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Grass Is Greener

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"The seaweed is always greener
In somebody else's lake.
You dream about goin' up there,
But that is a big mistake!"
Sebastian, The Little Mermaid (1989), "Under the Sea"

A character lives in pretty terrible conditions. They're either oppressed, living in a slum or ghetto, their country's been bombed to shit and torn apart by war or they just generally have an unhappy life. So they idolize another country, somewhere they can go to be safe, somewhere they can go to have adventures, somewhere they can run away to, to live the life they want to live. They idolize it to the point of fantasy. The kid in the ghetto wants to move to the suburbs, the manic depressive doesn't know what he wants but he knows he wants something, the warrior wants to live in a land of peace, the immigrant in a land of opportunity.


If it's a musical, expect a Wanderlust Song or a "Somewhere" Song.

Whether or not they get there is another story. If they do, usually they find it isn't all it was cracked up to be, though often still preferable to where they came from. Often an enticement for the Kid Hero to go Down the Rabbit Hole, and maybe learn that Wanting Is Better Than Having. See also Crapsack Only by Comparison, for when the comparison to the idealized other world makes the character feel like their own world is a Crapsack World. Compare Mutual Envy.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Hensuki: Are You Willing to Fall in Love with a Pervert, as Long as She's a Cutie?: Keiki starts the series single and jealous of couples. Even when he discovers that his female friends may be interested in him and when he receives an unambiguous love confession from Mizuha, he's still jealous of other couples for having relationships devoid of bizarre perversions while all his potential love interests are perverts.
  • Vinland Saga, Vinland itself for the protagonist Thorfinn.
  • Space Adventure Cobra begins with this; Johnson is a Generic Guy with generic dreams of adventure chooses to pursue such a dream in a Lotus-Eater Machine, only for the machine to unlock memories of being Cobra, an adventurer with dreams of a simpler life who chose to get Magic Plastic Surgery and Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • In Glass Mask, Maya and Ayumi envy each other over their different home lives, while focusing on the disadvantages of their own. Maya envies Ayumi for having loving parents that support her choice of being an actress, while Maya's mother was more a believer in Tough Love, and the ample opportunities Ayumi has had to expand and improve her acting skills from childhood onward. Meanwhile, Ayumi envies Maya for having genuine friends that love and support her, with Ayumi realizing she's a Lonely Rich Kid, and her natural talent at acting. She also feels that Maya is a lot more free than Ayumi, who has been working for years to step out of the shadow of her actress mother and be seen as more than just the child of celebrities. When either mentions this to the other, they seem rather surprised to hear that.
  • In Nyotai-ka, the young unlucky in love Salary Man Makoto wishes to become a woman because he's convinced women have it better in life because they can exploit young men for attention, money, and gifts. After he actually does become a woman (courtesy of a Goddess eager to teach him a lesson) he quickly discovers that young women face enormous pressure to "put out" in exchange for that attention, and that's just one of the downsides. Others include getting hit on constantly and getting groped on the train.
  • In Chio's School Road, Chio plays western games because she can't stand the glut of JRPG tropes, drama, and Pretty Boys in her own country's games. The western fandom got a kick out of it when they remembered the exact opposite complaints from their own game community.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In “The Funkmeister,” Mittens regrets not remaining in Paris with Berlioz, the cat who was her vacation fling. When Bolt enters the room shortly after, Rhino suggests she look closer to home for a sweetheart.

    Film — Animated 
  • Shrek Forever After: Shrek has grown tired of being a family man and celebrity among the local villagers, and longs for the days where he was a "real ogre", feared by villagers and actually had privacy. He gets his wish, and soon begins to understand the consequences of his actions and how important he was to the grand scheme of things; among other things, his children no longer exist, and Fiona's parents have been erased from existence. Best summed up in this exchange between himself and Donkey near the climax:
    Donkey: If your life was so perfect, then why'd you sign it all away to Rumpelstiltskin in the first place?
    Shrek: Because I didn't know what I had until it was gone!
  • In Over the Hedge, one of the porcupines compares grass stuck in his quills to the grass in the subdivision, and declares that it actually is greener on the other side.
  • Lampshaded in Chicken Run by Rocky. While talking with Ginger about how life is outside of the Chicken Farm, Rocky tries to gently tell Ginger not to get her hopes up about how life is in the outside world in his efforts to continue covering up his lie about being able to fly.
  • An American Tail: "There are nooooo cats in Ameeeerica! And the streets are paved with cheeeese!"
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Ariel's desire to go up to the surface, as lampshaded by Sebastian in the song "Under the Sea."
  • Beauty and the Beast: "There must be more than this provincial life!" Belle is reading a story about a prince in disguise...
  • The Prince and the Pauper: Both Prince Mickey and Pauper Mickey.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • After the climax of Election, McAllister moves from Omaha, Nebraska to New York City. McAllister thinks of his new life in New York is "exciting" compared to his old life in Omaha, although he is now living in a ridiculous small apartment instead of a house, and has a more humble job as a museum tour guide, probably earning less with a much higher cost of living. The implication of it all is that McAllister is just delusional.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wanted to go somewhere "Over The Rainbow".
  • Spoofed in the satire Water (1985). Baxter is the governor of this minor British colony in the Caribbean, and has just received word that the suits back in London are shutting down the colony and shipping the natives off elsewhere. Baxter is griping that he's the only one who seems to be angry about this.
    Fitzhugh: I suppose they all want to go where the grass is greener.
    Baxter: (smoking a joint) They'll find it a lot more expensive.
  • Duets: Frustration with his dull life as a traveling salesman and a family that didn't seem to appreciate him (along with a healthy dose of beta-blockers) led Todd Woods to drop everything and pursue a cross-country karaoke competition.
  • The phrase is used Lucky Number Slevin as a matter of lifestyle rather than location, where the title character, Slevin, and a crime boss known as "The Rabbi" have a conversation about how he can be both a gangster and a rabbi. When asked point-blank how that works, he turns uncomfortable and admits to being a "bad man" who (as he regains his momentum) doesn't so much justify it as he is both "what could have been" and "what could not", and "[his] grass is always green".
  • In Just One of the Guys, Terry Griffith imagines that life would be easier as a male. She learns otherwise.

  • In Song of the Lioness, Alanna feels stifled by Tortall's rigid view of gender (rightly so, mind) and goes traveling abroad after King Roald pardons her for her Sweet Polly Oliver deception. When she meets the ex-princess of Sarain, though, she's informed that the consensus among their nobility was that she ought to have been put to death for it.
  • This is a plot point in "The Scrambled States of America." Kansas is sick of being stuck in the middle of the country and never meeting any new states, so he decides to have a party and invite all the other states. At the party, the states all decide to switch places. After the states switch places and a few days pass, the states realize they weren't as happy as they thought, so they all go back to their original places.
  • In The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Demane has found he's not a particular fan of war and violence, so he often thinks about the peaceful place he came from. He even calls the place nothing other than 'the green hills'.
  • Nina Tanleven: Discussed in The Ghost in the Third Row after Nine's first visit to Chris's house. While she's happy at home, Nine thinks that she also kind of likes things at her friend's house, since it's always occupied and nobody's ever lonely (in stark contrast to Nine's own home where it's just she and her Dad). However, after some consideration, she decides she'd probably go crazy if she had to live there for real.
  • In Eileen, Eileen has a dull, miserable life in X-ville, and dreams that everything will be better once she leaves and goes to New York City. Based on hints from the narrator, it sounds like things largely did improve once she left, though it was hardly perfect.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Once Upon a Time", the janitor Woodrow Mulligan is driven buggy by the high prices and everyday annoyances of 1890. He steals an experimental time machine and travels forward to 1961, which he assumes will be a utopia. The noise and even higher prices of the then-present convince him that he prefers living in his own time.
  • The 100 has Earth serve as this for the people living on The Ark space station. Given their cramped quarters, lack of resources, and completely sterile and artificial environment, the wide open and natural world they see from orbit seems like it must be a paradise. They even have a religion where Earth serves as their version of Heaven.
    • In Season 2, the people living underneath Mount Weather are revealed to have a similar view of the Earth's surface.

  • Lush's "Single Girl": The song begins with "I don't want to be a single girl"... and then after she finds love and endures some fights and annoyances, the song ends with "I just want to be a single girl".
  • Tom Waits: "I see a red rose blooming, on another man's vine..." from "Another One's Vine" from Blood Money.

  • Little Shop of Horrors: "Far from Skid Row, I dream I'll go, somewhere that's greeeeeeeeen!"
  • West Side Story: "I'd like to be in America! Okay by me in America!"
  • RENT: "We'll open up a restaurant in Santa Fe, sunny Santa Fe would be nice. We'll open up a restaurant in Santa Fe, and leave this to the roaches and mice!"
  • Seussical The Musical: "They say breezes are warm there and people are kind, maybe it's something like Heaven. I close my eyes and I see in my mind skies of bluest blue, and I'm sure it's true... Solla Sollew..."
  • Hair: Manchester, England, England, across the Atlantic sea...
  • Newsies: Santa Fe, my old friend, I can't spend my whole life dreamin', though I know that's all I seem inclined to do! I ain't getting any younger, and I wanna start brand new! I need space and fresh air! Let 'em laugh in my face, I don't care! Save my place, I'll be there.
  • Elisabeth: A particularly dark version in "Nichts, nichts, gar nichts" when touring an asylum The Empress contemplates how much easier her life would be if she would just let herself go insane like the patients within, yet decides against it as it would seem to be too much work to stay mad.

    Video Games 
  • The Legend of Zelda
    • A variation: in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, even though Koholint Island seems like a perfectly fine place to live and nobody else (besides the hero) ever thinks of leaving, Marin wishes to leave and travel the world like a seagull. Even though the island turns out to be All Just a Dream, if you never die in a run of the game it's shown that she gets her wish.
    • What drove Ganon into wanting to get his hands on the three Triforce parts in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was that he envied the winds that blew on the lush green landscape of Hyrule while his country suffered constantly punishing winds that brought only death.
  • Well, not really that he wanted to go to a different country or anything, but...Roxas from Kingdom Hearts II became jealous of the visions he had of Sora and his friends. To the point where he actually betrayed and left Organization XIII because he wanted friends and love so badly. The result? He gets tricked by DiZ into merging with Sora. Not quite what he wanted.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day: Conker realizes only after becoming rich and powerful like he always wanted to be that he had everything he wanted all along. Only by then, it was too late.
    Conker: It's true what they say, the grass is always greener. And you don't really know what it is you have, until it's gone...
  • Team Fortress 2 is the ultimate example of this. 360 players are always complaining that their version never gets any updates like the PC version. PC players are always complaining that their version is getting updated, screaming They Changed It, Now It Sucks! to the point of having an aneurysm towards everything from a class update to more hats to a small tweak in the netcode. A fair number of players have likely switched sides by now.


    Western Animation 
  • As Told by Ginger:
    • Discussed in the theme song. The singer notes that despite having been told this by someone, when comparing the "grass" themselves, they found that it "seemed different, yet exactly the same."
    • The episode "T.G.I.F" has this as the plot, with Ginger staying briefly staying over with the posh Gripling Family.
  • The Simpsons: In "Pray Anything", Homer looks at Flanders' backyard and sees that the grass is literally greener on his side. Marge says it's because he keeps passing out on their lawn, and the camera zooms out to reveal several Homer-shaped patches of dirt.
  • Little Rural Riding Hood has the Country Wolf visit his cousin in the city, and proceeds to go gaga over City Red. Embarrassed by his cousin's lack of self-control, City Wolf drives him back home... and proceeds to go gaga over Country Red, prompting Country Wolf to chide him over his lack of self-control and drive him back home to the city.
  • In Hey Arnold! this is what drives the conflict between Helga Pataki and her older sister Olga over their parents' Parental Favoritism. Helga sees all of the extra attention that Olga gets while Helga herself suffers from severe Parental Neglect and resents Olga as a result, while Olga sees Helga being free to do what she wishes without their parents' interference instead of being constantly expected to perform perfectly "like a wind-up doll" and holds on to her idealized image of her "baby sister" to cope; the inability of both sisters to fully acknowledge the negatives that the other experiences because of their parents' behavior prevents them from fixing the rift between them.
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "The Algae's Always Greener" has Plankton switch places with Mr. Krabs using one of his inventions. He quickly finds that dealing with the bossy and needy Pearl, the grumpy know-it-all Squidward, and the moody, hyperactive, and overly-helpful Spongebob means being as successful as Krabs isn't worth it.
  • 101 Dalmatians: The Series: In "Lucky To Be Alone", Lucky gets tired of living with 98 brothers and sisters and wants more personal space. Pongo and Perdita get the idea to send him to stay with his wealthy cousins, the Vandercreams, where he gets to stay in a massive mansion with a room all to himself, with a butler, and all the luxuries he can imagine. While there are some things he likes and other things he doesn't, the thing he ended up missing the most was being able to spend time with his family.

    Real Life 
  • An anglophone expression that reflects this mindset is "keeping up with the Joneses." The "Joneses" in this case are one's neighbors or peers. To "keep up" with them is to do things not because a person necessarily wants to do them, but because they want to improve their own life by emulating someone else's. In addition, the desire to not be seen as "inferior" to one's peers is also a part of it. Quite often, people who follow this mindset will find themselves buying things they don't need and doing things they don't want but feel obligated to do out of some vague promise of an improved life. However, it rarely pans out this way.
  • Truth in Television, the classic immigrant story, and not just immigrants from one country to another; it's a significant reason for people to move around within a country, too (having found work elsewhere or going off to school are probably the only more common reasons).
  • One particular example can be found in WWII, American forces were issued egg-shaped "Pineapple" grenades, while German troops had "Potato masher" grenades with throwing handles, and both forces were known to favor the other, Americans took a liking to the Potato Mashers they got their hands on because the handle let them throw the grenades further, while Germans hoarded any Pineapples they could get their hands on, as they could fit more of them into their kit than the bulkier grenades they were issued.
  • In a literal example, goats, sheep, and cattle can often be seen reaching through gaps in fences to reach grass growing on the other side even when they have plenty of grass on their side of the fence. Horse fencing has to be tall enough to prevent the horses from reaching the grass on the other side or they'll lean on the fence until they push it over.


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