Being of a certain ethnicity doesn't necessarily mean someone speaks a certain language or even knows much of their heritage. Just because someone is of Mexican descent and their parents speak Spanish doesn't mean they will also be fluent in Spanish. Nor do they necessarily know much about their food or other aspects of the culture.
There is Truth in Television in this. For example, studies show that each generation living in a certain country are less likely to be bilingual than the preceding one. So a person who moved from South Korea to Canada will often have grandchildren who can't speak a lick of Korean. People who do not speak the language associated with their heritage can be made to feel embarrassed or awkward for it, or might have internalized feelings of inadequacy due to their lack of understanding, which may opt them to learn it as a second language later in life.
Compare to My Species Doth Protest Too Much, The Whitest Black Guy, Culturally Religious, and Trans Nature. Can result from being adopted by a family of a different background; see Interracial Adoption Struggles. They may try to connect with their heritage further by taking a "Rediscovering Roots" Trip, though doing so could result in Stranger in a Familiar Land.
If there is a deliberate disconnection with heritage based on some incompatible practices or beliefs, (like an atheist teetotaler shunning a heritage rooted in a history of alcohol and religion), this trope may run headlong into others like My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting, Misplaced Nationalism , and Cultural Cringe.
- A Spanish language Goya commercial has a young Latina girl telling her mother that she has to make a cultural food for school. Her choice? Nachos. Her family is horrified and they end up making flan instead.
- One episode of Chihayafuru has the characters going against a group of "foreigners". They begin speaking in Gratuitous English with Japanese accents and mispronounce their words. This however was intentional. The characters were raised in Japan and can barely speak English. They were pretending to be from another country to freak out the competition.
- ''Daltanious: Kento rejects his Heliosian heritage at every turn even though he's their Alien Prince. The opposite can be said of his Japanese side - his grandfather was a traditional Japanese kite painter, something the boy took great interest in.
- Massugu ni Ikou: Hanako didn't know she was a Kishu until she overheard her vet mention it.
- In One Piece, Sanji purposefully abandons his family's royal heritage when he was eight due to years of being abused by his father and older brothers.
- Fifth grader Ana Coppola of Strawberry Marshmallow, whose family is originally from England, has lived in Japan for as long as she can remember. She and her family have integrated to such a degree that Ana has next to no English skill whatsoever and is generally more knowledgeable about Japanese culture than her Japanese peers. This bothers her enough that she tries to ramp up how foreign she is at school and works with her classmate Matsuri to re-learn her mother tongue.
- Similar to the Chihayafuru example above, Olivia in Asobi Asobase likes to pretend to be a Foreign Exchange Student and speaks Japanese with a fake accent, but is actually the daughter of an immigrant family who grew up in Japan and can't even speak English.
- Langa Hasegawa from Sk8 the Infinity is half-Japanese and half-Canadian, but he's lived in Canada for most of his life and he and his mother only moved to Okinawa after his father died, so he's out of touch with Japanese culture as a result. While he's mostly fluent in Japanese, he can't speak with keigo very well and his ability to read and write in Japanese leaves a lot to be desired.
- Diary of a Tokyo Teen is an autobiographical comic book about a teenager's visit to Japan. She was born in Japan but moved to America at a young age. She's visited Japan before but there's still a culture clash.
- Dick Grayson was retconned as Romani in the late 1990s. It's been shown that he doesn't know much about his heritage and doesn't understand the language.
- This is the initial conflict of Double Happiness. Tom, a Chinese-American from Brooklyn, moves in with some relatives in San Francisco's Chinatown. He doesn't recognize the culture, the food, or even the language his relatives are speaking. This leads him to fear that he's too white to be Chinese.
- In Heis'he Ri'nanovai, Morgaiah t'Thavrau has to explain an aspect of Romulan homeworld noble culture to her executive officer Sarsachen tr'Sauringar, who though also Romulan, grew up as a commoner on a border colony and spent fifteen years in Starfleet.
- Downplayed in the Jem fic Starlight Is For Always. Because of her Latin surname, it's thought that Pilar can understand Spanish, but despite her Mexican-American parentage, Pilar only understands English.
- Gold Eyes To Red: Alphonse is half-Ishvalan through his Disappeared Dad. He was raised by his mother and feels nothing towards Ishvalan culture. This gets him into arguments with Scar, who believes Al should learn about Ishvalans more. In the end, Alphonse decides to take up Scar's offer to educate him on Ishvalan culture.
- Kimi No Na Iowa: Inverted in that Imamura's traditionalism and insularity from the wider America means Ayaka is fully in touch with her roots; Japanese shipgirls are surprised by her cultural and linguistic abilities, joking about her secretly being one of theirs, and a friend of Nakahara's doesn't notice anything wrong when she uses a cover story of having come down from Gifu. Also discussed with both Japanese characters and older ex-Imamurans showing disdain towards yonsei and other subsequent-generation Japanese Americans who have lost their way.
- Word of God is that Goth Boy from The Book of Life is of Mexican descent, but he is as clueless about Mexico as the other kids.
- In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo is raised by Frollo completely ignorant of his Roma heritage.
- In Turning Red, Mei as a Chinese-Canadian can't speak Cantonese fluently despite being raised by two Cantonese speaking parents. Her minimal knowledge of Mandarin is criticized by her aunties in the Novelization.
- In Sweet Country, it's a recurring theme that the Aboriginal characters working for the white settlers are cut off from their ancestors' culture, many of them having been separated from their culture as children. When Sam and his wife flee into Aboriginal tribal lands, they're almost as out of place there as the white posse pursuing them.
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Katy Chen is Chinese-American, has a limited grasp of Chinese (she can't really speak it but she understands her grandmother perfectly well) and identifies more as an American than Chinese. Shang-Chi purposefully abandoned his lineage as the heir to the criminal Ten Rings, but he and his sister Xialing are able to connect with their mother's mystical heritage in Ta Lo. Also, having lived their childhoods in China (unlike Katy), they are fluent in Chinese.
- The Beast Player: When Elin has an audience with Halumiya, Halumiya reveals that, due to losing her mother and grandmother to a terrorist attack at a young age, she didn't get to keep her heritage beyond the official founding myth of their kingdom. Halumiya is grateful when Elin tells her about the origins of her ancestor Jeh.
- Half-Jewish on his father's side and half-Puerto Rican on his mother's side, J from I Am J was raised rather nonreligiously. His father rarely brought up his Jewish heritage or faith and only briefly tried to "act Jewish" when J was ten. As a result, J is pretty clueless on Jewish culture. He does remember one prayer, however.
- One of the side characters in Debt of Honor is Chester "Chet" Nomuri, a fourth-generation Japanese-American working as a CIA field officer in Japan. Several times, the narration of his parts of the story remarks on how different his ancestral homeland is from his birthplace.
- Olga Dies Dreaming:
- When Dick suggests to his girlfriend Olga (whose mother is a radicalized Puerto Rican nationalist who has been estranged from her children for years) that they attend an event in Puerto Rico so she can visit her "motherland", she coldly informs her that her motherland is Brooklyn.
- As for Olga's brother Prieto, their mother questions his identity as Puerto Rican to his face, given that he votes in favor of legislation against Puerto Rico's interests.
- In Wings of Fire, Glory was stolen from the RainWings while still an egg, and raised in a multi-tribe collective that, while not necessarily favoring any one tribe's culture over another, still looked down heavily upon RainWings. Thus, when she finally gets to visit her people in the third book, she ends up a Boomerang Bigot who hates her own culture for being too much like the stereotypes she's been taught to hate. Her adoptive siblings of other tribes have to gently convince her that her own culture has value.
- In Snuff, a Discworld novel that explores goblin culture, one character is Billy Slick, a city goblin who has no interest in any of that stuff. Captain Angua, herself a werewolf, reflects "And so, little by little, we all become human ... The melting pot only ever melts in one direction."
- The protagonist of the Rain of the Ghosts series, Rain Cacique, is Taíno (the Native people of the Caribbean islands) on both sides of her family, but starts off the series without much of a sense of what that means. As she delves more into the mystery of the zemis and the Ghost Keys, aside from the magical elements, she finds herself learning more about her heritage and fostering a stronger connection to her people's history and culture. Her grandfather Sebastian also knows very little about their Taíno background, due largely to the schools when he was growing up actively discouraging such learning.
Sebastian: Told us we should be Americans. And the mythology of America was George Washington and the cherry tree.
- 4400: Although Mariah is biracial, she's spent most of her life being raised by her white father and white stepmother, and thus doesn't have much connection to her black roots.
- In The Big Bang Theory, Raj - despite being an Indian - hates the idea of living in India. The unexpectedness of this is played for comedy, especially since he is stereotypically Indian in other ways - being a geek, believing in Hinduism, etc. For instance, in one episode Sheldon's looking for mental challenges and Raj suggests learning Hindi, only to sheepishly admit he never learned Hindi when it turns out Sheldon already did.
- Duncan from Community often uses incorrect British terminology as part of a joke. He has lived in America from a young age and doesn't actually know much about British culture.
- Never Have I Ever:
Devi: Some old loser was telling me that I'm too Indian, and some other people think I'm not Indian enough.
- Played with, with Devi. She's the daughter of first-generation Indian immigrants, and though she grew up in the States, she still practices a lot of traditional customs. She's just not entirely good at them. As a corollary of where she grew up, she also behaves in distinctly "all-American" ways, causing her to clash with her mother and her relatives from Asia.
- Played with again with Kamala. Kamala is a lot more Indian "Indian" than Devi, having grown up in India. However, she's also not a traditionalist, and finds herself more inclined towards Western ideals as she lives abroad. Nalini says as much, saying she looks like "a careerist Western woman" when she attempts to meet her arranged-fiancé for the first time in smart jeans and a blazer — which she is, Nalini concedes, but he doesn't need to know that yet.
- Daya from Orange Is the New Black gets scorn from other Latina inmates (even her own mother) for being Puerto Rican but being unable to speak Spanish.
- Ana Sofia from Telenovela is the lead of a popular Spanish-speaking telenovela but can't speak Spanish at all. Hilarity Ensues.
- Gentefied: Because of his family moving to Idaho when he was young, Chris is not considered "Mexican enough" by his family and co-workers when he moves back to LA.
- Estranged sisters Emma and Lyn from Vida are both Mexican-American. Lyn is mocked for not knowing Spanish fluently, while Emma made a point of learning it to grow fluent, since their family spoke only "Spanglish" before.
- The Sopranos: "Commendatori" sees Tony, Paulie, and Christopher go on a business trip to Naples. Once they're there, they experience a big Culture Clash between their working class Italian-American upbringings and authentic Italian culture and society. After Paulie asks for macaroni and gravy en lieu of the exquisite Mediterranean cuisine he's served, two of the Italian mobsters mock him in Italian (which he can't understand):
"And you thought the Germans were classless pieces of shit."
- Reservation Dogs: "City Indians" such as Jackie, Augusto Firekeeper, and MissM8tri@rch have trouble fitting in on the reservation. The latter two come off as overcompensating with their activism, and MissM8tri@rch also seems embarrassed to admit that she comes from the Bay Area. Amber Midthunder, who played her, noted in an interview too that her outfit is a mishmash from different tribes' traditional clothing, subtly indicating that she's not actually too familiar with their traditions.
- In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Daigo Hiraga is half-Japanese but white-passing. Combined with his tumultuous upbringing- his white father having abused his Japanese mother until she disappeared one day- he has some issues with his familial connections.
- In the intro fic to a Shadowrun Beginner's Box, the human character is surprised when the elf doesn't speak Sperethiel. Though, in that case it's because the language has only been around for a couple generations and was introduced by a group of separatists that her parents refused to join.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition:
- Sera is an elf, but actively (and, at times, violently) shuns everything "elfy" and is terrified of anything pertaining to ancient elven history. It is a consequence of her being raised mostly by humans, with little contact with members of her own race and those elves she has interacted with often judging her for not being in touch with her heritage.
- A Qunari Inquisitor will also get this reaction from The Iron Bull if they speak to him about their heritage, Bull is quite insistent that the Inquisitor is not a Qunari since they were born outside the culture and don't follow the Qun, instead they are a Vashoth (as opposed to their parents, who are Tal Vashoth since they intentionally left). Given the way the Inquisitor reacts to certain phrases Bull uses it's implied they don't really speak Qunlat either.
- In Persona 2, party member Lisa Silverman has two white American parents who are naturalized Japanese citizens, so you'd expect her to be fluent in English, but she can only speak Japanese and Cantonese as a result of her Otaku parents wanting her to be a traditional Yamato Nadeshiko.
- Despite her blonde hair, blue eyes, and western name, the half-Scottish Lily from Katawa Shoujo is Japanese through-and-through. She can barely speak a lick of English and doesn't quite like Scotland.
- Little Busters!: This is a real source of angst for Kud. She's ethnically Russian (her full first name is Kudryavka), but she grew up on a fictional Pacific island officially owned by the USSR (a clip from the anime implies she was one of few white people living there) and then spent many years travelling around the world with her Japanese grandfather; as it was always intended that she attends high school in Japan, she was taught the language from a young age. However, when she does start living in Japan full time, she finds that almost all of her peers simply treat her as a Funny Foreigner type. She tries to fulfill their expectations, but due to her Japanese upbringing and terrible English skills she can't really manage it and ends up disappointing them. (Her Russian seems to be much better, but is also apparently less 'cute.') As a result she ends up feeling very isolated, and like there's no place in the world where she actually belongs.
- Emirichu discusses this about her own status as the daughter of Korean immigrants growing up in the United States. She was so afraid of being different compared to her classmates that she refused to learn Korean, something which she regrets now.
- Sparrow from But I'm a Cat Person is Jewish by birth but, despite the attempts by her mother, is barely connected to her heritage.
- Numbuh 1 from Codename: Kids Next Door has an English accent but is American raised. When he and his father visit England, Nigel ends up confused due to the differences in language and culture.
- In King of the Hill, the episode "Orange You Sad I Did Say Banana" deals with Kahn's mindset about his home country. In the episode, Kahn begins to feel he's not in touch with his Laotian heritage after Ted Wasongasong calls him a "banana" (a derogatory term for an Asian person who acts like a white person). As a result, Kahn tries to act more like a "traditional" Laotian, much to the dismay of his wife and daughter. However, when Kahn finds out that Ted wants him to fight in a battle against the Laotian government, he calls Ted out on it and goes back to living the way he wants to.
- Penny from Littlest Pet Shop (2012) visits other pandas in China in one episode. However, she finds out she has little in common with them. In turn, they think America is essentially how it was in Singin' in the Rain and other older film musicals.
- Miraculous Ladybug: Marinette Dupain-Cheng has Chinese ancestry through her mother's side, but is terrible at speaking in Mandarin compared to blonde, green-eyed Adrien Agreste. Played for comedy rather than angst or drama when a relative of Marinette's from The Old Country comes to visit and Adrien is drafted in to translate while her mother is busy elsewhere, impeded by Marinette's inability to be near Adrien without turning into a blushing, stammering and all-round fangirlish mess.
- On Big Mouth, Missy's older cousins point out that her parents have been depriving her of her culture, in an attempt to raise her in a post-racial household. She doesn't know how to take care of Black hair (having followed her mother's example and used a six-in-one shampoo that's frankly not even appropriate for white people's hair, let alone Black hair), and the concept of code-switching is completely foreign to her, as is the idea of using sweet potato in a pie.