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Fish out of Water

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"Eh, you're not from around here, are ya, doc?"

Riley: What is that smell?
Huey: Clean air. My guess is we'll get used to it eventually.
Riley: I hope so, this place stinks.

A character is placed in a situation completely unfamiliar to them. Humor and/or tension is created as the character adapts — or doesn't.

Naturally, Fish Out of Water have a danger of becoming awkward the longer a show runs. Or conversely, if they become used to their new surroundings, the risk is that their original characterization will be less applicable (same if they return to their old familiar surroundings).

Specific variants:

If the character quickly adapts to the new conditions and finds it better than back home, it's Like a Duck Takes to Water. If however, they decide to change things to how they used to be back home they are a Blithe Spirit. See also Graceful in Their Element.

Contrast Outside-Context Problem. Not to be confused with Terrestrial Sea Life, which is the literal version of this metaphor.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One of the main characters in Planetes is Ai Tanabe, a Japanese girl who achieves her childhood dream of working in space. Working in a zero-gravity environment is new to her, and many of the earlier episodes are focused on her learning to adapt to life on board the station. The culture of an international space craft is just as foreign to her as the weightlessness of space.
  • Full Metal Panic!'s Sousuke Sagara, despite being ethnically Japanese, was raised in war-torn Afghanistan. His mission places him (and his two American squadmates) in Tokyo, where Sousuke is forced to adapt to life as a normal high school student. The spin-off series Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu focuses on the comedy of Sousuke's attempt to adapt to the cultural differences of life in Japan.
    • For the early part of the story, Kaname (Sousuke's love interest) writes him off as an insane military and mecha Otaku. Then their entire class gets abducted by terrorists; at the point where Sousuke finds and commandeers a mecha, Kaname finally realizes he was telling the truth the whole time and gets an Internal Monologue telling herself "You're in his world now."
    • There's actually a not-so-different aspect to this, since Kaname herself spent a good portion of her youth in New York and as a result has a much more "American" personality (assertive, emotionally open, and short-tempered), meaning in some ways she's just as alien to Japanese society as Sousuke. She actually has the In-Series Nickname "The School Idol Nobody Wants to Date" because while she's very attractive, intelligent, and athletic, her personality tends to drive guys away.
  • In Bizenghast, Edrear and Edaniel go to by a present for Dinah. Since Edrear has only ever left the Mausoleum for work, he knows nothing about human society. Because of this, Edaniel managed to get him in a skirt as part of his human disguise. Edrear also asked for directions to a store that was directly behind him(although this may be more to do with the fact that he is illiterate) and apparently put a quarter in a mailbox to see if a gum ball came out.
  • Squid Girl features a literal fish squid out of water as the title character.
  • Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth, which is about young Japanese girl who tries to adjust to her new life as a housekeeper in late 19th-century France.
  • Kamisama Kiss is about a Ordinary High-School Student stumbling into the world of Shinto gods, demons and magic.
  • In Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, a young soldier of a human galactic civilization gets stranded on a planet where the environment and culture are completely different from what he's used to.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, most of the characters experience this to some degree when traveling to other countries. It's most noticeable with Japan when he spends time with Italy and Germany after they form an alliance.
  • Bleach: The Deicide arc reveals Chizuru has the ability to sense spirits, hollows and Soul Reapers when she regains consciousness while Karakura Town is trapped in Soul Society. Because no-one knew, she's had absolutely no information given her about the supernatural world and, since the gang are currently fleeing Aizen, she's been tossed into the deep end in the worst possible way. She has absolutely no idea what is going on and demands to be brought up to speed as soon as possible. She's well aware she may not understand everything she's told, but feels she should be told it anyway. No-one disagrees. Like the other spiritually aware school children, she's strong enough to survive Aizen's presence without dying.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, mages exist secretly throughout the world, having their own culture and way of doing things. Most obviously, it's only relatively recently that technology has caught up (and surpassed, in areas) magic, so even young mages have absolutely no idea how to use even the most user-friendly machines. Why would they use a cell phone instead of a telepathy spell? Why would they use a computer instead of an enchanted book? So on and so forth. Since most of the series takes place in the most technologically advanced city in the world, they're even more out of their depth than normal.
  • In Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, the young Prince Chagum has to flee the palace under the protection of Action Girl Balsa. Going from a life of luxury to being on the run is a bit of a harsh transition for him, though he adapts well later on.
  • In Plastic Memories, Tsukasa is completely clueless to his new job of retrieving Giftia, or androids, near the end of their service life. Almost everyone there is a bit skeptical at being given a new employee.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • In the early parts of the original Dragon Ball, Goku has been raised in near isolation in the middle of the mountains and knows nothing of the outside world. Him growing up partly revolves around him getting to know the world and all the mishaps that follows because of his ignorance.
    • Dragon Ball Z: To lesser extent, Gohan's misadventures in high school. Gohan lived a very sheltered life (fighting super-powered aliens and androids notwithstanding) where the only people he is close to are aliens, powerful humans, and a genius. Gohan learning how normal people act and behave is a major theme while he's in school.
  • The Way of the Househusband follows "Immortal Tatsu", a Yakuza of no small repute, who has gone straight after getting married and becoming a house husband. Being a former career criminal, however, much of Tatsu's personality as a hardened gangster still seeps into his new domestic life. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Due to a combination of dragons having a heavy case of Proud Warrior Race culture, along with humanity in their world being exactly like what you'd expect from a Fantasy Kitchen Sink modelled after a Medieval European Fantasy, most of the dragons, particularly Tohru, Kanna, and Elma, who come to the "main" Earth experience some difficulties adjusting to modern human life since it's completely different from everything they know. That said, there are a rare few that instead are Like a Duck Takes to Water, such as Lucoa and Telne, who despite some draconic eccentricities fit in perfectly. Though regardless of how much time each of the dragons took to comprehend this version of humanity, them spending enough time interacting with it has consistently resulted in them Going Native, feeling stronger connections to Earthly humans than they had even with other dragons back home.
  • In episode 6 of Magic of Stella, Tamaki's first experience of a doujin game convention is basically being far out of her element, having no idea about some convention conventions means. When an member of the public hands her the former's sketch pad, for example, she didn't know that other person wants her to scribble for her.
  • In A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow, Konatsu Amano, one of the two main characters, has to transfer from her high school in Tokyo to a school in Ehime, resulting in her feeling out of her element. While there, she befriends Koyuki Honami, who also doesn't have many friends due to being seen as perfect and unapproachable.
  • Eris in Cat Planet Cuties, doesn't always understand certain Earth customs like nudity taboos and sometimes mistakes things depicted in Kio's Porn Stash of Mangas as being normal customs when they actually aren't such as wearing School Swimsuits to a diplomatic meeting.
  • Due to her lack of confidence and inability to handle stress well, Mai "Ino" Inose in Asteroid in Love has quite a bit of distress when she is named the president. This is why, in Chapter 22/ Episode 7, Mira suggests to pick up the offer to be volunteer instructors at a children's stargazing event. As an astronomy event, Mai's responsibility is relatively light, so that she can get used to her new role.
  • The second chapter of World Trigger has Kuga, a young boy from another dimension, walking around Japan doing things like offering his classmate a large wad of cash when he offers to take him out for dinner, breaking a mugger's leg, then simply knocking out another group of muggers when he's told by his Ordinary High-School Student friend that what he'd done was excessive, and offering compensation to a woman who'd crashed her car into him. He healed himself almost instantaneously, so it was likely for the car damages.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Black and White, "A Matter of Trust": Bruce Wayne agrees to keep an eye on a doctor friend's twin toddlers when she has to deal with a medical emergency and can't find a sitter at short notice, and rapidly finds himself in a domestic situation that's entirely beyond his experience or training.
  • Double Happiness. Being Chinese-American, Tom didn't fit in back in Boston. Then he moves in with relatives in San Francisco's Chinatown, and he doesn't fit in with them either.
  • In the Franco-Belgian Comic Philémon, the titular character is frequently thrown into "Le Monde des Lettres", a magical land running on Alice in Wonderland logic. Many of the stories revolve around Philemon bumbling around lost, not knowing the strange rules of the world and getting caught up in the consequences.
  • Princess Ugg has Princess Ulga, of a tribe of barbarians from the mountains, go to an Academy for Princess Classic princesses at the behest of her late mother. She has a lot of trouble fitting in there, given her vastly different upbringing.
  • One of the defining traits of modern Supergirl. Unlike her more famous cousin, who left Krypton when he was too young to remember it, Kara spent her formative years growing up in Kryptonian society before she was sent to Earth as a teenager. Understandably, she has a harder time adjusting to life on Earth than Kal-El ever did, as she still considers herself a Kryptonian at heart. In The Supergirl from Krypton (2004), Clark shows Kara around Metropolis. As she tries to figure hot dogs out, Clark mentions that adapting a new culture may be difficult.
  • Terra: Atlee is from the subterranean Strata culture and does not really know how to act like a normal human despite posing as a human superhero. Her complete non-comprehension of social cues is part of what makes her come off as so cold and aloof.
  • Wonder Woman: While in Diana's original introduction to the world outside Paradise Island she was well educated about the norms of society, but cared very little for them and had no trouble adjusting as she liked to living in the United States most subsequent rewrites of her origin make her far less prepared.
    • Sensation Comics: Mala ends up in New York for most of a day, and is terribly confused. She picks up a car and throws the driver out thinking he was trying to threaten her by driving, is disgusted by posters for war films and despite being fully willing to submit to the local law keepers is convinced to lead a jail break by two career criminals.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): When Diana first arrives in the US she is confused by the local culture and has a difficult time getting herself to be understood. While she adjusts there are still parts of society that she stuggles with for years.
    • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: Diana is mostly adjusted and educated enough to understand New York when she leaves her island to save the world, but has no real concept of money and how much things cost since there is no need for it on Themyscira. She is vaguely aware of the idea, but not at all prepared to have to pay for anything. Her clothes also make her stand out, and she's questioned about cosplaying a warrior princess which she is a bit surprised by.
    • The Legend of Wonder Woman (2016): Diana is completely unprepared for the wider world as she'd been lied to her entire life and didn't belive any humans still lived outside the barrier around Themyscira. She is uncomfortable being around men and sticks out horribly even after Etta takes her under her wing. The first time she goes to a movie she starts yelling at the characters on screen, but she's not quite naïve as she has a better understanding of the cost of war, prejudice and violence than many of those she's around.
  • All-New X-Men: The team were first Fish out of Temporal Water, and by the time they were getting used to their new reality, they got stranded in the Ultimate Marvel universe.

    Comic Strips 
  • The original premise of the long-running newspaper comic strip Blondie was that Dagwood was a trust fund baby disowned by his family (for marrying Blondie) and forced to live a salaryman's life. While the premise never explicitly changed, it has eroded significantly over the years and is lost on most modern readers.
  • This is the basic premise of The Boondocks comic strip, as it revolves around two black kids from Chicago being forced to move to an affluent, predominately-white suburb.

    Fan Works 
  • In Persona 4 SILVER BLUE, this happens a lot to Labrys, since she’s a robot and doesn’t fully understand humanity yet. Plus, she’s spent most of her life either in a lab or having been sealed away for a long time, and the world has changed a lot since the last time she was activated.
  • With Strings Attached:
    • The four spend the entire book being outsiders in a number of different places. This creates problems most of the time but ends up working to their advantage at the end, because the skahs never do understand them and hence drastically underestimate them. Conversely, the four end up understanding the skahs well enough to use crowds of them for their own purposes.
    • The Hunter also talks about how he first arrived on his planet and how he barely survived that first year. Twenty years later, he's quite well adapted.
  • Luso in The Tainted Grimoire. He has, however, been shown slowly adjusting as he learns about the world he is in.
  • In Ragnarok, when L sends Mello and Matt to spy on Light. Since they are in the middle of Tokyo, Light notices the blonde kid spying on him almost immediately.
  • In Tom VS Muggle Technology, Lord Voldemort is "attacked" by a microwave and baffled by a cellphone.
  • In Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness, this happens to Patchouli Knowledge in the story's Alternate Ending. Commentary from the author on the story's page at Mediaminer revealed that if she spent too much time in Jersey City, her lifestyle would slowly degenerate until it more closely resembled that of her Life of Maid persona.
  • Having once been a human, Legendary Genesis's Eileen has a very hard time adjusting to being a Scyther. Between being unable to swim, not knowing how to fly, chewing her food improperly, and struggling to sit down, she easily becomes frustrated with her new shape. Not only this, but she has a hard time understanding how the Pokémon world works. Her fear of speaking up and asking questions only makes things more difficult for her.
  • This trope is the main premise of Swappedstuck; the troll Vriska finds herself in the body of a human, and tries to live like one. It doesn't work well.
    The horror only increases. It seems to be compounding itself infinitely all the time you spend exploring this terrifying place.
    What kind of sick person keeps an open fire in their hive, ready and waiting to burn people to death????????
  • This is one of the main components of They're Not Pussywillow Pixies, as the Smurfs are stuck in Neverland and are unused to the Fairies as well as the land itself.
  • Catelyn Stark in The Many Sons of Winter, since the North's culture is much stronger and she never manages to get any of her children to become more southern-like. Extra points since her original family's sigil - House Tully - is a trout.
  • Code Geass: Colorless Memories: This is the main character Rai's main characterization in the fic, he ended up losing his memories at some point and found himself where he was surrounded by strangers and no one who had any clue as to who he was.
  • Titania Falls:
    • Oddly subverted with Fairy Tail. Despite some minor Culture Clash, they acclimate to life on Earth relatively well. So well in fact, that many of them stay there permanently after Earth and Earthland are bridged together. Most of this was likely intervention on Erza's end, who had been living on Earth for fifteen years by the time they arrived and had long since made a life for herself.
    • Played straight with Ford. He has it even worse than in canon, since not only does have to acclimate to the modern world, he has to deal with Fairy Tail, who, on top of having magic he is completely unfamiliar with, has history that often leaves him Locked Out of the Loop.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • Harry Potter, in addition to being a wizard, is also the son of Thor (who was incarnated as James Potter as a first try of that whole "teach him humility" thing). This catapults him from Hogwarts-which, admittedly, is weird enough-into dealing with Asgardians, a whole different magical community, superheroes, and international and interplanetary politics, not to mention all of the assorted monsters.
    • Another example within the story is Steve Rogers, who's a Fish out of Temporal Water and mentor of Harry's.
    • On the reverse side, during his temporal jaunt to the past, Harry encounters his many times removed great-aunt Sunniva, Princess of Asgard, who's perfectly comfortable in Asgard or cosmic surroundings as a highly respected host of the Phoenix, but is a complete example of this trope around mortals.
  • This is how Makoto feels being part of a tournament in the finals with the likes of Yugi, Kaiba, several students from Hope's Peak Academy, and pro-duelists like Mai and Byakuya in Dueling Trigger Finger
  • The One With The Angelic Face does this for Angela (Angelus cursed with both a soul and a female body) on various occasions early on; after over a century and a half as a man, followed by spending the next century after the curse in isolation, Angela has literally no idea what to do when Buffy drags her along to join a ‘girl’s night’ with Willow and Cordelia, and muddles her way through Buffy’s attempts to ask her what people did for fun when ‘she’ was alive
  • Pyrrha in Remnants was raised on a secluded island by warriors. She has difficulties adjusting to Vale's social norms, leading her to have No Social Skills and be Literal-Minded.
  • The Portal has Thomas Smith who unwittingly enters the Dragon Realms and becomes a Dragon. Understandably, he takes a while to get used to his new body. Things get even more complicated when his best friend, Alex also suffers the same fate.
  • Point Me at the Skyrim has poor Antares suffer this trope. Being a superhero from a post-apocalyptic world, she's not prepared to handle a world of magic like Tamriel at all.
  • Downplayed in Lake's New Normal. The titular Lake is the Mirror Self of a girl named Tulip, so she's certainly familiar with everything in the human world due to constantly being present around her "prime", but had never had a chance to actually craft an identity or any interests of her own because she was stuck doing whatever Tulip did. And even then, Lake tells the Cosay family that she quickly discovered that things she thought she properly experienced this way, like eating, were actually pale imitations of the real thing.
  • A Dance on the Mats: Anon, who is from the real world, is confused and frustrated by a world where he is considered weak despite being a tough guy.
  • A Very Kara Christmas: Linda arrived in Earth and was dumped in an orphanage only half year ago before the beginning of the story. She knows hardly anything about Earth customs, and as a result of it, she gets bewildered stares when she lets slip that she does not what Christmas is.
  • Appears in a very literal sense in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars fanfic By the Sea, where Commander Cody is an ocean-dwelling merman instead of a human. The surface world is strange and baffling to merfolk like Cody, and the cultural context and aquatic environment Cody grew up in is equally baffling to Obi-Wan. The two learn about their cultural differences as Obi-Wan tells Cody stories, stopping frequently to explain things that have no equivalent in merfolk culture, such as artillery, or weaving.

    Films — Animation 
  • Enchanted: A cartoon princess has some difficulty adjusting when she is sent to modern-day, live-action New York.
  • Happens literally in Chicken Little, with Fish-Out-Of-Water being one of the main characters. He has a sealed fish bowl full of water, just around his head. He doesn't even speak English, apparently, since everything he says is a series of bubbling noises.
  • MK in Epic (2013), naturally Leafmen customs are all very strange to her.
  • Frozen II: Having been cut off from the world for 34 years and change, Mattias and his fellow guardsmen are shown to be adjusting to society in the epilogue and find some of its technology astounding.
  • The Little Mermaid played the trope pretty literally; Ariel was so miseducated about the human world that she did wacky things like combing her hair with a dinner fork, or mistaking a pipe for a musical instrument.
  • The Spider-People in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse suffer from this trope after the supervillain Kingpin activates the Super Collider, which brings them out of their native dimensions. As they remain trapped in Miles Morales' dimension, their bodies' integrity occasionally lapses due to their incompatibility with it, meaning that they could very well be in danger of disintegrating if Morales doesn't help them find a way back to their dimensions quickly - a sad fate that awaited Pitah Pahkah - the Australian Spider-Man, whose death did not make the final cut.
  • Mario is one in The Super Mario Bros. Movie, having arrived in the Mushroom Kingdom by complete happenstance after finding a mysterious green pipe in the sewers of Brooklyn that sucks him into it, and his brother Luigi into the Dark Lands. While he still needs to get used to the customs of the Mushroom Kingdom (for example, he hates mushrooms, and he has to eat them in order to power up since they're some of the most common power-ups in the kingdom), he's able to learn a new set of skills he needs to rescue Luigi.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aquaman:
    • While Mera is willing to help Arthur save the surface world, it's clear she doesn't actually know anything about it. She initially dismisses them as uncivilized brutes polluting the oceans, but gains a more positive opinion after spending some time in a small town with friendly people. Of course, since she has no context for anything she ends up eating a rose that she assumes is food and accidentally steals a boat.
      Mera: Are the boats at the marina not for public use?
      Arthur: No, those belong to people.
      Mera: ...huh.
    • And then there are the literal fish out of water. Since only high-born Atlanteans can breathe air as well as water, the Mooks wear Mobile Fishbowls, and Arthur and Mera are able to disable them while on land by smashing the helmets.
  • Barely Lethal revolves around girl raised since infancy to be a badass assassin who decides to go to high school. Despite all her research, she is really out of her depth when she gets there.
  • The Blind Side: Michael, when he first arrives at his new private religious school, and when the Tuohys first invite him into their home.
  • The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres featured premises which were the exact inverse of one another. The former was about country folks living in the city while the latter was about city folks living in the country.
  • Being There. Chance - who lived his whole life inside a townhouse and only knew of the outside world through television - adapts so quickly, and appears to be someone who knows what he's doing, that in the novella no one realizes he was this in the first place.
  • Death among the mortals in Death Takes a Holiday.
  • In the Loop: All of the British characters in the US, but especially the hapless Simon Foster.
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth deals with this a lot.
  • The plot of Jean de Florette centers around a former tax collector from the city inheriting his mother's property in the country, and his attempt to spend the rest of his days living there with his wife and daughter as a farmer. He believes that by investing in large projects based on his studies of farming-related statistics, he can become successful in only a few years. He does not succeed.
  • The whole premise of Ruggles of Red Gap involves Ruggles, a stuffy English valet who is Stiff Upper Lip and The Jeeves rolled into one, coming into the employ of an American businessman and getting dragged to the one-horse mining town of Red Gap, WA. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Madison from Splash might be a literal case since she's a mermaid.
  • In Beverly Hills Cop; Axel Foley, a streetwise Detroit police detective, must solve a murder case in swanky Beverly Hills.
  • Played with Hanna in the Moccan hotel, cause she never been in a place with electricity and tv before.
  • The key premise of Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time: Valley Girl meets Barbarian Hero in a fantasy world, and Barbarian Hero teaming up with Valley Girl in the real world.
  • Less funny example in The Shawshank Redemption. Prisoners who spend too long in prison become "institutionalised" and have no idea how to live in the outside world:
    Brooks: "I can't believe how fast things move on the outside. I saw an automobile once when I was a kid, but, now they're everywhere. The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry. A parole board got me into this halfway house called the Brur, and a job: baggin groceries at the Foodway. It's hard work and I try to keep up, but my hands hurt most of the time. [...] I have trouble sleeping at night. I have bad dreams like I'm fallin'. I wake up, scared, sometimes it takes me a while to remember where I am. Maybe I should get me a gun and rob the Foodway so they'd send me home. I could shoot the manager while I was at it, sorta like a bonus. I guess I'm too old for that sorta nonsense anymore. I don't like it here. I'm tired of bein' afraid all the time. I've decided... not to stay. I doubt they'll kick up any fuss, not for an old... crook like me..."
  • "Crocodile" Dundee is a comedy about a very stereotypical Awesome Aussie trying to adapt to life in New York.
  • Dude Bro Party Massacre 3 is about loner Brent Chirino who has to infiltrate a fraternity in order to learn the truth about his twin brother's murder.
  • Queen of Katwe: The kids from the desperately poor slum of Katwe have a little difficulty when they go to an elite private school to play in a chess tournament. One kid gets so scared that he has a panic attack. Another one of Robert's students gets irritated when he tells her that she should use a fork rather than just ripping the chicken up and eating with her hands.
  • Flodder; The whole premise of the movie and its sequels is how out of place a delinquent family like the Flodders are by living in a well-off neighborhood populated by yuppies as part of the government's social project.
  • Shoot to Kill has a double version. FBI agent Stantin is shown to be quite capable in his introductory scene, yet has to coerce Knox into guiding him into the woods to catch the killer he's chasing. When they get to the other side of the Canadian border, it's Stantin who's in his element and Knox who's out of his depth.
  • Wonder Woman (2017) has another double-whammy: American spy Steve Trevor is comically out of place when he crash lands on the primitive and magical home of the Amazons, and Amazon princess Diana finds herself in the same situation when she accompanies Steve back into his world.
  • The comedy and drama of Game Night revolves around a group of hapless middle-class yuppie types accidentally stumbling into a gritty David Fincher-esque crime thriller as a result of their weekly game night going rather off-the-rails.
  • The Gods Must Be Crazy: Bushman Xi is a very intelligent, rational, and level-headed man; it's just that his home village is very remote, and the modern world contains people, places, and things completely outside his frame of reference.
  • Downplayed in Sonic the Hedgehog (2020). Sonic came to Earth as a child and has spent ten years hovering around the town of Green Hills, making him familiar with the townspeople and general pop culture even if he is only an Urban Legend called "the blue devil." This means in present day he is well-educated of Earth, though missing out on a lot of personal experiences he wants to explore. He never knew what a chili dog was until he ate one.
  • Date with an Angel: The Angel has essentially no experience with human beings beyond escorting their souls into the afterlife.
  • One of the central themes of Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects is the difficulty the main characters have in adapting to modern American culture, particularly its sexual ethos

  • Angel Child, Dragon Child: Ut has a hard time adjusting to life in her new American school, far from her family’s homeland of Vietnam.
  • Ax from Animorphs, frequently played up for comedic value.
  • Bubbles in Space: The first book, Tropical Punch, has Bubbles try to escape the crooked police of HoloCity by taking a free vacation on a space luxury liner. She is completely bamboozled by the ultra-wealthy guests and their odd habits.
  • The titular character of Christy when she first comes to Cutter Gap. She barely goes a page or two without something new shocking her sensibilities.
  • Grounded for All Eternity: Malachi and his squad, who reside in Hell, quickly find themselves out of their element upon arriving on Earth, though Lilith, as the squad's Intelligence, is more knowledgeable when it comes to Earth's customs.
  • Gulliver's Travels has Gulliver a fish out of several kinds of water.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Cordelia Vorkosigan, nee Naismith never wholly fits the niche of Barrayaran Vor-class Womanhood, and rarely bothers to try beyond letting herself be dressed "properly". Indeed an exasperated "Barrayarans!" remains her favorite explitive for over thirty years.
    • Ethan of Athos: Ethan Urquhart of Athos, a literal No Woman's Land, gets sent on a mission to find ovaries. He has never even seen what they are normally attached to.
  • The Shadowleague books give us Zavahl and, to a lesser extent, Toulac in Gendival—the hundreds of different sentient creatures throw them off.
  • In The Hobbit, main character Bilbo Baggins is dragged from his comfortable lifestyle into a quest to kill a dragon, going from unwilling millstone to de facto leader over the course of the story.
  • The very first Jeeves and Wooster story, "Extricating Young Gussie", throws British Upper-Class Twit Bertie Wooster into New York, where pretty much everything weirds him out (the early hour that commuters get up for work, the fact that there are male bartenders, and vaudeville). Subverted in later stories; while he ends up staying in New York for some time, he grows used to it almost instantly and makes as many friends as he had in England.
  • In Gene Stratton-Porter's Freckles, Freckles's arrival in the Limberlost swamp gives him weeks of terror. Face Your Fears works, however, and by the time he gets his first pay and kills his first rattler, he's adapted to it.
    Each hour was torture to the boy. The restricted life of a great city orphanage was the other extreme of the world compared with the Limberlost. He was afraid for his life every minute. The heat was intense. The heavy wading-boots rubbed his feet until they bled. He was sore and stiff from his long tramp and outdoor exposure. The seven miles of trail was agony at every step. He practiced at night, under the direction of Duncan, until he grew sure in the use of his revolver. He cut a stout hickory cudgel, with a knot on the end as big as his fist; this never left his hand. What he thought in those first days he himself could not recall clearly afterward.
  • Leo Colston, in The Go-Between, comes from a modest background and is completely lost among the guests at a grand country house. That and his naivety makes it all the easier for him to be manipulated by others.
  • In Poul Anderson's Time Patrol story "Delenda Est", Deirdre is this after their rescue. They tell her You Can't Go Home Again but lie about why: they are obliterating her Alternate History. At the end, one rescuer has her brought to his era on Venus, as the most like her own; Everard doesn't argue the point.
  • Chimera: Michael, who's had little exposure to the world outside of field trips and the occasional movie.
  • The Mark of the Lion trilogy: Both Hadassah and Atretes in Rome; Hadassah is a small-town Jewish girl completely unaccustomed to the violence and decadence; Atretes is a comparatively primitive tribesman who flounders in all the political and social machinations (and originally doesn’t even speak the language). To a lesser degree, Julia earlier on is a Wide-Eyed Idealist out of her depth dealing with Calabah and Gaius and their friends, who are very canny and manipulative.
  • Deconstructed in Unseen Academicals with Nutt. Until he got to Ankh-Morpork, he knew about the world outside his Ladyship's castle only from reading.
  • Played in Winnie the Pooh with Tigger.
  • Paddington Bear spent most of his life in Peru before he came to England, and he's a bit unaccustomed to modern British life, shall we say,
  • Clary Fray and Simon Lewis from The Mortal Instruments are not hardened Shadowhunters or Downworlders like the rest of the cast, at least at first. Clary jumps right on the mundie racism bandwagon rather disturbingly fast, though and Simon's does get turned into the latter.
  • In Whit by Iain Banks, the main character, Isis, grew up in a mildly puritanical Cult that rejects all modern technology and considers her the Chosen One. While she understands on an intellectual level that the rest of the world isn't like that, she's not prepared for how uninterested the outside world is in even trying to understand her beliefs.
  • The Secret Garden: Mary, who travels from British-occupied India to England.
  • The heroine of Restoree is kidnapped by one set of aliens, rescued by another and mistaken for one of their own processed as a refugee ending up as the very confused 'nurse' to an unidentified patient in a sinister 'clinic'. Things only get crazier.
  • Schooled in Magic: Emily is completely out of place in the medieval-like Nameless World, and frequently finds it difficult to adjust.
  • A Symphony of Eternity has Metternich, who didn't go to military school, was forced to join the navy and is repulsed and disgusted by the military life, in spite of this or maybe because of that he currently is one of the most feared and effective sailors the Empire has.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy involves our hero, Arthur Dent, being whisked away from his cozy existence and forced to deal with an insane and slightly larger galaxy than he'd previously known with the help of Ford Prefect.
  • Varjak from Varjak Paw has never left his home so when he is forced to leave it he ends up clueless about the outside world. He originally mistook cars for dogs and thought they were living beings.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: While many of the rookie witches knew exactly what they were getting into, a few indicate that they weren't really ready for their new magic school to be quite so evil and devoted to The Dark Arts. These include LaTasha, a former reality show dancer who seems to have had no idea what she was in for, and an albino rookie who spends much of her first scene alternating between praying for mercy and futilely trying to stop one of the elite students from killing another witch in a Wizard Duel.
  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: Though it is not taken to the extremes it is in many adaptions of Diana leaving Paradise Island an element of this is added in, as in the original Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman story she adapted easily as her people had kept up with developments in the outside world. Here, the amazons do have access to contemporary literature and art, and Diana is theoretically aware of most everything that's important in the modern world like in the original tale. She's still surprised by the reality, though, especially when women and men are treated differently.
  • The Nanny From Moscow by Ivan Shmelyov has the eponymous nanny, who has spent her entire long life in the Russian capital, forced into emigration after the October Revolution. She has a lot of trouble adjusting to the life in other countries, even after her beloved ward becomes a world-famous actress and they are no longer in danger of poverty. She ends up happily settling down in Paris because at least it’s full of Russian émigrés and she can feels herself almost at home.
  • Fangbone! Third Grade Barbarian and its Animated Adaptation Fangbone! derives a good chunk of its humor from Fangbone (who is a barbarian from a Sword and Sorcery fantasy world) having difficulty getting used to the peaceful customs and modern technologies of suburban North America.
  • Ria from The Easy Part of Impossible has dedicated every minute of the last eleven years to diving. Now that her coach has kicked her off the team, and she doesn't feel she can work with anyone else, she tries to live a normal life, but she has no idea how to do regular teenage stuff and feels like an alien in her own hometown.
  • In his autobiographical memoir Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance stated that he felt like this while at Yale Law School. Unlike the vast majority of his classmates, who were from middle- and upper-class backgrounds, he grew up in a working-class family in Ohio's Appalachian diaspora.
  • Uido from Island's End is a member of an isolated tribe on one of the Andaman Islands. When her little brother Tawai catches a deadly disease from visitors, Uido takes him in a canoe to another island so he can be treated in a hospital. When Tawai regains consciousness, he's fascinated by the "magic" the people use, especially cars and airplanes, by Uido is dismayed by the hunger and income inequality she witnesses and longs to return to her island.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The honest and honorable Ned Stark at the Decadent Court in King's Landing — and he knows it too.
    • Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen, the highborn fugitives among the Dothraki, a race of nomadic horse-mounted warriors in Essos. Daenerys takes to it much better than her brother.
    • Jon Snow, the highborn illegitimate son of a lord (Eddard Stark), among the lowborn, undertrained recruits in his training squad at the Night's Watch. Jon was raised with a highborn upbringing by his noble father with strong moral values and was trained by a master-at-arms alongside his brother Robb from the time they could hold swords. He joins the Night's Watch for the sake of honor and duty, as it is seen as a noble order in the North which the Starks (Jon's family) have joined for generations. Meanwhile, the other recruits grew up under impoverished circumstances and never held a sword in their lives. Jon helps these other kids out once he realizes how rough they had it, teaches them how to fight, and they become friends. Jon is nicknamed “Lord Snow” by Alliser Thorne for being a highborn illegitimate son with a young lord’s upbringing.
    • When Davos saves Gendry, the illegitimate son of King Robert Baratheon, from Stannis and Melisandre, he puts Gendry in a rowboat — telling Gendry to just row. Poor Gendry doesn't even know which way to sit or how to swim if he falls out.
    • Ultimately, Littlefinger's money, spies and mastery of the game of thrones mean little in the North, a land of direwolves, ice and magic where there is no game, and he meets his deserved end there at the hands of the Stark children when they expose him for his crimes and have him executed.
  • Lincoln Heights: The Sutton kids are very much so out of their element upon moving to the overwhelmingly black Lincoln heights after having spent their entire lives in a mostly white suburb. It takes them an entire season but they learn to love it.
  • Northern Exposure is about a Jewish doctor from New York City starting a practice in a rural Alaskan town.
  • Men in Trees, which, admittedly, is just a lame attempt to bring back the charm of Northern Exposure by crossing it with Sex and the City.
  • Firefly. Simon Tam is a rich young doctor from the wealthy Core Planets who is forced to go on the run with the crew of Serenity because he broke his sister out of a government institution. He's not familiar with handling himself on the poorer, rougher Outer Planets, and has trouble adjusting to the rag-tag, on-the-run lifestyle he's been thrust into. As a result, he seems very out of his depth and stands out like a sore thumb. Only when he's put into situations he's trained to deal with does he reveal just how confident, intelligent and talented he really is. Even the rougher members of the crew (such as Jayne) take more of a liking to him when they realize that it's preferable to have a class-A surgeon on hand instead of the back-alley "doctors" they would otherwise have to turn to, given how often they need to have bullets pulled out of them in their dangerous line of work.
  • Due South: a backwoods Canadian mountie (albeit with better intellectual and problem-solving skills than his big city colleagues) in the American city of Chicago.
  • Hard Time on Planet Earth: An alien military officer is exiled to a primitive planet for bad behavior. He is accompanied by a floating robotic supervisor. First episodes deal with them trying to understand humans (complicated by getting most information from TV) and blend in. Later they manage to adjust, although some misunderstandings keep cropping out.
  • Life On Mars: a 21st-century cop used to being by-the-book and politically correct, working with advanced forensic techniques, psychological profiling and whatnot, goes back to the much more rough-and-ready 1973. Ashes to Ashes (2008) repeats the formula for the '80s, albeit to a lesser extent (and with a woman protagonist).
  • Teal'c in Stargate SG-1. Mostly played for laughs, but with a few poignant moments. Teal'c has to live on a military installation in Colorado a lot of the time, but sees very little of what normal civilian life in modern America is like. It doesn't help that he has a gold emblem on his forehead. Much of what he learns about modern life comes from fiction: when asked if he has ever heard of a virgin birth, the example he thinks of is Anakin Skywalker. In one episode he tried to get an off-base apartment and have something like a normal life, and we get a full Fish out of Water episode, complete with a Muggle love interest, until the corrupt spy group tries to take advantage of his weakness and assert that Status Quo Is God.
  • Farscape: John Crichton is a human astronaut from Earth who's thrown across the universe and lands in the middle of a space battle. For most of the first season he's completely lost about how anything in this new alien society works. His shipmates, who do know how their world works, mostly view him as an idiot for not understanding basic things like how the doors aboard Moya work. In the fourth season the crew find a way back to Earth and the alien characters are bewildered by how the planet works. By this point John has become so comfortable in space, and Earth has changed so much while he was away that he no longer fits in.
  • The FX Reality Show 30 Days, from the guy who did Super Size Me pits different people, and occasionally the narrator himself, into living the titular number of days in a different environment then they're used to. Often these people will be placed at the opposite end of a controversial issue than where they were from to learn about the other side of an issue.
  • Dieter, the German immigrant in Killinaskully regularly finds himself flummoxed by the bizarre goings on in the titular village. However, this seems to be less because Dieter is the Only Sane Man and more just that his own cloudcuckooland is so different from those of Ireland.
  • The non-X-Series transgenics in Dark Angel, specifically Joshua at the beginning of season 2.
  • Ryan on The O.C., a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks is taken in by a rich family and introduced to the wealth-obsessed lifestyle of Newport Beach.
  • The Stig on Top Gear, to the point of being an Idiot Savant. When behind the wheel, however, he's Graceful in Their Element.
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: a group of hillbillies who strike it rich and move to Beverly Hills.
  • And, from the same production team, Green Acres, about two city-slickers who buy a farm.
  • Petticoat Junction, had an arc dealing with an Air Force pilot landing and staying in rural country.
  • The one-shot announcer Lance-Corporal Collier from Rutland Weekend Television. He was originally brought in for a sketch, and, as he's not shy to point out, doesn't know a whole lot about announcing.
    Collier: The thing is I'm not used to this, I mean, they don't teach you much about television announcin' in the army, I mean, maybe they should, you never know...
  • The main character of Unnatural History, Henry Griffin, lived in pretty much everywhere on Earth except in urban society, which is where the show takes place.
  • Series 7 of Red Dwarf has Kochanski, albeit a version of her from a parallel universe. As a result, she knows the characters but they have completely opposite personalities to how she's used to them. Much of the series is about how she feels lonely and doesn't fit in.
  • Once Upon a Time: Emma gets this once she ends up in the Enchanted Forest. She's an Action Girl, but she has no clue how to handle magical creatures or the fact that the fairy tale characters from her childhood stories are all real. Her being Wrong Genre Savvy doesn't help.
  • The X-Files episodes "Tunguska" and "Terma" see Mulder and Krycek stuck in a Russian gulag. The trope is played straight with Mulder and zig-zagged with Krycek. It's inverted when Krycek is revealed to have connections in Russia and talks his way out of his cell, then played straight later in the forest when he has his arm cut off by the opposition to his former captors. Finally it's inverted again when Krycek, still in Russia and now with a prosthetic arm, is revealed to have hired an assassin to sabotage American efforts in the "arms race" to develop a vaccine for the black oil.
  • Castiel, an angel, in Supernatural has difficulty blending into humanity, which may be even more apparent when he becomes human.
  • Doc Martin, not so much these days, since he's been living there a while by now.
  • The BBC dramady Ballykissangel started out as this, with Father Peter Clifford, a Manchester priest assigned to the titular Irish hamlet, frequently crossing philosophical swords with Assumpta Fitzgerald. Midway through Season 3, it took a turn for the soapy.
  • Son of Zorn is a FOX show involving an animated He-Man-esque barbarian moving to a suburban, live-action neighborhood to re-kindle his relationship with his son. Many culture clashes ensue.
  • The Indian Detective: Part of the show's drama. Doug D'Mello, despite being of Indian ancestry, was born and raised in Toronto. As such, he finds some things strange in India like arranged marriage and a Mumbai Police constable letting a street kid go for stealing his wallet. It doesn't help that some Indians are reminding him that he's not raised in India, so he doesn't comprehend the situation.
  • Wonder Woman (1975): In the pilot, Wonder Woman has to learn that she needs money and scolds bank robbers because shooting off guns on the street is rude.
    Wonder Woman: Excuse me, but that's very rude.
    Thug: Get outta here broad! pushes her shoulder
    Wonder Woman: It's also dangerous! throws him over a car
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Disaster", an explosion knocks off all power within the Enterprise and the crew is separated from their usual stations - Troi finds herself in command of the bridge, Picard must lead three children out of the turbolift they're stuck in, Worf finds himself in triage and must help deliver Keiko O'Brien's first child, Geordi and Dr. Crusher must try to escape the cargohold and stop another explosion while Riker and Data climb the Jeffries Tubes to restore power. The experience leads to Troi to take the Bridge Officer's Test later in the series and gives Worf a bad experience with giving birth.
  • The Worst Witch: The 2017 show has Esmerelda relate this as her experience in the non-magical world. She had no idea how anything works, and it was crushingly boring for her with magic gone.
  • In one episode of The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden is temporarily laid off from his job as a bus driver and worries about how he and his wife, Alice, will survive until the layoff is over, however long it takes. His friend Ed Norton tries to tell him not to worry about it because he understands Ralph's pain, recalling how he himself was laid off from his job in the sewer once and remarks, "I felt just like a fish out of water."
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: Deet has spent her whole life underground and takes some time getting used to the surface world.
  • Brave New World: The main conflict comes from John entering the world of New London after living in the outside world all his life. Naturally he has difficultly adjusting to a world where oppression is the cost of a peaceful and happy society.
  • Schitt's Creek: The entire series revolves around the Rose Family, who are formerly wealthy, urbane, globe-trotting socialites trying to adapt to life in a small rural town.
  • Odd Squad: Orla, introduced in Season 3, is an ancient Odd Squad agent who is 499 years old (500 as of the episode "Orla's Birthday") and has resided in the Amazon for most of her life, with her sole job being to guard a long-forgotten Odd Squad artifact known as the 44-leaf clover, which can grant magical powers to those who touch it. After her Headquarters ends up falling to shambles in the "Odd Beginnings" two-parter and she is transferred to the new Mobile Unit department, she is forced to adjust to modern society and how Odd Squad functions in modern times versus in ancient times.
  • Jejak Suara Adzan: Dimas has this problem when he first lives in the pesantren, as he struggles with doing night-time tarawih and tahajjud prayers (which he usually skips back in his home) and dealing with mosquitos there. He eventually brings a mosquito spray for the latter and gets used to the former to the point he keeps doing them when he gets home.
  • The L Word: Max in glitzy West Hollywood, as he's from a small town in the Midwest. He never entirely gets over the contrast.
  • In "Masquerade" from The Inside Man, when AJ tells Mark that it's "Red Nose Day," Mark is completely clueless. AJ says that it's the charity that's been going for twenty years and it's like Mark has never worked in an office before. In fact, Mark never has worked in an office before - he's a hacker who's been sent to infiltrate the place and at the moment is waffling about whether or not to actually go through with his assignment.
  • Mohawk Girls: Anna initially doesn't fit in well at all on the Mohawk reserve, with her manner and clothing style being more cheerful than women there consider right. She also gets flack for having a white mother.
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton: Frannie, who's a black enslaved Jamaican, was taken to England by her master. He put her in the house of a rich man, with no other black people around, which she felt accutely. She is also a lesbian, soon falling in love with Marguerite, her mistress, and they have a relationship, which further alienates her from what's expected. Ouladuh Cambridge, who's a black Jamaican brought to England previously, is put in a similar position.
  • Wild Bill: American ex-police chief Bill Hixon moves from Miami to Boston, Lincolnshire in England, where he sticks out like a sore thumb. He becomes the Chief Constable, to hostility from many members of the Boston police force.
  • Ted Lasso is about the titular character, who is from America and was once a coach for American Football, moving to The United Kingdom and coaching an Association Football team.

  • Yes bassist Chris Squire called his 1975 debut solo album Fish Out Of Water, a multi-reference to his nickname, "Fish", his being away from Yes and as a solo artist, and his trying out different styles and instrumentations on the album from what he was used to. The cover of the album shows Chris standing inside a fish's skeleton.
  • Daniel Amos's album Vox Humana was (partly) about feeling very out-of-place in America in The '80s.
    • "As the World Turns" describes being an outsider in the spiritual sense:
      And I never get comfort in the earth or sky
      It's my belief they're not my home
      The world spins one way, but I go another
      Against the grain, one often stands alone
    • The liner notes include a short story where the narrator realizes:
      I concluded, and retain this belief even now, that the only ultimate disaster that can befall a man is to feel at home here on earth.

  • All the player characters in Interstitial: Actual Play were taken from their own worlds and lost amongst the Kingdom Hearts worlds. Marche is this several times over, since he spent his game lost in another world and has now become lost in several others .

  • A vast number of the characters on Shadowside have this premise, and most of the subtropes are covered.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Displaced playbook from Interstitial: Our Hearts Intertwined is about playing characters who have lost or been separated from their worlds. Though considering the entire premise is about characters travelling to worlds other than their own, anyone could fall into this.


    Theme Parks 
  • Weeki Wachee Springs, a Florida Theme Park famous for its mermaid show, provides a quite literal example. This video promotes a charity marathon called "Fish Out Of Water Extreme 5K."

    Video Games 
  • Tidus in Final Fantasy X is a fish out of water as he is actually from an imaginary version of a long-since-destroyed city. The only time he feels comfortable in the new world is while playing blitzball, an underwater sport common to both his world and Spira.
  • The player character in Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns moves near three very culturally different towns. They are quite surprised to learn that Westown has people hugging each other as greetings, while the tropical Lulukoko just uses a wave-like hand gesture. They get used to it very fast, though.
  • Merrill in Dragon Age II is a Dalish elf who was thrown out of her clan and forced to live in the elven ghetto of a human city. Her inexperience with human society (among other things her assumption that getting mugged is the "Alienage greeting" and nobody has mugged her because they don't like her) is played for laughs, as she remains oddly cheerful about it all.
    • Feynriel. The poor kid doesn't fit in anywhere. His Dream Weaver powers set him apart from other mages, and the Circle, the Templars, and the Dalish are either unable or unwilling to help him master them. Even if Feynriel goes to Tevinter to learn how to control his powers, he feels isolated because he isn't a ruthless power-hungry bastard like most magisters. That's not even touching his Human-Elf parentage, and the rejection he gets from both sides. Even Merrill calls him a "half-breed" at one point.
  • Touhou Project had newcomer miko Sanae arrive from the "outside world" (I.E. normal, mundane earth), to Gensokyo because of her Physical God deities needing to travel to someplace with enough faith to sustain their existence, which the modern world was lacking in. She is repeatedly noted as "lacking in the common sense of Gensokyo" (to which many fans noted that "sanity is a weakness in Gensokyo"), and when she eventually started trying to do "miko stuff" like go on youkai extermination trips, she gained notoriety for starting the "sadist" meme from appearing to enjoy her fight with Kogasa a little too much, and when she met a shapeshifting Nue youkai who was trying to transform into her fears, Sanae was elated to have found a "real live space alien!", and wanted to get her picture taken with her.
  • Flora, Layton's ward in the Professor Layton series, freely admits to this trope when she's fascinated by such mundane things as a simple country fair. Justified, since she's spent the last several years living in a village full of Ridiculously Human Robot servants.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, when Lily when she is hired as the cook at the diner, she has an extremely steep learning curve. Amanda in particular has little patience for her performance to improve.
  • Reconstructed in Morgan’s epilogue in Double Homework. Uncle Tommy recruits the protagonist and Morgan to play in his band despite the fact that neither one has any musical ability. Just before the concert, he reveals that he chose them because they can’t play to replicate the amateurish sound of the original band. And Uncle Tommy himself is a horrible singer.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Everyone in Earthsong is like this.
  • Mentl, a street musician from our world who finds himself in a world of Medieval Fantasy in The Challenges of Zona. He adapts fairly quickly due to his meeting and falling in love with the title character and his musical knowledge and ability giving him magical powers although there are still a few bumps here and there.
  • Secret of Keychain of Creation is essentially a nice girl, but because she allowed her name to be taken to become an Abyssal, she's become a threat to all of existence. Plus, she's forced to kill occasionally or her weapon will kill her in her sleep.
  • Gai-Gin: Gin is an American university student adapting to life in Japan.
  • John Silver in The Second Crimean War (an American from Miami stranded in the middle of a Ukrainian civil war in the dead of winter) is an example of this.
  • Ruby Larose in Sticky Dilly Buns. The poor, angry nerd.
  • Jack from Thornsaddle is a muggle-born (who knows nothing of wizards) in his first year at a wizard school. Much of the comedy comes from his tendency to deconstruct many of the facets of wizard society.
  • Underling has this as the main plot of the story.
  • Alice Grove: Ardent, a tourist from space, apparently didn't do enough research on local culture. For example, he's confused when a woman's response to his request for sex is to slap him in the face.
  • Tower of God: Twenty-Fifth Bam grew up in a cave with his only contact to the human world being a girl that taught him everything he knew. He then stumbles into a place full of magic, people, conflict and rules (one which states that Bam's presence is against the law).
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Reynir, who for all intents and purposes is a Little Stowaway to a military crew exploring a Forbidden Zone After the End. To top it off, it's a crew full of Bunny-Ears Lawyer types and Reynir is a sheltered sheepherder with budding mage powers and literally nobody to train him in the latter domain.
  • This is the central plot point of Outsider. A human scouting vessel is destroyed by an unknown assailant, and the only survivor, Alex Jardin, is now stuck as a guest of and diplomat-by-proxy to the Loroi, one of the alien races the humans were attempting to contact. Jardin is completely out of his depth and trying to make the best of his situation while the Loroi themselves adjust to a stranger in their midst, all the while trying to fend off the race of insect-like aliens the Loroi have been in a near-genocidal war against for many years.
  • In Witches Among Humans, being a witch of the Boiling Isles, Luz is unaccustomed to certain realities in the human world.
    • She calls coffee "bitter bean blood."
    • Luz shows a Grom heart (which is an actual organ) to Gus who is visibly unnerved her it.
    • When it starts raining, she clings to Amity when it starts raining, thinking it would melt the flesh off her bones if left out in it.

    Web Original 
  • Phase, in the Whateley Universe. Ultra-rich, spoiled teenager from a mutant-hating family becomes a mutant and gets kicked out. This kid who has been waited on hand and foot ends up at Whateley Academy, surrounded by mutants and struggling to fit in. Not usually played for humor.
  • Leta Adler of "Caelum Lex" was raised in wealth and luxury on her home planet and thus finds herself very out of place when she boards a rusty space pirate ship full of criminals and lowlives.
  • In Dad, Andan is not used to Earth, and it shows when he wanders around asking people what "agency" they work for, how to "turn on" a stage he believes is a teleporter, and how to get home to Kepler 22b.
  • Mahu: In "Frozen Flame", prince Arius is this in the colonies. Before actually setting foot on the islands, all he knew about them came from old reports, rumors and stories. Even the people of the main colony know little of the land they live in, as trying to travel out of the city's borders is almost a death sentence in a land full of bandits and strange creatures.
  • Tails of the Space Gladiators mainly focuses on a human being named David Errgash trying to survive in an alien-populated intergalactic prison where the convicts have to fight as gladiators to earn their freedom.

    Western Animation 
  • The third season of Bojack Horseman features an episode that shares a name with this trope. Bojack has to go deep underwater for a film festival, experiences culture shock, and is unable to talk because of the air helmet he has to wear. It's one of the most acclaimed episodes of the series.
  • Some Disney Channel shows from the 2010s-2020s have relied on this trope.
    • Gravity Falls is about two twins who are from the city staying in a secluded town for the summer, as they try to adapt to a town with so many bizarre happenings.
    • Star vs. the Forces of Evil is about a princess from another dimension who has access to magical powers living in a typical Earth town.
    • Big City Greens has a country family moving in to the big city.
    • Amphibia has a human girl magically transported to a land inhabited by anthropomorphic talking amphibians. In the third season, the role is reversed when she returns home, but her amphibian friends come with her.
    • The Owl House involves a human girl accidentally transported to a similar magical land inhabited by witches and demons.
  • Fry in early Futurama; he adapted surprisingly quickly. Other characters go through similar experiences, including his 20th century girlfriend and Zoidberg, a hideous lobster alien who serves as the company physician but understands practically nothing about Earth culture or human physiology.
  • Starfire in Teen Titans, being a Tamaranian living on Earth. She often has trouble understanding the ways in which things work on Earth, but is deeply fascinated with the planet and its people.
  • My Gym Partner's a Monkey is about ordinary human kid Adam Lyon attending a school full of Funny Talking Animals. One such animal, Bull Sharkowski, is a literal Fish out of Water, and has to carry a headset filled with water in order to breathe.
  • The title character of Jimmy Two-Shoes in the Hell-like world of Miseryville. As the Season 2 theme song says "He ain't from around here, if you know what I mean!"
  • Played with in American Dad! when the Smiths go to Saudi Arabia:
    Francine: [screams in frustration hard enough to break Klaus's bowl]
    Klaus: Your family may have moved to Saudi Arabia, but I'm the REAL fish out of water! Haha! ...Seriously, I'm dying.
  • Kappa Mikey, who features an American cartoon actor in a Japanese anime show after winning a contest. It is even explained that Mikey got his nick name because of the Kappa, literally a Fish Out Of Water.
  • Darwin from The Amazing World of Gumball is a more literal example of this trope. Darwin used to be the family's pet fish until he grew legs and got too big to be in his bowl all the time.
  • Inverted in SpongeBob SquarePants with Sandy Cheeks, who's a land creature in water.
  • Sheep in the Big City has exactly one Sheep living among humans in the Big City. Sheep has already adjusted; Sheep works at odd jobs and makes human friends. The Big City is now a familiar home. Sheep would have a good life there, except for a few sheep haters, and a secret military organization that wants to put Sheep in a sheep-powered ray gun.
  • Gargoyles has the titled creatures waking up after a thousand year sleep in modern day New York, spending much of the first episodes just trying to understand the world around them.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: A minor character on the show is Pird, whose backstory has him as a half-man, half-bird science experiment who escaped from his creator's lab and is trying to live as a normal human adult despite technically being only a few years old. This explains why he's such a Nervous Wreck and why he always seems to be pestering Enid to help him learn things like how to wash his hands.
  • In Ready Jet Go!, the Propulsions are aliens trying to fit into "Earthie" society while trying to keep their identity a secret, often with hilarious results.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has the fire nation royal siblings. Zuko gets better at it due to his own banishment and working in a tea shop along with Uncle Iroh forcing him out of his normal comfort zone to survive. He does learn and grow as both a person and a public speaker. His little sister Azula on the other hand tries to be a normal teenager outside of the battlefield and her attempts can be described graciously as fucking catastrophic. Azula literally has no idea how to socialize normally without manipulation and has no idea how to turn off the commander mentality. It is equal parts hilarious, painful to watch and upon rewatch on finishing the series, somewhat sad.
  • When Adora leaves the Horde in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, she's so unfamiliar with the world outside the Fright Zone that eight episodes in, she needs to be told what the word "aunt" means. When she's first given a non-Horde-issue bed, it's an ordeal for her because she's used to barely endurable slabs; the others eventually get her a hard bed to make up the difference.

    Real Life 
  • Surprisingly, there are a few fishes that can literally pull this off:
    • Mudskippers, a species of mangrove-dwelling gobies that can stay active out of the water for extended times.
    • Catfishes from the genus Clarias can jump out of the water and "walk" around, as are Asiatic snakeheads. This trait is also part of the reason why the snakehead thrives as an invasive species In America.
    • Lungfishes (except the non-African ones) can hibernate in hardened mud for months at times.
    • The epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) can stay out of the water for up to an hour and use its muscular fins to crawl to the nearest tide pool when food in its current habitat becomes scarce.
  • Anyone living in a foreign country or merely visiting one either on vacation or for business purposes can feel like this at first.
  • Any highly competent person who gets hired for a job they have no talent for. Meriwether Lewis was a highly competent explorer and a very poor governor.
  • Commonly, military units that have been trained or even raised in a particular environment find themselves in a completely different one, and have to fight and win under completely unfamiliar conditions. The French and later the Germans in the Russian winter are a classic example. Another is the British "Desert Rats," who later fought in the jungles of Burma. Sometimes this is deliberate — a unit might be issued the wrong equipment and trained for different climates to fool any spies into thinking it will be going somewhere else.
  • For some people, especially those with autism spectrum disorders, getting into social situations can make them feel like a fish out of water. Or at least, being with someone they're not comfortable with. And there are cases in which someone is considered "different" from their peers; that may also cause this uncomfortable feeling.


Video Example(s):


Will I Fit

Molly is worried to attended Bitsy's birthday party because it's going to be full of rich people and she'll feel out of place. When she's at the party, her worries were correct because she doesn't understand or relate to any of the partygoers and goes to a greenhouse to avoid them.

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Main / FishOutOfWater

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