorrect - it's "Herr Vorsitzender" or "Frau Vorsitzende" (Mister or Madam Chairman). Sometimes "Hohes Gericht" (High Court), under certain circumstances. But never "Euer Ehren".
      • Such honorific confusions are partly the fault of whoever is importing the shows, given they often subtitle or dub the term "Your Honor" with a literal translation, instead of localizing it into whatever honorific is used in the destination country. You might as well translate "Herr Vorsitzender" into English as "Most Venerable Front-seated", which is the literal meaning of those words (it's only dynamically equivalent to "Mr. Chairman"). Although those who buy the imported American media most likely have a decent grasp of English anyway.
  • Truth in Television: A few years ago, Argentina started using 911 as a unified emergency number. It's the only x11 number, the rest of the standard services are still 11x. 911 (along with the European 112) is also the emergency number for cell phones worldwide. In the nineties, the Dominican Republic had to change its emergency number from 711 to 911. Justified in the case of the DR, as it's included in the North American Numbering Plan (the US and Canadian telephone numbering scheme). Ditto in the Philippines, where the emergency number 117 was replaced with 911 on orders of Rodrigo Duterte who used a similar 911 hotline when he was the mayor of Davao.
  • General Tso's Chicken, a popular "Hunanese" dish at American Chinese restaurants, was created by a Taiwanese chef (admittedly, of Hunanese extraction) at a New York restaurant (at least, that's one version of the story, but no one disputes that it was invented in United States and not in China). As such, it has been a virtual unknown in mainland China, especially in Hunan, where its namesake, General Tso Tsung-Tang, came from. When the Hunanese chefs first tasted it after US-PRC relations were normalized, they thought it was all wrong and incompatible with Hunanese cuisine. However, after a few decades of official contact with Americans, the Hunanese are starting to adopt the dish as their own "traditional dish".
  • The Church of England began releasing information several years ago about the rules for kissing during a wedding ceremony. Due to the amount of shows that displayed American weddings having the "you may now kiss the bride" moment, younger generations getting married in the UK were being caught out by the fact that they had no idea that C of E weddings do not traditionally allow for a kiss. Some churches do now allow a kiss, but only if its incorporation is specifically arranged beforehand. Many churches still won't allow it to be incorporated, however, as it's not a legal part of the ceremony and will only be allowed if the vicar permits it.
    • The Catholic liturgy doesn't specifically call for a kiss after exchange of rings, but if it's the custom it is allowed and the priest may say "You may now exchange a kiss." or similar.
    • Speaking of weddings: the ritual in countries other than the US or the UK never had the "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace" part. Notably many American and English weddings no longer have it either, for all the good practical reasons you can imagine and various legal ones you might not,note  but it still sometimes pops up in popular culture, to the point people in countries in which that line never existed occasionally expect it.
  • The tendencies of people in non-US anglophone countries hearing the American term for things more often than their own words that it takes a moment to remember them, if they bother to use the local term. Common examples: "elevator", "sneakers", "shrimp". Frequently averted in Canada, where many words are in common use on both sides of the border, but still not universal.
  • Critics of the Catalan independence movement have pointed that some supporters act like they have a media-influenced worldview.
    • Lawyers and witnesses at the trial for the 2017 events tried repeatedly to hijack their interventions to engage in Courtroom Antics or go on tirades in favor of independence, only to be cut short and limit themselves to questions and their answers. One lawyer even reacted once like how a journalist in a point/counterpoint show would: by reminding the judge that he had not interrupted the judge when he was speaking. The judge replied that he, as a judge, had the right to interrupt the lawyer, and that the lawyer had no right to interrupt the judge. The pro-independence media (chiefly would then portray these as the acts of a Kangaroo Court, even though the same events in a (non-TV) American court would lead to the lawyer being threatened with sanction for Contempt of Court.
    • An incident that briefly made the rounds in Twitter and Reddit was the arrest of protesters blockading a railroad. Commenters and media like were indignant that the police had arrested them "without a judge's warrant". However, in Spain - like in the U.S. - there is the figure of flagrante delicto which doesn't just allow police to intervene without a warrant if they witness a crime or situation that endangers the public, but actually requires them to do so. And people who are actively trying to disrupt railroad traffic using their bodies and objects as obstacles are obviously endangering the public, themselves included.


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