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Humans Through Alien Eyes

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Koopa Police Radio: Alien species escaping from police detention.
Luigi: Aliens? We gotta deal with aliens too?
Mario: Luigi, we're the aliens.
Luigi: We are? Whoa, cool!

Stories that have humans interact with aliens who are actually alien run into the fact that we're as weird to them as they are to us. This can cause the most remarkable misunderstandings....

This is a heavily literary trope, because the basic concepts are easier to convey in writing. One variant has humans as cosmic abominations to primitive aliens. See also Culture Clash. Many times, they think Humans Are Ugly. This can also be used for a nice, satisfying Author Tract with the aliens puzzling "But why do they (insert the opposite of the author's worldview here)?" An Author Avatar alien can encounter humans and deliver the Author Tract through what for the alien (in-universe) is innocent questioning but for the author (out-of-universe) is Socratic irony. This works because, as we all know, an alien encountering human culture for the first time would reach conclusions that all agree with those of the author.

If the aliens are the good guys, then it is Humans Are the Real Monsters. If the aliens are more socially and technologically advanced, it's Humans Are Morons. If the aliens want to figure out humanity, then Humanity Is Infectious. If the aliens completely freak out and go insane at the sight of humans, then it is Humans Are Cthulhu. It can result in Alien Arts Are Appreciated. Can overlap with Just the Introduction to the Opposites if humans and aliens switch roles, but the context is still the usual "aliens visit Earth" situation. Wildlife Commentary Spoof can overlap when it involves "alien" perspective of humans.

See also Xenofiction, which does not necessarily feature humans, but takes the viewpoint of truly alien aliens. May be used to highlight Bizarre Alien Psychology or Biology.


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  • A classic series of adverts in Britain for the product Smash featured a family of Martians laughing at how inefficient the process humans used to make mashed potatoes was. ("They dig them up out of the ground. They peel them with their little knives. They boil them for twenty of their minutes.") They then contrasted this with how quick and convenient it was to make mashed potatoes from Smash, a powdered starch which only required the addition of milk or water.

  • BoBoiBoy: The alien antagonists Adu Du and Probe, a green box-headed alien and purple robot respectively, initially believed humans were cruel to creatures of their colours when they saw what humans did to vegetables such as broccoli and eggplants. They do find out what vegetables are later though.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Butler: Though not an alien per se, Sebastian has a chapter dedicated entirely to his view of humans. While he doesn't find them unattractive physically (judging by the fact that he sleeps with a couple), he finds most wants and desires to be trivial and their very personalities abhorrent most of the time and finds kitties to be more pleasurable to be around, explaining to the viewers that there is nothing in Hell half as cute as a cat. Apparently the closest they have to a cat in Hell are... xenomorphs. Later chapters suggest that he simply doesn't comprehend human emotions or basic needs. For all his power and grace, his only known drives are hunger and the aforementioned love of cats, leaving human physical weakness and emotional complexities quite alien to him indeed.
  • Dragon Ball Z: When Android 17 kills Dr. Gero by stomping on his detached head, everyone, save Vegeta, is shocked. Krillin talks about how unbelievable it is that the android killed his own creator. Vegeta scoffs at them, saying that humans are the strange ones since most species kill anyone who gets in their way, regardless if they're their parents.
  • Kamisama Kiss: Tomoe doesn't seem to understand human emotions a lot of times. Mizuki is pretty much in the same boat.

    Comic Books 
  • ElfQuest: This comes up occasionally.
    • The plot of Mender's Tale revolves around an elf trying to understand humans better. He thinks the best way to do that is sleeping with a couple of women, while the humans in question have what we would consider extremely conservative views in those matters. Huge problems ensue.
    • Jink features an alien race which at first cannot even communicate directly with humans. One individual, Firstborn Newbreed, is made as a sort of ambassador and sent to learn more about humans. He has not the slightest idea about etiquette and is very honest ("Your kind are all so ugly"). When someone tells him this is considered rude, he's devastated to the point of making serious requests of "Kill me now!", because courtesy is very important in his culture, so he failed his mission.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • One Uncle Scrooge comic has Scrooge reactivating a crashed alien satellite, causing his money bin to warp to deep space without him. To get it back, he follows in Gyro's spaceship, only to find it has been claimed by the alien equivalent of rednecks, who treat the ducks as hostile alien beasts incapable of intelligent thought, since they can't speak their language. In case you didn't already guess — yes, it is an Affectionate Parody of 1950s sci-fi B-movies (specifically the "alien encounter" kind), and yes, it's written by Don Rosa.
    • In Paperinik New Adventures we sometime see the Evronian point of view on not just humans but other aliens. As the Evronians are heavily militaristic emotionally-crippled Emotion Eaters who fully believe in their own superiority, it's not pretty.
  • In A Distant Soil, an alien who is undercover as a botanist brings plant samples back to the mothership. He walks over to Liana on his ship and asks her what Earthlings call that beautiful flower in his hand. Liana looks surprised at this, because this flower is a dandelion, which as anyone would know is considered a weed. This is actually a rather big part of the early arc(s) of the series. Rieken finds it odd that there is a pregnant woman walking around town and thinks she should be sitting down. (Also because Ovanians are test tube babies.) When Liana calls him out on having sex with Bast, Rieken finds it odd that humans see adultery as a crime.
  • A The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen issue has Allen Quatermain's body taken over by a fragment of Yuggoth, the Wendigo. A few paragraphs are devoted to what the Wendigo is barely capable of comprehending about Allen's body; describing it as, "a soft, five-pointed star of rind and pulp enclosing a strange, spider-like machinery of brittle bone."
  • A common plot point in Sleepwalker is that the titular alien, being native to the Mindscape (a Mind Screw even by Marvel standards), finds the human world just as bizarre as it finds him. He finds a club playing loud music to be a relaxing experience, and he just doesn't get why humans hate each other over physical differences that would be considered completely trivial in the Mindscape.
  • Watchmen: A variation occurs. Part of Doctor Manhattan's subplot deals with his humanity slowly fading as a result of his transformation into an omnipotent, non-linear entity. As such, he fails to understand why Laurie would be upset when he splits his consciousness between multiple bodies to make love to her more efficiently (while at least one additional copy of himself was simultaneously working in the lab). Later, when he teleports them both to Mars, he's initially confused when she suddenly starts choking, having honestly forgotten that humans can't survive without a suitable atmosphere and need to breathe.
  • Several stories about the Martian Manhunter have him trying to figure out mankind shortly after being brought to Earth, usually via the medium of television. Many versions tend to be fascinated by the delicacy known as "the Oreo".

    Comic Strips 
  • The early 20th century comic strip Mr. Skygack, from Mars revolves around the eponymous Martian reporter observing (and humorously misinterpreting) everyday scenes of life on Earth. For example, he once mistook a couple being married as criminals being harangued by a judge for their crimes.
  • Calvin and Hobbes had a story arc in which Calvin and Hobbes leave Earth in Calvin's wagon. Calvin does so because he is upset with how polluted Earth is, and decides he'd rather start over on a new planet. While on Mars, they come across a Martian. Calvin and Hobbes scream and run... but the Martian does the same. Calvin reasons that it doesn't make sense that the Alien would run from a Human until Hobbes reminds Calvin of humanity's reputation. Realizing they're intruding on a planet unspoiled by humans, Calvin apologizes to the hiding Martian, and both he and Hobbes return home; deciding that they should fix their own planet before taking other planets.
    Calvin: Hidden?? Do you think he's scared of us?
    Hobbes: Why not? We're scared of him.
    Calvin: Yeah, but we're just ordinary Earthlings, not weirdos from another planet like he is.

    Fan Works 
  • Black Crayons: Ironhide, and later Bumblebee, have initial trouble with how the crayon drawings are supposed to represent reality.
  • A Certain Droll Hivemind: The fic has some elements of this, as Misaka-11111 filters perfectly ordinary human interaction through a very bizarre lens.
  • Dear Diary: Similar to the above example, this fan fiction is narrated by the formerly wild Pokémon Prima, who comments on humanity's idiosyncrasies; their naming system, customs, idioms, cities and structures, and their ambitions.
  • Doing It Right This Time: Kaworu admires human culture but he does not understand many aspects of human thought. When he undergoes a sex change as part of a plan to break the Dead Sea Scrolls prophecies, he does not get why the other time-travellers are so puzzled about him having boobs.
  • Jim Kirk's Guide to the Universe features a short section from Spock's perspective, in which humans are described as "mostly Vulcanoid in appearance".
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero: Kuyou Suou shows this trope when the story is seen from her point of view: for example, she observes Mikuru baking cookies with childish fascination. It's the first time she has the time to observe anything in detail note  so there are lots of first experiences for her.
  • Mistranslation is an interesting Homestuck piece describing the humans views on love and hatred from the perspective of the Alternian Empire.
  • Mass Effect:
  • Medicated is an Amphibia Alternate Universe Fic where the human girls were transported to Amphibia as infants, where the locals raised them and used potions to temporarily transform them into amphibians. Since no one, not even the trio themselves, have seen a human before in Amphibia, they tend to get described as alien and strange. Anne's human form is frequently called hideous, and she finds a lot of aspects of human biology weird, such as being warm-blooded, having only her nose to smell through, and weaker night vision.
  • Reunions Are a Bitch: The sixteenth chapter is probably one of the better examples out there, and could almost be considered an essay on the subject, if for no other reason than that it takes into account just how much raw data is being pumped out from Earth every second, with many Colonial intelligence operatives commenting that they have no idea what is fiction and what is reality due to all the radio signals coming from Earth getting all jumbled together, not to mention the fact that they're being broadcast in dozens of different languages. They end up thinking at the end of the chapter that Star Trek was a documentary, the Earth is infested with Kaiju, the Third Reich was the good guy in World War II, and that the Earth is secretly ruled by an evil dictatorship that brainwashed everyone into believing they're monotheists.
  • The "Human in Equestria" concept has become so prolific in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic community, that (the most popular MLP fanfic website) had to create a "Human" tag just to accommodate it.
    • ARTICLE 2 is about a human spaceship crashing into Equestria. The story is told from the perspective of the Equestrians.
    • Played straight as well as inverted in the Human in Equestria fanfic Arrow 18 Mission Logs and the two stories that make it up. The first, Lone Ranger, is written from the perspective of the human scientist. The other, Twilight Sparkle's Notes, is this trope, and is written from the perspective of Twilight Sparkle instead.
    • An unusual example in The Writing on the Wall, as the humans are all long since dead, but left behind a warning for anything which came afterwards, regardless of what it was. Too bad Daring Do was Wrong Genre Savvy and assumed the eponymous writing was a curse meant to warn away tomb robbers and instead doomed the team to dying from radiation poisoning from the nuclear waste the building housed.
    • Pink Personal Hell And Altering Fate has Pinkie Pie mention how she finds humans to be weird.
    • In the Lunaverse sidestory Helping... hands?, Lyra ends up turned into a human by a miscast zebra ritual (and unlike her fanonical depiction, she does not enjoy it). Throughout the narrative, her bizarre new anatomy is referred to in equine or otherwise familiar terms ("flank", "dock", "barrel"; her hands are referred to as "paws" or "claws"). Lyra herself is referred to as a hominid or "furless bear-creature". She also spends most time naked or wrapped in a borrowed cloak since she doesn't know she's supposed to cover herself more, but the narrative never turns to fanservice and nopony finds her freakish appearance attractive anyway.
    • Rainbow Dash Reads Homestuck starts off with a pegasus observing John Egbert and being confused at his antics. It only gets worse when the askers explain arms to her — of course, knowing Dash (and her former best friend has hands regardless) this is probably just her ego speaking:
      Rainbow Dash: The biggest thing I'm getting from this is that there is a type of limb more awesome than wings. I'm sorry, but I just can't accept that.
  • She Might Be Giant: Being the only "Giant"/human that the inhabitants of Bugaria have ever seen, Melissa is a rather fascinating individual to them, and them being weirded out by her biology — none of them have any particular experience with how vertebrates are put together, to begin with — is a bit of a Running Gag. For instance, Doctor H.B. originally mistakes her ears for breathing spiracles.
  • Shudo cross Modern Ash: The League Refocused has Pikachu comment on humanity, commenting on their paradoxical relationship with shame and sexuality as well as the nature of naming, human self-criticism, and the human and Pokémon relationships through the eyes of a Pokémon.
  • Snippets of Sirin Shariac's life: Several Chapters are written from the perspective of Bella or Kurikara, two Honkai beasts given sentience, and often put emphasis on them failing to understand humans. This ranges from celebrating birthdays to the simple act of sleeping.
  • Peter Watts' "The Things" is a chilling take on The Thing (1982) from creature's POV. From the perspective of a millennia-old empathic shape-shifting intergalactic ambassador who can spread its consciousness across separated parts, we Earthlings aren't just primitive but barely sapient tumors that walk.
    "I will work behind the scenes. I will save them from the inside, or their unimaginable loneliness will never end. These poor savage things will never embrace salvation. I will have to rape it into them."
  • In What Tomorrow Brings, Gafinilan and Mertil haven't spent as much time among humans as Ax or Elfangor, so they're unfamiliar with mundane objects such as beds.

    Films — Animation 
  • Happy Feet follows Mumble trying to find the aliens who "abducted" another bird (radio-tagging) and were taking the penguins' fish. One of the final shots, of the aliens' ship (a helicopter) landing and the heavily suited aliens stepping out, is filmed with all the awe of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • Planet 51: The basic premise has a space-suited human accidentally terrorize an extraterrestrial suburb (as well as an extraterrestrial "doggy").
  • Fantastic Planet: the aliens see humans as pets or little more than labor animals. They kill humans with the same carelessness as we do when killing a bug.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Avatar did this subtly by holding the camera at Na'vi height whenever the two species interact to make humans look a bit out of place.
  • Coneheads has a few moments like this, by virtue of Beldar and Prymaat being the protagonists. In particular, one scene has Prymaat reading through The Bible only to burst out laughing.
  • K-PAX: prot (if he really is an alien) is on Earth as a tourist since he finds it a uniquely fascinating place. Some of his observations are very thought-provoking.
    Dr Mark Powell: So there are no laws on K-Pax?
    prot: No laws, no lawyers.
  • The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human is presented as an alien wildlife documentary about, well, human mating habits.
  • Star Trek: Generations: We get a Klingon perspective on human appearance when the Duras sisters spy on the Enterprise through Geordi's visor. When Dr. Crusher (who most humans would consider attractive) appears on the feed, the sisters make "ick" faces.
    B'Etor: Human females are so repulsive!
  • Stepsister from Planet Weird: The title applies to both girls, as the alien girl and her Manic Pixie Dream Guy father are actually air bubble-like aliens taking on human forms on earth. Much wangsting is done about her hideous new "meat body" and how terrifying this windy planet is and how utterly weird human culture is. However, she ultimately comes around and comes to like and appreciate humans when she sees that humans can be very kind and place a great value on personal freedoms (as she and her father had to escape their despotic home world). Of course, her human stepsister helping her overthrow the tyrannical emperor in the climax definitely helps.

  • Larry Niven's Known Space series:
    • Kzinti are amazed by the (at the time) highly pacifistic human mindset reported by their telepaths...and unpleasantly surprised by humans' facility for converting peaceful technologies to warfare uses when they found it necessary to take up violence again.
    • The Kzinti also consistently underestimate human females (or "manretti" as they call them), as the females of their own species are non-sapient (though it wasn't always this way; they got ahold of advanced technology as a stone-age culture and bioengineered themselves to their rather sexist ideals). It doesn't occur to them that a female could pose a threat—this costs them dearly on occasion.
  • Footfall, (also) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle:
    • The alien invaders are shocked that humans are willing to destroy large swaths of their own territory with nuclear weapons rather than let the aliens hold onto their initial conquests to use as forward bases for further assaults. The result is that it honestly never occurred to them that humans would attack their initial invasion forces with nuclear missiles, so they took no precautions against it. They lost a lot of soldiers as a result.
    • The alien invaders reflexively remain submissive once they've surrendered to an opponent. One winds up becoming adviser to the President. While he's obviously vital in helping the humans understand the perspective of the aliens, they're very careful to keep it a secret from him that the humans don't trust him implicitly and wholeheartedly. The aliens on the home planet find it difficult to understand beings that will pick themselves up after a defeat and come back for a rematch. This includes understanding that the humans that they've captured cannot be trusted implicitly and wholeheartedly.
    • The key to the lack of understanding is that the aliens are herbivores and herd animals. They cannot conceive of intelligent life being anything else, so when the humans act differently to what they expect — such as having sex with someone other than an acknowledged mate — they can only think that the humans they meet have gone rogue (like elephants), i.e., are insane. As events unfold, they start to wonder if the entire human species is insane.
  • Star Trek novel Final Frontier (no, not the movie The Final Frontier) has a moment when a human and a Romulan are trapped in a place where they're about to be eaten by beasts, and the Romulan muses that this "must be hard" for the Human, who seems ready to fight till the end and never accept the inevitable (just the time to show off the state-of-the-art transporter technology, too).
    T'Cael: (stunned) "You have transporters!"
    George Samuel Kirk: (casually) "Yeah, they're new."
  • C. J. Cherryh:
    • Chanur Saga: Most of the main characters are aliens and the plot revolves around the results when a crew of hani merchants take in a single human who had escaped from the kif. The story is told strictly from the perspective of said crew, which along with the general absence of helpful Translator Microbes helps reinforce the alienness of the human in their familiar environment.
    • Her Foreigner series features the Atevi, tall humanoids with black skin and golden eyes. Humans lack these features, which atevi find spooky, to the point where ateva children check under their beds for humans.
  • The aliens in Terry Bisson's short story "They're Made Out of Meat" find the idea of purely organic intelligent beings incredible (not to mention disgusting—it's strongly implied that the norm for intelligent life is Mechanical Lifeforms and/or Energy Beings, and it's outright stated the closest they've come to this before are species with metamorphic life cycles that have an organic stage, or creatures with organic bodies but an electronic or energy-based brain), and decide to sweep the whole thing under the rug rather than make contact.
  • Arthur C. Clarke's short story "Crusade" is also about aliens looking at human biology with alien eyes and little tolerance.
  • This is a major theme in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game series. In the first novel, it takes the Hivemind alien race some time to adjust to the idea that each human being lives mentally separate from others, which lead to a disastrous First Contact (which in turn lead to the war that started the plot) when they captured a human ship and killed all the crew- which they thought of as a normal way of disabling communications that at worst would be mildly annoying to the humans' Hive Queen, but humans saw as an unprovoked massacre. In the sequels, humanity encounters others: one species which goes through a radical metamorphosis upon "death" — and thus they find it nearly impossible to conceive of death as a tragedy, because for them it leads to full adulthood. Later, a species which communicates using molecular engineering crops up.
  • Harry Harrison's "The Streets Of Ashkelon": A human missionary converts an alien culture to Christianity. The aliens then try to initiate the millennium of the missionary's message by crucifying him and waiting for him to rise on the third day. The twist being they were committed pacifists BEFORE he succeeded...
  • Something similar is mentioned in a Ijon Tichy story from The Star Diaries: A missionary tells a race of thoroughly altruistic aliens about the holy martyrdom, and they torture him to death so that he will become a saint.
  • In Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The Galaxy, the Rat has to deal with an alien confederation hell-bent on exterminating humanity, because all the decent people in the galaxy are utterly squicked out with a disgusting race of creepies who have dry unscaly skin, no tentacles, no healthy exudation of slime, only two eyes.... it is held to be a kindness to exterminate this hideous deformed species.
  • Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series:
    • Aliens who did their initial recon of Earth in the Middle Ages arrive during World War II, expecting humans to still be at medieval tech levels and prepared accordingly.
    • Aliens are utterly repulsed by human sexuality (not only do Tosevites not have a mating season like "normal people," they also have this weird exclusive-mating agreement known as marriage that typically is for life... and don't even get me STARTED on that whole birth instead of hatching issue or the "nutrient fluid" that females secrete.)
    • Early on in the invasion, Molotov is brought up into orbit (becoming the first Russian and second human in space) to meet with the leader of the invasion force. While discussing the leader's aims and reasoning behind the invasion he explains that they are doing so in accordance with their Emperor's will, Molotov then proudly proclaims that his people killed their emperor (the Tsar). The alien leader is horrified to hear this since, due to subtle differences between their sociology and that of humans, the diplomat had effectively admitted to murdering his God (though that's practically what it would sound like to a medieval Russian, too. Regicide was a very, very high crime, probably higher than patricide — the Tsar was also known as the "little father" anyway). Of course, as godless communists, Molotov and the Soviets DID murder God as well, in a manner of speaking. It is mentioned later on in the series that a member of the Race once tried to kill the Emperor. His name is now spoken with the same kind of scorn a human would reserve for Hitler.
    • Since the (alien) Race has been ruled by an Emperor for uncounted thousands of years, they don't even have words for other forms of government. The best they can come up with is to call them "not-empires." They also sometimes derisively refer to democracy as "snout counting." They even have to revive the concept of ambassadors, since their world was unified millennia ago.
  • David Weber's The Apocalypse Troll: A bunch of aliens who were hell-bent on wiping out every other sentient race in the universe find themselves with a fight on their hands due to under-estimating humanity's adaptability and rate of development, as well as not realizing that we'd reverse engineer every bit of their technology we could get our hands on in order to improve our chances.
  • Animorphs:
    • Of particular note from the main series, humans are, apparently, the only tailless, fully-bipedal species that the Andalites have heard of. They are continually astounded by our ability to walk without falling down.
    • The main series features Ax, a Token Andalite who morphs into a human, and books from his perspective are naturally ripe with alien commentary on human foibles. He's amazed by how quickly human technology advances, many of our cultural practices, and being a mouthless telepath, thinks of talking and taste as Bizarre Alien Senses (which often trip him up). He also loves television, especially "These Messages" (advertising).
    • The Andalite Chronicles is a Prequel from Elfangor's perspective, and kicks off when he rescues two captured aliens from The Greys. Having had even less experience with humans then Ax, a lot of his narration is spent on his view of us—being shocked and appalled when Loren takes off her "hoof" (shoe), puzzlement over what humans eat, distaste for our music, and so on.
    • Visser is a villain novel from the viewpoint of a Yeerk, Visser One. We're the perfect species for them to conquer in terms of biology, technological weakness and especially population size, but she quickly finds that Humanity Is Infectious.
  • Harry Turtledove's "The Road Not Taken": Due to chance, humanity never stumbled on the ability to control gravity and travel faster than light that practically every other alien civilization has. Unfortunately for the aliens, it's so easy to stumble on to this technology that they do it early in their histories and don't make much progress in other areas of science and technology. The invaders arrive on Earth and try to conquer the world with Napoleonic tactics and flintlock firearms. In the 21st century. It's a brief invasion.
  • The beginning of The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi has a scientist trying to escape a military base which is under attack by aliens. He's captured by one, and being a xenobiologist starts describing the "ugly hominid", concluding with his final thought as he's drugged to unconsciousness: "F---ing humans..."
  • This is one of the main themes of David Brin's Uplift series. Not only are the aliens actually alien, they've had civilization for billions of years. Everything you could ever want to know can be looked up the Great Library — which leads to cultural clashes; for instance, few alien languages even have a word for "change". Many chapters are told via point-of-view characters who are either aliens, dolphins, or chimpanzees.
  • Happens with most, if not all, genuinely alien (as opposed to extraterrestrial human) species in the Strugatsky Brothers' Noon Universe:
    • The reptilian Tagorians are obsessed with calculating the possible consequences of any and all endeavors or innovations (though it doesn't seem to hold them back much), and so are horrified/disgusted to the point of breaking off all (up to then fairly beneficial) contact with the Earth when they learn that humans didn't destroy the tykebombs left behind by the Wanderers immediately upon discovery like they did with theirs.
    • In the same novel as the above example, Beetle in the Anthill, has a character muse on how difficult it is to understand what his Golovan (member of a species of sapient dogs with very large heads) friend thinks about being with him on the expedition because the Golovan language has only one word for "must", "want", and "can". They also lack technology and folklore, and apparently lose all interest in humans after a few decades of studying them.
    • The novel Space Mowgli features a human child raised by highly-advanced isolationist aliens. It is unknown what parts of Kid's quirky behavior are just the consequences of growing up without any human contact and having unusual powers, and what may be attributed to the "Ark Megaforms" (as the aliens were tentatively named), but they themselves seem both altruistic and isolationist to an unimaginable extent, or so the characters theorize, having failed to make any genuine contact.
    • The Leoniders are only mentioned in passing, but they live in full symbiosis with their entire ecosystem, which has rendered the question of technological exchange with humans more or less irrelevant.
  • Viscous Circle, part of Piers Anthony's Cluster series, involves a grotesque and disturbing description of an alien that one of the flying magnetic disk aliens sees. It's very easy not to realize that this is a description of a human being. The rest of the Cluster series often deals with "outsider" views of humanity, sometimes literally through human eyes, as body-sharing technology is a major plot device.
  • Stephen King:
    • "I Am the Doorway" (appears in the collection Night Shift): An ex-astronaut exposed to an alien mutagen finds himself with tiny eyes covering both hands, which he comes to realize are the manifestation of an alien presence that hates humanity. At one point, he looks at the eyes on his hands - and catches a glimpse of himself through the alien eyes, who perceive him as a twisted, hateful monster. It also finds our world in general horrifying and hateful — during the same sequence, it's terrified and confused by the unnaturally small number of dimensions and impossible right angles in our Alien Geometries.
    • "From a Buick 8": A car that's not a car produces all sorts of (mostly dying) alien lifeforms. The one thing that manages to stay alive is violently butchered by the good guys because they feel like the mere sight of it is raping their brain. Right before it dies, they realize how alien and horrific they look in its eyes. They keep killing it but feel sorry afterwards...
  • Halo:
  • Tolkien's unfinished book The Notion Club Papers: At one point a man experimenting with astral projection techniques (which allow him to travel through time and space and see other planets) comes across a place where what seems like a giant anthill spreads across the countryside, polluting and ruining it. He's shocked to realise he's actually seeing the (sped-up) history of Oxford.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn series, an alien child is alarmed when she first sees a human. Thing has not enough legs! Thing does not fall over! Why?
    • Hamilton's later novel Pandora's Star features a sequence in which the vivisection of two humans is described from the point of view of their alien captor. With the alien in question at first not understanding concepts like pain, blood, and the fact that screwing around with human brains is not healthy for said human.
  • Examples from Isaac Asimov's stories:
    • "The Deep" is written almost entirely from the perspective of aliens who first discover humans. They originally hoped to make contact, but were so disgusted by human nature, particularly the fact that we know who our parents and offspring are, that they decide to avoid humans entirely.
    • "The Gentle Vultures" takes place from the perspective of aliens observing Earth in anticipation of the Cold War becoming World War III.
    • "Hostess": The four-legged alien, Dr. Tholan, thinks we look like we should fall over (he is a Heavy Worlder, and on his planet, we would have fallen over).
    • "In a Good Cause—" features a short passage from the point of the alien Diaboli, who discuss the foul odor of humans and express hope that the humans won't insist on eating in front of them: "My cud will never be sweet again". To clarify; they are strict vegetarians who evolved from grazing animals, and that's how they feel about the idea of eating meat.
    • "Nothing For Nothing": A group of ethical alien traders insist that any transaction must result in equal benefit to both parties, or it cannot be made. They have never conceived of art before meeting humans, and are having great difficulty coming up with something of equal value to give the (prehistoric, cave-dwelling) humans in trade for it. Finally one of them offers a bow and arrow, and they're amazed at how quickly the humans grasp the idea. As they're leaving, they make a note to come back in 25,000 years or so to see how the humans are doing. One of them says "If they don't come looking for us before then", which is treated as a great joke. The story concludes that 20,000 years later, it didn't seem so funny.
    • "What Is This Thing Called Love?" is a parody of a Playboy magazine article on science fiction, originally titled "Playboy and the Slime Gods", where two alien scouts find the notion of sexual reproduction unbelievable and potentially dangerous (due to increased genetic adaptability), respectively. The one who did the research fails to convince their superior that it exists, much less that humans engage in it, and their kidnapped subjects are returned to a random farm.
  • In John Clute's Appleseed, the protagonist watches a show, made by aliens, where caricatures of humans—well, their genitalia keeps changing back and forth between male and female. Then they wind up with huge vaginas full of teeth, which with the humans literally eat each other. This is an alien satire of human sex.
  • Diane Duane's Young Wizards series incorporates an increasing amount of this as the characters' horizons grow. Book 7, where the main characters participate in a transplanetary exchange program, devotes at least a third of the exposition to the alien visitors' difficulties, among them the significance of a florist and the difficulty of determining which parts of a house are meant to be edible.
  • Zones of Thought:
    • In A Fire Upon the Deep, the Hive Mind Tines are weirded out by independently sentient "singletons".
    • Near the end of A Deepness in the Sky, the Spiders mention that humans appear cute and childlike due to their soft skin and having to turn their head to look around like they never lost their baby eyes.
  • The alien species in the Revelation Space Series are mostly extinct, but one character, while studying a species whose ability to exchange body parts makes them seem disturbingly fluid to her, realizes that the "Scuttlers" might well have seen humanity's unchanging nature (or that of other aliens lacking their ability) as a kind of living death. The Scuttlers' isolation, which bought them some time before the Inhibitors attacked them, suggests she may have been right.
  • In Eric Flint's Mother of Demons (free online version), the cephalopod-descended gukuy are discomfited and surprised when they first see humans, mostly because of how quickly and strangely they move. They also tend to inaccurately attribute emotions to humans based on skin color at first, since gukuy are chromatomorphic and express emotions by changing color.
  • In The Course of Empire and The Crucible of Empire it alternates between seeing humans through the eyes of their Jao conquerors and vice-versa. Humans tend to be more imaginative as the Jao are a Slave Race that once served Scary Dogmatic Aliens before their rebellion and rise to glory. Thus the Jao's ancestors had no more imagination then their masters thought fit to breed into them. Word of God says that the inspiration is from the cultural influence of Greece on Rome with humans as Greeks and Jao as Romans.
  • A World of Difference:
    • The Minervans (Martians) cannot comprehend that any of the American (or Soviet) crew could possibly be female until a Minervan "prince" out for a walk sees two of the Americans without their "outer skins" after investigating an odd noise coming from behind a rock due to the fact that their females are basically baby factories that live to sexual maturity, get pregnant, then bleed out when they give birth. Mercifully for the females, it seems nature provides them with some sort of anesthesia. Note that the males don't particularly like this little fact, they just can't do anything about it with medieval tech.
    • One of the Minervans gets blinded in three of his eyes by a camera flash, leaving him only able to see out of the three on his other side. He's utterly terrified until his vision clears. This same alien later goes into battle with another tribe that snagged a Soviet AK-74 while an American with a pistol helps. Then an American ultralight drops a jumbo-sized molotov cocktail on the alien with the AK, causing the friendly alien to shudder at the concept of a battle with noise-weapons everywhere and fire falling from the sky. To put the true horror of this into perspective, Minervans evolved to live in a climate cold enough that ice is a common building material. Hot water is a weapon of war. Napalm would be like a nuke, but we can only imagine about what they would think a nuke would be like.
  • Bud Sparhawk's "Sam Boone": These stories play this trope for laughs; Boone finds himself in such bizarre situations as being announced via shipwide comm as a violent predator (because he sometimes eats meat) and then being accused of murder because a cabinmate has vanished by dehydrating himself like a tardigrade into a temporarily inanimate lump, being perceived as polite by a violent species because he (accidentally) slams himself into a member's crotch, distributing pornography (Better Homes and Gardens), arranging for a marriage between one aged and one infant alien (since the species is naturally female when young and male when old), and being gifted with art by a species that communicates via some very offensive (to humans) odors. Technically most of the encounters are from Boone's perspective, but his Fish out of Water situation invites the reader to surpass his rather limited imagination.
  • Humanx Commonwealth: Several stories, including Nor Crystal Tears and Phylogenesis, are told almost entirely from the POV of the insectoid thranx. As described in the first contact between Thranx and humanity, humans are rather effectively presented as Starfish Aliens — bizarrely, impossibly bipedal, revoltingly fluid in movement, and emitting eerie gargling yowls and shrieks. The main thranx character in Phylogenesis explicitly seeks humans out in order to find poetic inspiration in contact with such revolting creatures, and finds it amazing that their flesh doesn't just fall off their bones or their thin, naked skin tear open at the slightest provocation. However, both sides get over their negative first impression with some effort and get along great eventually.
  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld, the incorporeal, collective, and rigidly ordered Auditors find all life completely alien and offensive because of its chaotic and individualistic nature. Their primary goal is to rid the universe of it.
  • In the Liaden Universe novels by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, the Clutch Turtles are perpetually bemused by the strange behaviors and values of the "hasty" humans, and often misinterpret social cues. It is only when they begin to perceive that Val Con and Miri are in trouble that one of them starts to develop a remarkable level of empathy for the way humans think in order to figure out how best to help them.
  • C. J. Cherryh's Cuckoo's Egg is the story of a human growing up on a planet inhabited by humanoid dogs. His foster father is disturbed by his adopted baby son: at first by its wriggling and hairlessness and later by the way his son looks at him without turning his head to face him. His son is equally affected. For example, he is distressed that his "coat" is only coming out in patches. Unfortunately, this arc turns into a (figurative) "Shaggy Dog" Story: there are no major differences, under the skin.
  • The Mulefa in His Dark Materials, who have trunks, horns and wheels (yeah), find the humans ugly and strange, but are able to tell that they're also smart and conscious, and welcome them into the tribe. The trope is also explored via the Gallivespians, a race of Lilliputian Warriors who are at war with the humans from their universe, and the armoured bears, who are sentient but don't seem to have emotions in quite the same way, and don't seem to understand what it really means to be human.
  • The short story anthology I, Alien is basically entirely this.
  • In Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, humans and Zhirrzh are barely comprehensible through each others' eyes, made worse by the fact that they are at war. They call each other "conquerors" and claim that the war is necessary to defend against the other's aggression.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's science fiction:
    • The Left Hand of Darkness, which is set on the planet Gethen, involves a species of Human Aliens whose members are completely androgynous 28 days a month. It starts out with a human narrator called Genly Ai, but later begins shifting between Genly and a Gethenian named Estraven, who highlights Genly's strangeness by Gethenian standards.
    • The short story collection The Birthday of the World also features several instances of this.
  • C. S. Lewis' Space Trilogy uses this, mostly in the first book. There's a lot of confusion between the native Malacandrians (Martians) and the humans, partly because humans suffer from Original Sin, and the Malacandrians don't. Lewis has fun suggesting how messed up we would look to races that weren't violent, cruel, or selfish. On a simpler level, Ransom has a moment of weirdness when he sees his fellow humans after having spent months among Malacandrians. At first glance, he thought they were another alien race.
    "...and he, for one privileged moment, had seen the human form with almost Malacandrian eyes."
  • Hal Clement used this trope a lot:
    • Needle has an alien detective getting a crash course in humanity so he can try to find the bad alien, who is hiding out on Earth, without revealing his own existence.
    • Mission of Gravity gives us a view of humanity from an alien centipede Heavyworlder who is terrified of heights greater than a few centimeters. The humans' insistence on standing upright seems dangerously insane.
    • Iceworld is told from the point of view of aliens who find Earth to be dangerously cold.
    • The front cover blurb for Cycle of Fire invoked this with the words: "Each of them was a stranger to the other. But which was the alien?"
  • Voltaire wrote a story, titled Micromégas, much in this fashion. In it, the titular alien, who is from a planet orbiting Sirius and is near the size of a small country, goes on a scientific and philosophical journey along with another alien from one of Saturn's moons (who is, much to his own embarassment, only the size of large island) by hopping from planet to planet. Once both arrive at Earth, they're puzzled such a small rocky planet could ever host life. After concluding that the largest animal on the planet, the blue whale, is objectively non-sentient, they rule out any possibility of the planet having intelligent life. However, as both pick up an 18th century sailing ship out of the ocean for closer inspection, thinking it to be some form of insect colony, one of the on-board scholars attemps to conduct an interview with the giants - inquiring the two on how they can possibly be alive on Earth despite their immense size. Both aliens are caught completely off-guard by this. A slightly humorous modern adaptation of this story can be found here, courtesy of Lord Bung.
  • In Codex Alera, the various species in the lands around the human Realm of Alera have different views on how alien humans are to them. For example, there's the Marat, a species of barbarian elf-like people who bind themselves to animal "totems" (forming an empathic link to another species, gaining aspects of their biology from them) and then form tribes around those totems (i.e. the Wolf Tribe, the Horse Tribe, etc). The Marat believe in fighting alongside one's totem, whereas humans prefer to wear armor and fight within fortifications, and are therefore referred to as the "Dead Tribe" and are thus considered weak. The Marat also do not believe in the concept of deliberate falsehoods (read: lying) and declaring that someone is "mistaken" is grounds for a trial by combat. They are, understandably, extremely perturbed by the humans' constant use of falsehoods, along with all the other contradictions of human society.
  • The Stephanie Harrington series, as well as several short stories in Honor Harrington, depict humans through the eyes of treecats at least part of the time. The "two-legs" do weird things, like fly, build separate dwellings from each other and make "mouth noises" instead of speaking "normally" (i.e., telepathically). They also do scary things, like take down "death-fangs" (hexapumas) from a distance and remove areas of forest rapidly. In one short story that uses this, the treecats save the princess of Manticore.
  • The part of Gulliver's Travels where he visits the Houyhnhnms (horse-like beings) has heavy elements of this. At the end, when Gulliver goes back to England again, he himself has started to view humanity with the same disgust as the Houyhnhnms.
  • The Color of Distance and the aptly-named "Through Alien Eyes", by Amy Thomson, are a First Contact story in which a human does have some narrative time, but it's largely from the POV of the local Tendu, brachiating froglike people who speak with their color-changing skins. They think the human—Dr. Juna Saari—always looks embarassed thanks to her (brown) skin tone. The second book deals with two Tendu visiting Earth and finding it bizarre, wonderful and awful in turns. Notably, the books are remarkably evenhanded in portraying both Tendu and humanity as good in some ways, flawed in others, but not inherently beyond hope.
  • The Things views the events of the 1982 sci-fi horror movie The Thing (1982) from the alien's POV. Every species the Thing has encountered thus far is capable of shapeshifting and merging with other cells just like the Thing, which cannot understand why this strange new 'world' violently resists its attempts to 'commune' and adapt its offshoots (people). On eventually realizing the nature of humanity — each offshoot is an individual 'thing', isolated and doomed to decay and death — the horrified alien realizes it has a duty to infiltrate humanity and bring about its 'evolution' by force.
  • In Robert Silverberg's At Winter's End, what are these weird, hairless, flat-faced beings that seem to crop up so often in ancient records? Why, they're the now-extinct humans, as seen through the eyes of highly-evolved baboons.
  • In Steven Brust's Dragaera books, the elf-like Dragaerans consider themselves "human" and real-world humans to be "Easterners". Most of the stories are told in civilization of the Dragaerans, causing this to happen occasionally.
    • The Khaavren Romances series is told by a Dragaeran narrator who occasionally describes Easterners' curious physical appearance and gives his biased opinion on their culture, which is loosely based on Medieval Hungary.
    • Vlad Taltos is a human who was raised in a Dragaeran city, causing him to have a somewhat alien perspective on his own species. For example, Dragaerans clap to announce their presence at the door. In one story, Vlad hears someone hammering on his door and thinks someone is trying to break in. He soon discovers that it's just an Easterner knocking.
  • In Poul Anderson's novella "Day of Burning," a Merseian privately describes humans as an ugly, hairy caricature of his own species.
    • All through the Technic History series Ythrians find the human concept of government unsettling.
  • A.E. van Vogt's short story "The Monster" (also titled "Resurrection"), summarized here and available here (TXT, 6.6k words) is told exclusively from the viewpoint of a member of an expansionist race who arrive to the third planet in a yellow dwarf system and find remnants of a strange civilization. Yes, you guessed it, humans are dead in the story, wiped out by an "atomic storm" from space. However, the aliens manage to revive several members of this species, only to realize that they possess strange powers, including teleportation. Fearing that the human, whom they've been unable to kill, might learn their technology and use it to revive the rest of humanity and learn their FTL method and homeworld coordinates, the ship's crew chooses to fly into a star. Moments before the ship is destroyed, the protagonist realizes that the ugly teleporting alien has learned all their secrets in the first several minutes and was just messing with them after that.
  • In Stranger in a Strange Land, the twist is that the alien is actually human. He was abandoned on Mars as a baby and raised by Martians. Upon coming to Earth as an adult, he finds other humans incomprehensible. At one point, he's casually asked if he "feels like some food." This confuses him, because while he's always been aware that he was food, he's surprised that they're in such a famine that this is regarded as a viable option.
  • Professor Mmaa's Lecture features humans through termite eyes, specifically termite scientists studying the fascinating homo species. Though termites are depicted as pretty much a copy of human civilization (for sake of being a satire on humanity), they still are tiny and perceive the world differently, making for some trouble in fully comprehending the homo culture.
    • Earlier, Kurd Laßwitz wrote the long short story Aus dem Tagebuch einer Ameise ("From the Diary of an Ant", written ca. 1890) in which one of the leaders of an antheap chronicles the efforts — including scientific expeditions — to explore those strange human beings, which apparently are the most advanced of the uncouth boned beasts, and tries to make sense of weird human concepts like "love" and "liberty".
  • Robert Sheckley's short story Specialist is about a spaceship crewed by extremely specialized aliens (to the point that all but a few crewmembers are parts of the ship, being natural engines, turbines, and walls) who are stranded in space after the accidental death of the Pusher, a creature whose race possess the ability to accelerate ships to many times the speed of light, and have to find a replacement in order to get back to civilized space. They find a planet populated by primitive Pushers who have never made contact with other civilizations and thus never learned to Push—bereft of their true, wonderful purpose, they have instead turned into a civilization of generalists, filling the void in their hearts by building ugly metal things and making bloody war upon each other. They manage to talk a lone Pusher into coming aboard, and soar off to safety when he realizes that he had always been able to Push. It's implied that when the galactic union makes contact with the primitive planet, the realization of their true purpose will bring lasting peace and prosperity. No guesses for who the Pushers are.
  • In The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce has a character called the Lunarian encounter a human and ask innocent questions about the American system of government to show what Bierce considers to be absurdities in that system.
  • In the Terra Trilogy by Mitch Benn, the second chapter is from the perspective of Lppb, a Fnrrn biologist studying alien ecosystems. He finds the biology of "Rrth" fascinating, and is frustrated that the dominant lifeform, "Ymns", seem determined to destroy it. He also believes that the episodes of Ymn history they show on their picture-screens demonstrate that they don't get on with aliens much.
  • In the SF short-short story "Servants of the Lord" by James Stevens, an alien race recovers and deciphers the Pioneer 10/11 message plaque, and responds by destroying humanity. After all, "A race so depraved as to send pornography to the stars had to be exterminated." (In Real Life, the drawings of the human figures had to be altered after some U.S. religious conservatives complained they were pornographic.)
  • In Stanisław Lem's The Cyberiad, robots view humans (and biological lifeforms in general) as weird and often fear them. One of the "Fables for Robots" includes a rather amusing explanation of human reproduction.
  • In Too Many Curses, Nessy the kobold is present when Sir Thedeus's Forced Transformation curse is temporarily nullified, changing him from a small fruit bat into a muscular naked man. While Nessy is charitable enough to acknowledge that his unclad body might be attractive to his own species, to her it's just comical: gangling and clumsy-looking, with absurd little patches of fur scattered arbitrarily around his otherwise-bald frame.
    • In The Last Adventure Of Constance Verity (same author), a spider-like alien whose stiff-skinned species conveys emotion via scents is horrified by humans' flexible facial features, and assumes that smiling or sneering must be physically painful to them.
  • There's a short story by Fredric Brown called The Sentry, in which a soldier who participates an interstellar war is complaining about being sent to a world very far away that he considers unhospitable and describing a fight with the enemies they're fighting only at the end of the story do we learn the protagonist soldier is an alien and those enemies are humans.
  • As the title would suggest, a large part of Alien in a Small Town is dedicated to Starfish Alien "Paul's" observations about humanity.
  • In Starlight and Shadows, one of the main characters is a drow who is fascinated by human culture and customs. The fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook uses an excerpt from the novel in the section about how other races view humans.
  • Cherry Wilder's Torin series tells the story of first contact between the Moruians of the planet Torin and visitors from Earth; it's narrated by a succession of Moruian characters, who are bemused by these humans with their weird tiny eyes and lack of pouches.
  • The Flying Sorcerers by Larry Niven and David Gerrold has a human on an alien planet. The story is told from the alien's point of view and the cultural differences are Played for Laughs.
  • Words of Radiance (second book of The Stormlight Archive): According to Sylphrena, humans and other humanoid species are the weird ones, since when they die, something else becomes of them and makes it impossible for them to be what they once were.
    Syl: Break a rock, and it's still there. Break a spren, and it's still there. Sort of. Break a person, and something leaves. Something changes. What's left is just meat. You're weird.
    • Shallan's spren companion Pattern also finds humans weird and fascinating. He enjoys learning about all the various types of "lies" humans engage in, humour, metaphor, fiction, etc.
  • The Space Trilogy:
    • In Out of the Silent Planet, a Malacandran carves Ransom's portrait. When he sees it, he's astonished to see that he's been portrayed as a sort of grotesque dwarf with mossy stuff on top of his head.
    • The philologist Ransom has to translate a soaring speech on Human Destiny for a Malacandrian audience. After his trying and failing to find words for concepts like money, imperialism, and war, the Malacandrians decide humans must be an insane race.
  • Girl: "Who are you?" Alien: "Er, I'm an alien.": The girl, who's later revealed to be the actual alien by our standards, as the alien is a human in a distant future, insults the alien's appearance and pokes her in a way that hurts her, though the girl later regrets insulting her. That said, she doesn't really understand a lot of things about the alien's being, culture, and society, likely because the alien describes things in very eloquent ways...and being put off by it is only taken further once she's put into a human body for herself. However, after the girl apologizes for insulting her, in turn, the alien comments that the girl looks odd to her as well. The alien also makes comments about the girl's culture being shy about sexuality (which she often forgets, to both of their dismays) and wonders if leaving family members' corpses in the bathroom is a norm in the girl's culture.
  • Out of the Dark: There's a lot of discussion among the Shongairi about how "perverse" the humans are. Their biggest issue with us is that we don't automatically submit to someone who has demonstrated great strength by wiping out 2 billion humans in a single day. To them, the humans are either clinically insane or are utterly dishonorable for continuing to resist. It takes a lot of research for their chief psychologist to determine why: unlike the majority of the galactic races, humans are neither a "herd" nor a "pack" race. Our primary unit is the family, although the term can extend up to and including an entire country. We also don't share their ideas of honor, especially where it includes unconditional submission to a more powerful enemy. It also takes them a while to realize that the one human ruler, who has submitted to them (the Governor of North Carolina) has, in fact, been playing them from the get-go, feeding information to guerilla groups and actively sabotaging the Shongairi efforts. There is also a race of herbivores at the beginning of the novel, who survey Earth in the 15th century and are horrified by the mindless savagery displayed by the humans at the Battle of Agincourt.
  • The Twice-Dead King: The books are told from the point of view of the Necrons, making it one of the few series in Warhammer 40,000 fiction where the Imperium of Man serves strictly as an antagonistic, faceless, alien threat, without a single POV character. To the ancient, technologically advanced Necrons, the armies of the Imperium are a tide of brutish, backwards, and warlike creatures sweeping through Necron space for obscure religious reasons, pillaging what they don't destroy and who, despite their signficant technological inferiority, are a serious threat through sheer numbers.
  • The Unexplored Summon://Blood-Sign: The White Queen finds the human world odd (though it's unclear whether this is just her personality or all Materials think the same way). Since the realm of Materials is a world of occult rituals and nonpermanent death, where it's implied that sight is vestigial, one can understand why.
    "Hm? No, that's not right. Alice came from the original world and fell into Wonderland. That doesn't apply to you, Mary Ann."
    "Yes, it does."
    She pointed at her own puzzled face.
    "I fell from my original world."
    Then she pointed at Kyousuke's face.
    "And into your world."
  • Kate Wilhelm's "The Mile Long Spaceship": The story switches between Allen, recovering in a hospital room on Earth, and the aliens aboard the titular starship in intergalactic space. The aliens are seeking out other lifeforms, and Earth's ability to utilize atomics and travel between the planets in the solar system make humanity/Earth rate as an excellent find. However, it is difficult to locate humanity's solar system from the knowledge of the average person, so they "encourage" him to study and go back to school.
  • In the Sector General series, human doctors can run mind tapes that enable them to pick up the knowledge of an alien doctor, so they can operate on extrerrestrials and feel greater empathy for their patients. However as you also pick up the psychology of the alien doctor, you also start seeing things from his perspective, and have difficulty walking on just two legs or seeing human members of the opposite sex as ugly and misshappen.
  • Brian Evenson's story “Sisters” concerns a family of non-human ghouls and their skewed reactions when learning of Halloween traditions.
  • In Sin noticias de Gurb by Eduardo Mendoza, the main character and his partner Gurb are Shapeshifting aliens that are exploring Earth for First Contact purposes - with their target being Barcelona just a few days before the beginning of the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and in the middle of construction for the 1992 Olympic Games. Gurb goes first, shape-shifted as Marta Sánchez, but when the main character remains with no word from Gurb, he follows, and details in a diary all the strange ways in which humans behave when compared with his own people.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun: This was the premise for the first three or four years, until the aliens became accustomed to life on Earth. At that point, their extraterrestrial origins became The Artifact.
  • Babylon 5:
    • This was often used as a source of humor throughout the show, primarily with the aliens' various responses to human pop culture and cuisine. Of particular note is Londo's very vocal frustration with the absolute meaninglessness of the Hokey Pokey (Draal, meanwhile, rather liked it, but was advised by Delenn not to tell Londo that.) Jokes were similarly had at the expense of well-meaning humans trying to understand various alien customs and cuisine, such as Sheridan's abject failure to successfully cook a Minbari dish to woo Delenn.
    • In the episode "Babylon Squared" Delenn tells the Grey Council of her observations of humans, and concludes that because humans build communities in ways that none of the other races do, they have a great destiny ahead of them.
  • Cosmos: A Personal Voyage: In the first episode, after a montage of images of planet Earth and the different human cultures, Carl Sagan muses:
    For an extra-terrestrial observer, the differences between human cultures would seem trivial.
  • Crusade had crop flags and UFOs that looked like human aircraft, all part of the local government's plan to use aliens (humans) as a Red Herring and scapegoat to distract the public from their politics. Sound familiar? The planetary leaders didn't count on humans actually showing up at their doorstep in the near future. When they did, the alien representative told them they had no right to interfere in planetary business. Unfortunately, they're Wrong Genre Savvy, as EarthForce has no Prime Directive. Gideon has all the information recorded on dozens of probes which he then sends to the planet, informing the populace of their leaders' actions.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor usually likes humans, but isn't beyond rebuking them, either.
    • Appears in the first ever story, "An Unearthly Child". "Before your ancestors invented the wheel my people had made time-and-space travel into child's play!"
    • While Leela is a human, she was reared on a colonised planet in a roughly Neolithic culture — and the Doctor is, of course, an alien. This results in things like the Doctor and Leela armchair-anthropologising about the "Cockney tribe".
    • We get a double dose of this when the companion is Romana, a fellow Time Lord with less knowledge of, and a more detached view of, humans. Cue things like loud, public discussions of how the Mona Lisa compares to other works of art in different galaxies.
    • "Voyage of the Damned" has Astrid Peth, a Human Alien from an impoverished planet who got hired as a waitress on an interstellar cruise ship just to get away and experience the majesty and glamour of... a typical street in London, at night, with everyone hiding (after the horror of the last two years of alien invasions). She's still amazed by everything, including the horrible stench — to the Doctor's surprise, as due to his familiarity with Earth, he sees it as an average human would.
    • "Planet of the Dead": "You look human." "You look Time Lord." This is phrased very similarly by the Eleventh Doctor in an exchange with Amy Pond in "The Beast Below". It could become one of their standard responses.
      Amy: You look human.
      The Doctor: No, you look Time Lord. We came first.
  • Farscape:
    • The early episode "I, ET" where the heroes crash onto a planet where the culture resembles 1950s America. Besides Crichton this is actually "aliens through other alien eyes," but he's the main viewpoint character so it still works this way. Plus, rather unusually for the show, the locals are Rubber-Forehead Aliens and one of them is a bit disappointed when Crichton looks so much like them. Then she gets a look at Pilot.
    • This happens a lot early on with the aliens constantly commenting on how deficient and generally strange humans are (John's constant pop culture references certainly don't help) but as time goes on the aliens start to befriend John and find that he is much more useful than he seems at first, what with his "improvisation" that always saves the day. Most aliens outside the main cast don't get a chance to think so as to them Crichton just appears to be a Sebacean anyway.
    • This trope also occurs in the season 4 episode "A Constellation of Doubt" which shows a television program made on Earth using interviews with the aliens. While a lot of the show is just reinforcing human prejudices (perhaps a bit anviliciously), the aliens do make some good points about how wasteful humans are, how foolish intraspecies conflict is with the real dangers in the universe, how humans never give up (even when maybe they should), and the Unfortunate Implications of popularizing skimpy clothing, among other things.
    • In a case of Human Planets Through Alien Eyes, Aeryn Sun finds a storm-swept Sydney Harbour quite beautiful. Although the script called for a fine day, it was decided to keep the line despite the non-cooperation of the weather as an example of this trope.
  • The earliest promos for Nickelodeon's The Journey of Allen Strange included the following speech by Allen: "I'm trying to adjust to this strange world called Earth. The lifeforms are solid, school teaches geometry in only three dimensions, and space travel is limited to a mere few million miles per journey. Currently I'm learning a concept called Friendship..."
  • In The Mandalorian, the title character points out that in the eyes of Tatooine's Tusken Raiders (or Sand People) who tend to attack non-Tuskens on sight, the other settlers are invaders and barters with them for passage through their land.
  • Mork & Mindy: Pretty much the purpose of the series. And in turn, Mindy visits Ork for a few episodes for her honeymoon.
  • The Outer Limits: Half of "Promised Land" is seen from the perspective of the Tsal-Khan family whose farm comes under attack from a group of escaped human slaves, whom they consider savages. The other half is seen from the perspective of the former slaves, who consider the Tsal-Khan to be monsters. Neither group is right.
  • Stargate SG-1: In "Bad Guys", the team finds themselves on a museum in an alien planet. This is slightly different in the fact that the aliens are human enough that they initially mistake our heroes for rebels, but eventually a researcher at the museum believes them who they are say they are. In the end, the military lets the team return home, while covering up the entire incident with an official cover story involving a rebel attack (much to the researcher's dismay).
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the first season episode "The Naked Now", when Captain Picard cuts off Data before he can finish repeating an obscene limerick being broadcast from the shuttlebay by calling security, Data asks if he had said something wrong, to which Worf replies that he doesn't understand human humor either.
    • The episode "First Contact" focuses on the aliens' view of their initial contact with The Federation. The opening is particularly effective, as the doctors are trying to treat an unconscious Riker (who was in disguise and doing research on their culture), and gradually realize with a mix of awe and dread that none of his organs make any sense to them.
    • In early seasons Deanna Troi and her mother Lwaxana, from Betazed, would comment about how humans think differently from their species. In particular it was noted that humans often "say one thing, and think another" or engage in internal dialogues with themselves that can, to a mind reader, give the appearance of multiple personalities. This is used in one episode to explain why Deanna sensed an alien jumping from one crewmember to another, but didn't realize that it actually was a distinct alien and not just a case of humans having multiple levels of thoughts. Since their entire species is telepathic, Betazoids are much more open about their thoughts and tend to just say exactly what they think, even if by humans standards doing so is rude.
    • There's also the episode "Home Soil", wherein one of the life-forms native to Velara III describes humans as "ugly bags of mostly water".
  • The Star Trek: Voyager episode "Distant Origin" also uses this as its premise. Most of the story follows two alien scientists, who investigate and later directly study the Voyager crew, without their knowledge. Their initial reconstructions, based on their own cultural and biological biases, are very inaccurate.
  • A frequent fixture of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where Dr. Bashir of the Federation and Garak of the Cardassian Union offer one another's perspective on the other's culture, and where Quark frequently voices the opinion that the only reason humans are so nice in the future is because they have all their comforts.
    • "The Way of the Warrior" has a dialogue between Quark and Garak (whose homeworlds aren't part of The Federation) in which they use root beer as a metaphor to describe the Federation.
      Garak: It's vile!
      Quark: I know. It's so bubbly and cloying and happy.
      Garak: Just like the Federation.
      Quark: And you know what's really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you begin to like it.
      Garak: It's insidious.
      Quark: Just like the Federation.
      Garak: Do you think they'll be able to save us?
      Quark: I hope so.
    • In the series finale "What You Leave Behind", Martok is bewildered by the refusal of the humans Sisko and Ross to join him in downing some bloodwine in the Cardassian Central Command over the bodies of a number of Cardassians. When the humans leave, he asks himself: who can understand humans?
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Invaders", this trope is revealed as the Twist Ending. "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" uses a similar twist, with a different setting and perspective, to comment on the human race and fear.

  • Björk's "Human Behavior".
  • In the closing verse of Mark Graham's "Their Brains Were Small And They Died", the song suggests that, following World War III, some future cockroach scientist may conclude that humans were big, dumb, slow, incapable of coping with change, and doomed to extinction from the first, exactly as old-time paleontologists thought dinosaurs had been.
  • The Leslie Fish filk song "Neutral Zone, Romulan View" describes the Romulan viewpoint of bafflement, even unadmitted fear, of the humans who were able to fight well enough to defeat them but wanted nothing more than to end the war.

  • Craig Raine's poem A Martian Sends a Postcard Home described various common earthly things using strange metaphors and interpretations, as if viewed by an entity unfamiliar with them. "Martian poetry" became a genre of its own for a while, but never became very common.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Fraggle Rock often had Gobo get a letter from Uncle Travelling Matt, who would explore "Outer Space" and deliver humorously-flawed observations of the lives of the "Silly Creatures" (humans).
  • A recurring segment in Sesame Street features two Martians trying to make sense of mundane Earth things they find. Sometimes they would consult their "Book-book-book" for help.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Nobilis has the godlike Imperators having trouble understanding humans. Usually, this is used to show how limited Imperators are in their own way — Darklords, for example, understand human self-indulgence and short-sightedness, but have trouble with genuine compassion and can't make head or tails of martyrdom. It's also been played for comedy; one piece of advice for human Powers dealing with their Imperators is to sneeze, then run away while they're trying to figure it out. This remains the case in Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine. At least one character who's coded as an Imperator has sneezed and still finds the whole thing confusing.
  • Plüsch, Power & Plunder features living plushies having to hide from the "tramplers" (us).
  • In Traveller the attitude of aliens toward humans is described. Vargr for instance think humans to be spooky because they can organize themselves more ably.
  • Warhammer:
    • A breakdown of Greenskin/everyone else race relations:
      • Empire: Weak gitz that deserve to be stomped. If they have magic, "boomy barrels" and Stunty-made choppas, then they are not bad for fightin'.
      • Dwarfs (or "Stunties"): Good fighting and even better loot. Been fightin' dem for a very long time.
      • Ogres: Big Fun. Very good fightin', sometimes dey even pay Orcs to fight for dem.
      • Dark Elves: Good fights, but tricky gits. Sometimes they recruit Orcs to fight for them, but these alliances never last long.
      • High Elves: Very good fights, even if they don't come up often. Orcs and especially Goblins fear them because more Boyz don't spawn after fights with them.
      • Bretonnia: Less loot than the Empire but better for fights, especially the fancy gitz on the horses.
      • Lizardmen: Big lizards are super-killy and better fights than Bretonnia, but even less loot, unless deyz attacking a Lizardmen city wif lotz of gold.
      • Vampires: The Bludd-drinkas are very good fights, close to Lizardmen and Ogres. Their undead minions, not so much, but derez lotz of 'em and dey get back up when you krump 'em. Loot is slim pickingz.
      • Warriors of Chaos: Glorious fights, probably da best of all. Spiky, dead 'ard and like fightin' as much as Orcs do.
      • Skaven: Sneaky gitz and very bad fights, but at least dere's lotz of 'em so plenty of loot and food afterwards.
    • One White Dwarf article has a Lizardmen scribe's impression of a human explorer's visit. The Lizardmen are very much not human; they have physically distinct castes (quick and nimble Skinks, burly and warlike Saurus, towering and spectacularly dumb Kroxigors) with the top caste (the froglike Slann) having been literally created by the setting's Precursors. They essentially don't have an economy and think gold is mostly useful because it doesn't corrode, making it an excellent data storage material since it won't rust in the jungle they live in. As a result, the scribe in question — a Skink priest — found that encounter with a money-grubbing human explorer outright bewildering.
      "Why do they always want gold? What do they do with it? Do they eat it?"
  • Warhammer 40,000 gives us a reasonable estimation of how the alien races see humans:
  • This trope is the basis of the humorous RPG Hunter Planet, in which players take the roles of "hunters" from the Federation of Planets (or Fops) exploring a newly-discovered world that the inhabitants call "Dirt" — or something like that. The comedy comes from the facts that the hunters are not all that bright, and that they know absolutely nothing about the planet or its inhabitants. Everything is new and unknown to them, and this can lead to wacky hijinks over something as simple (to us) as a door because they may never have seen anything like it before. They're certainly not expecting the natives to fight back, and especially not with stolen Fop weapons.

    Video Games 
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: Not quite aliens, but it's easy to tell which of the Beast Folk NPCs in Belinsk originated as beasts instead of humans. They're the ones who comment on how weird it is to be walking on their hind feet, wearing clothes, and cooking meat before they eat it.
  • Halo:
    • The instruction manual for the collector's edition of Halo 2 is written from the perspective of the Covenant, and as such is incredibly biased. For example, Covenant weapons are categorized as Noble Tools of Conquest, while human weapons are Primitive Implements of War.
    • Some of the Halo: Combat Evolved: Anniversary terminals detail what about Guilty Spark thinks of the humans running around on his installation, particularly a certain one who's going around breaking everything.
    • Most of the Halo 4 terminals take place from the Forerunners' point of view, with several exploring the Didact's and Librarian's views on humanity.
    • A few of the Halo 5: Guardians audio logs detail what the Swords of Sanghelios think of their human allies. In particular, there's one about a Grunt who's under the impression that human females naturally lose their arms as they age, and that they release spores and spin nests of meat-silk.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, if the player brings along HK-47 to the Tusken Raider camp on Tatooine they have the opportunity to learn about their culture and the reasons behind their hostility towards outsiders, as well as peacefully settle the conflict between them and the local settlers.
  • League of Legends:
    • Cho'Gath the Terror of the Void considers humans to be "hideous creatures" and "a scourge upon the world" despite being an immense, chitinous, 6-limbed horror from the nightmare space between the dimensions.
    • Nocturne, a similarly eldritch being with the equally cheery title the Eternal Nightmare, finds life as we know it — including humans, and especially summoners — to be disgusting and offensive, and goes out of his way to annihilate as much of it as possible.
    • Vel'Koz, yet another monster from the void, sees humanoid creatures as something that just doesn't make sense, but rather than approach them with disgust like Cho'Gath, he approaches them with curiosity and wants to learn more about them. Unfortunately for his subjects, he imposes his own eldritch resilience onto humans, and seems surprised that they can't regrow limbs or survive without their dermis.
  • Mass Effect actually has references to how aliens respond to the oddness of humans, as well as each other. For example :
    • Liara T'Soni, one of the recruitable party members, finds humans to be quite odd and strange at first, with their short lifespans clashing with her own (at 106 she's the oldest person on the ship, aside from Wrex, despite being twenty something by asari standards).
    • In the novel Mass Effect: Revelation, a batarian businessman spends a good paragraph describing all the aspects of humans that he hates and how strange they look compared with his own species. The main reason for the latter is that to batarians everyone with less than four eyes looks stupid and unsophisticated — presumably because they are unable to form expressions that the batarians would recognize as cultured.
    • The turians in general take duty very seriously. Conscription on their homeworld, marking the beginning of adulthood as well as citizenship, is mandatory for all turians between the ages of 15 and 30. Those who choose to leave active military service at the end of this term nonetheless remain as part of the reserve forces and can be called to action at any time. When the Alliance liberates Shanxi from turian occupation, the turians are surprised that a species that hasn't even expanded enough to have made any previous first-contact is able to turn them back at all. When the First Contact War is settled diplomatically and things cool off a little, the turians are even more surprised to learn that only 3% of eligible humans of military age actually choose to serve in the Alliance. Since there is no such thing as a turian civilian, they regard bombarding houses from orbit to flush out defenders as a legitimate tactic and can't understand why humans regard the Shanxi invasion as unnecessarily brutal (which would really only make sense if they hadn't already been in contact and wars with all the other species who ''also'' don't follow their model of citizen-soldiers).
    • Another look at the Values Dissonance between acceptable military tactics is highlighted in the third game. During the Tuchanka arc, Shepard can react aghast that after the blatant war crime of releasing the genophage against the krogan, the turian military compounded it by having no problem with leaving a giant bomb buried on Tuchanka, while Garrus admits that while he thinks it went too far, it made sense to have an insurance policy in case the krogan decided to get "uppity" again. Similarly, during the Rannoch arc, Tali is shocked when Garrus cavalierly suggests orbital bombardment to flush out the geth groundside, pointing out that he wants to help recover her homeworld by rendering part of it uninhabitable.
    • Shepard can also ask Grunt if any of the tank imprints he's received deal with humans. The krogan's response is that humans are physically frail compared to krogans, and that he only needs to penetrate a blade a krogan finger's depth to sever a human's spine. He next states that everybody is physically frail compared to the krogan, and humans are on the weaker end of the scale. According to Wrex, the only reason a krogan will follow another krogan is because he thinks the other would win if they fought. He is therefore somewhat mystified that not only do Kaidan and Ashley not want to comment on fighting with Shepard, but actively deny having ever thought about it.
    • The geth are the best example of this in the series, although it applies to all sapient species. The geth are a race of artificial intelligence programs who are in constant contact with each other. They know each other's thoughts, and make decisions based on consensus, thoroughly discussing an issue with each other at the speed of light. Bodies are also considered unimportant, because they can just upload themselves to any type of form they might need. They also don't truly die, simply being uploaded to a different body if one is destroyed. To them, being alone is not just impossible but completely alien and unknowable. Every geth that joins a collective makes that collective more intelligent as a whole, able to process data faster and see things from different viewpoints; while a lone geth is more or less inanimate, a thing of programmed responses and reactions, barely even an animal. They don't understand how other species function without achieving consensus (rather than "forcing" consensus, as democracies do), and tend to describe things in their own terms (an organic's body is referred to as "hardware"; having reactions shaped by it is considered rather weird by the "software" geth). They really want to understand organics, but it's difficult because of how different they are, combined with having trouble understanding organic emotions. Interestingly, the geth seem to be developing emotions of their own, even if they don't realize it.
    • Though it's interesting to note that Legion seems unable to understand why the Heretics, (a rogue faction of Geth that worship the Reapers), would do such a thing as implant spies in their networks, since among the Geth there is no such thing as deceit. When the Heretics chose to leave the Geth Consensus, the others freely let them go, since they believed that all life should self-determinate, even if they did not agree with their decision. The fact that the Heretics are capable of subterfuge and actively seek to undermine them was something they never considered.
    • Played for laughs in a (sadly cut) line from a turian security guard. "Excuse me for asking, but... you're a female, right? You've got those funny bumps, like an asari."
    • The angara from Mass Effect: Andromeda run the whole gamut. Some are intrigued by humans, some suspicious, some just outright disgusted by their very existence. One angara sends an e-mail to the Initiative asking if humans always looked the way they have, or if they changed it to look more appealing to the angara. At least one thinks humans are boring (but those asari, on the other hand, who they wanna see more of). In a brief conversation, we get to hear Nakmor Drack's first thoughts on hearing about humans — "they're so brave for travelling all that way. Do they know they're made of water?"
  • In A Monsters Expedition Through Puzzling Exhibitions, the title character visits a museum of human artifacts, each with a plaque describing the monster experts' best guess at what its purpose was.
  • NieR: Automata: One of the main themes is the attempts of nonhuman beings to understand what it is to be human. The world is now populated with Androids and robots created by aliens. Throughout the game, we see the robots attempting to understand human things such as theater, sex, children, romance and love, etc, but coming up with a warped or misunderstood version of it due to them simply not understanding. For instance, all the robots that served under the King of the Forest wanted to repay him for his many years of service when his aged frame finally broke down, so they put his consciousness inside of a baby robot body and chose to protect him until he had grown up again so he could lead again. However, as machines cannot grow, he remained a baby for hundreds of years. Ironically though, we never learn how the ACTUAL aliens in the game saw humanity, as they had died out long before the story begins, killed by their robot creations.
  • Persona:
    • In Persona 3, Velvet Room residents Elizabeth and Theodore look human, but have some very odd ideas about the human world, as the protagonist discovers in the course of helping to satisfy their intense curiosity about it. Elizabeth assumes that you have to run up the escalator the wrong way as a "test of strength" and that the jungle gym in the playground is a house. Theo thinks the circular running track at school is a metaphor, and when the protagonist answers his request for oil by bringing him a can of machine oil, he assumes this means you deep-fat fry machines in it: "I'll use it on Mech Fries next time!" Both of them interpret the police station's Missing Persons board as a list of bounty heads, comparing it to their own regular requests for the protagonist to go kill a certain type of Shadow and bring back 20 Bear Asses as proof of their strength, and so on.
    • In the prior games, talking to demons may prompt them to ask questions about human behavior (why we go to school, what tears taste like, what the point of money is, etc.) and usually won't believe accurate answers, but they will accept outlandish things that match their own personalities.
  • Pikmin: The explorers give their own, often humorous names to whatever objects they find on the planet Earth (which they christen "PNF-404").
  • One riddle in Professor Layton and the Curious Village involves identifying a thing based on how an alien might describe its use.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey has the demons deeply confused and not exactly pleased with humanity. Mitra is conducting experiments on them (with conclusions like "It seems humans require something called 'blood' to survive"), and demon negotiations frequently require you to explain or justify humanity's actions.
  • Splatoon takes place on Earth thousands of years After the End occurred due to rising sea levels and features Apparently Human Merfolk as the protagonists. In the first game, a Sunken Scroll depicting a fossilized human skeleton has an accompanying note hypothesize that its small skull size relative to the rest of its body meant that it many have been a primitive and unintelligent species (which doubles as a Take That, Audience! considering the skeleton died playing a Wii U).
  • Star Control has a species known as the VUX, which humans claim is an acronym for "Very Ugly Xenoform" — and for good reason, since these aliens are hideously ugly... by human standards. In the VUX's eyes, however, it is the humans who are hideous ("You humans are SO ugly, that I get my kids to behave by holding a picture of you behind my back and I tell the kids that if they aren't good, I'll show it to them!") Just how ugly are humans? Their necks move, meaning that humans all look as if they are casually suffering from grotesquely broken necks, and things go only uphill from there.
  • In StarCraft II, both Protoss and Zerg provide some commentary on Terrans.
    • Zagara, a zerg broodmother with an unusual degree of intelligence and independence, finds it in herself to pity humans, since they lack a Hive Mind like Zerg do, and want to infest and absorb them as a mercy. Abbathur, on the other hand, is a Mad Scientist who hates working with humans because our genetic structure is too messy compared to zerg (Zerg are bioengineered by creatures like Abbathur, while humans evolved randomly).
    • At one point in Legacy of the Void, resident Racist Grandma Rohana comments on humanity's inability to communicate telepathically, finding the use of orifices for communication to be primitive. Artanis, on the other hand, thinks humans and protoss aren't that different.
  • In The Swapper, we run into an instance of two species that mutually cannot understand each other. During an asteroid mining operation, humanity came across multiple rocks that somehow were sentient and able to communicate with each other telepathically. It turns out that after spending an extended amount of time with the rocks, human minds begin to connect with the rocks, allowing for communication to occur. The part where both are alien to each other is the fact that the rocks had zero concept of death, or even the concept of ending. As far as the rocks can tell, they always were and always will be, the idea of that changing is completely alien to them. And when the humans start dying due to the telepathy burning out their brains, the rocks become very confused and afraid, as they have no idea what happened to the voices of the humans that were communicating with them.
  • Sword of the Stars:
    • The lizard-like Tarkas find humans disturbing in an uncanny valley-like fashion. We come across as androgynous and childlike, even cute, to the point that they find fighting us in boarding action difficult. Sort of like we would find it hard to shoot a race resembling 10-year olds in the face.
    • Hivers find human individuality and ability to multipurpose puzzling, and think human perfumes are incredibly overpowering. They also zero in on females during boarding actions regardless of actual target value, instinctively attacking sources of estrogen — which, when fighting other Hivers, is how they aim for the queen.
    • The Liir, psychic space dolphins, also find our tendency to eat other creatures disturbing, and find religion a highly puzzling concept. Hivers and Liir are the only races that have an easy time at all telling the difference between men and women due to a lack of obvious dimorphism (Hivers because of their sense of smell, Liir because they're Hermaphrodites and any dimorphism looks obvious).
  • Undertale has this with the monster population in the underground. They hadn't seen humans in ages since the war between monsters and humans. Many monsters resent humans since said humans sealed the monsters underground when the humans won the war. No human had appeared in the monsters' world until several human children had fallen down the mountain and the player character being the most recent one on the list. Many of the monsters and monster history books that talk about humans see them as strange beings that can't express their emotions through magic like monsters can while many other monsters have their own polarizing opinions on humans. Most monsters are so unfamiliar with humans that they don't even recognize that you're one, and the ones that do notice have varying opinions that can either change or be reinforced depending on how you play the game (i.e. Undyne starts off with a negative opinion of humans, but you can change that by saving her life and befriending her). Hatred of humans is treated very casually; Undyne flat-out tells the player character that their death will do more good than anything in life they can accomplish, Bratty and Catty are "soooo hyped for the destruction of humanity," and a book on souls that can be found in the library casually remarks that while souls are said to be made of love hope and compassion, "humans have proven their SOU Ls don't need these things to exist." In the Golden Ending, monsters and humans get over their differences and live in harmony.

  • El Goonish Shive has magic itself, which is sapient. For a long time, it was assumed that it had a flair for the dramatic, giving spells at the most narratively convenient moment and in times of intense emotional turmoil or being hammy... until a protagonist discovers that it is only aware of humans (or the world in general) through how and when they cast spells, and as a result big dramatic moments and intense emotions are all it really understands of us.
  • In Freefall, you get not one, not two, but three distinct outsider viewpoints of human culture. Not to mention those times when its outsider POV vs. human culture and Sam, or outsider POV vs. human culture and Florence. One good example is when Winston's mother asks Florence what it's like to be in heat. Florence retorts that if you consider what the actual differencea between human and canine reproductive biology are, a better question might be "What's it like to not be in heat?"
  • Goblins: Life Through Their Eyes is a Dungeons & Dragons-based webcomic showing how the traditional monsters of the game view the player characters. It demonstrates how anyone in can be evil or good, regardless of race, as shown by the contrast between the goblin protagonists and the "good" adventurer PCs who slaughter the goblins' village because they see them as easy loot and XP. It also has some interesting commentary on human culture.
  • Homestuck has examples of it, such as in this conversation between John and Vriska.
    • In this conversation, John is Genre Savvy on the matter enough to refer to humans as a kind of alien to a troll who's clearly unfamiliar with them.
      Meenah: Water you demons or somefin? Pretty lame demons if you ask me. Way too frondly and stupid.
      John: No, we're humans... by which I mean aliens, I guess.
      Meenah: So like, you're dead aliens, huh? Whoever heard of an alien ghost?
      John: I know, right?
    • Paradox Space: Played for Laughs in Lalondian Tourism, where Kanaya tries to explain human culture to Terezi; here, the trolls' shaky grasp of human culture is compounded by the fact that Rose herself misinterpreted everything her mother ever did, and relayed those misunderstandings to Kanaya. Among other things, a picture of Rose attacking a clown is seen as "defending herself against a vicious Subjuggulator".
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: This repeatedly crops up with aliens unable to tell Earthling genders apart, having no idea how Earthling reproduction works, generally thinking vertebrates of any sort look gross, etc.
  • Irregular Webcomic!: The Space theme features a plant-based alien. At one point, he(?) declines to enter a florist because, well, how would you like it if someone cut off your reproductive organs and put them on display for people to smell? He has also stated that, from his point of view, wine is equivalent to crushed infants fermented in sacks made of human skin.
  • Just a Goblin:
    • Humans have been hunting the goblins of Linwood Forest for centuries. While RPG logic labels goblins as low-level Mooks designed to introduce a plucky hero to a fantasy world, Nog sees families grieving their maimed and killed siblings, parents, and children. To the goblins, adventurers are barbarians who attack from the brush unprovoked, forcing the goblins to flee for their lives to survive. Fights that would normally be a footnote in an adventurer's journey are life-changing for the goblins.
    • Nog and Gubble go undercover as adventurers in an attempt to understand why adventurers are so insistent on hunting goblins. Nog marvels at Mulros Town's advanced technology, plentiful food, and enormous buildings relative to his goblin village of Rektoros. But that wonder is soon accompanied by horror when he learns that adventurers sell goblin body parts and linens to make these amazing conveniences. He also struggles to grasp how some adventurers can take such glee is killing other intelligent beings for sport.
  • Leaving the Cradle: The story focuses on first contact with the humans, so this is to be expected:
    • During Chapter 2, when Zane Htrua Sha asks Quantum, an artificial consciousness, for a progress update on translating our language families, he's taken aback when he learns that there is around 150 of them. The reason he's shocked at this has not yet been revealed.
    • On the next page, Quantum manages to gain access to our network and they grow worried upon seeing our stories on the subject of aliens, as it depicts them as malicious invaders and monsters. For the AC personally, they are especially concerned on stories with or about artificial consciousnesses being treated as either nothing more than slaves or as a threat that needs to be put down, and overall fears a potential repeat of the Vainur incident. Zane is quick to call him out on his bias and points out that his species were making fiction similar to ours before the Space Age.
  • This interpretation is also used heavily by Redcloak from The Order of the Stick, making him an extremely sympathetic Anti-Villain. However, in-universe, Xykon repeatedly suggests that Redcloak is just hiding behind this trope in a desperate attempt to lie to himself, to paint himself as "not the bad guy".
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Done with demons in the place of aliens in this strip.
      "Why are mortals freaked out by blood? They're the ones full of it!"
    • The actual resident alien, Aylee, is wondering about humans all the time. First, it was largely about our Bizarre Alien Biology ("I keep forgetting humans need air!"), but later, it was more about culture and social norms. Ironically, she doesn't actually act very alien; she's simply like a very naïve human from a very different culture who can't understand the one she's in.
  • The Moliffs of Starslip are a race of transparent blobs with eyes and organs visible. Though they try to be civil, they simply cannot hold back their disgust with humans, what with the lack of shape-changing, rigid skeletons, specialized organs, and the hair. Especially the hair. It may be another trope at work here, seeing as the arc where that was revealed shared more than a few similarities with District 9...
  • Strange Planet highlights the oddities of ordinary human activity by framing it as Amusing Alien behavior.
  • Tamberlane: The titular Tamberlane is unlike anything the residents of Silver Sage have ever seen. Some think she might be deformed or a mutant, Oakwood has difficulty determining her diet and even the more well-traveled researcher Milo can't even figure out her genus, postulating that she might be some kind of ursine after ruling out rodent.
  • Unicorn Jelly has Attack of the Alien Invaders from Outer Space!
  • xkcd strip "Pathogen Resistance" examines human defenses against disease from the perspective of... well, pathogens.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: A pretty common theme:
    • It's implied that a very extreme version of this is the reason for SCP-682's Omnicidal Maniac tendencies — wherever it's from, life works very differently, and life as we know it is disgusting to it to the point that its gut reaction to living things is to try to make them stop. In support of this, it repeatedly refers to humans "disgusting". Presumably, if this is the case, the exact same property that makes SCP-053 a Creepy Child to humans makes it the only living thing that seems "normal" to SCP-682.
    • On the other hand of the spectrum, we have SCP-962, which loves humanity and desperately wants us to like it. Its methods include building in imitation of us, writing and sending out books, and attempting to either eradicate or make cyborg servitors out of all nonhuman life.
      Did you like the servants they were the BEST of the cleansed only the BEST for you Great Ones made like you form you assume here on a WORLD to clean to honor you do appreciate please please I will complete the cleansing soon and you can take me away in your ships of FIRE and I can love you and you will love me
    • SCP-328 is a data disc from a Starfish Aliens equivalent of the Foundation, describing a highly mysterious and dangerous object they are attempting to study, which has claimed numerous researchers' lives already. It's a laptop.
    • Played entirely for laughs with SCP-1171, a casually speciesist Starfish Alien.
    • Another one that is played for laughs is this document about humans mostly written by intelligent carp.
    • Played for drama with SCP-5058 ("Our Normal Fellow Humans"). When they find the Foundation's been intercepting their radio transmissions, they send a message containing an unusual Brown Note that when decoded reads as a "Leave us in peace" message: "Seeing hearing you. Study needed. Let our waves go, fellow humans."
  • Reddit's HFY subreddit (which stands for "Humanity, Fuck Yeah") often features original fiction with this trope in play, and almost always mixes it with the positive "Humans are X" tropes.
  • There are usually at least a few threads floating around on Tumblr with similar material, discussing some of humanity's seemingly paradoxical habits when viewed from a more scientifically objective frame of reference, or positing how humans might actually be the "space orcs" (in both positive and negative ways, though usually more positive ones) of galactic civilization, once we start meeting aliens.
    • A variation of this describes Earth as "Space Australia," where aliens look at Earth as a Death World and marvel at humans' ability to adapt and survive.
    • This thread about an Star Trek-esque alien scifi show with a token human teammate. The human's exotic power is sight.
  • The Other Wiki's article on humans is quite good at describing us from an outsider's perspective.
  • Solar Wind is all about this trope. Its main character, Tav, was sent to Earth to learn how humans work.
  • Reddit's r/HumansAreSpaceOrcs presents this viewpoint.
  • One popular writing prompt on reddit is about human courtship rituals in the form of nature documentary narration.
  • The Transformers Wiki has a nice description of what giant transforming robots think of non-transforming fleshlings.

    Western Animation 
  • While Anne, the main character of Amphibia, is a human, sometimes we see things from the perspective of the Amphibian characters. In the first episode, we first learn of a human in the woods when Wally yells about the horrible beast he encountered in the woods. Sprig then tries to set a trap for the "beast", only to get trapped himself. Then, when an actual monster attacks Sprig, Anne saves him, leaving Sprig to conclude that she's an ugly hero. The Amphibian locals continue to treat humans with a lot of fear and confusion, such as being surprised Anne can talk or finding it weird that she doesn't completely shut down in the snow since she's not cold-blooded.
  • In the Ben 10: Omniverse episode "Rad Monster Party" and the two following episodes, Ben and Rook go to the infamous Anur System, where all of Ben's monster-inspired aliens (Blitzwolfer, Frankenstrike, Ghostfreak, Snare-Oh) come from as well as the former domain of the evil Ghostfreak (Zs'Skayr). Upon arriving, we learn that Ben is considered hideous and a monster. Ben finds it hard to understand why he would be viewed as monstrous, despite Rook calling him a hypocrite for not even considering that on a world he isn't native to that he was the alien. In Ben's defense, it is rather arbitrary that such a diverse population considers just humans weird, and Ben himself thought that they were cool.
  • Planet Roswell in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is a planet whose culture, technology level, and understanding of astronomy roughly reflect the United States in the 1950s. When Buzz (an apparent human) and his crew crash land there, the locals treat them with a combination of fear, fascination, and curiosity, having never seen a lifeform not from their planet before—especially fear in the case of the government.
  • Futurama:
    • Played for Laughs as part of The Reveal of "War Is the H-Word", when Earthican troops are sent to fight against invaders on an alien planet, only to find out...
      Fry: Hey, wait a minute. This is your home planet? We're the evil invading aliens?
      Brain Ball Leader: Correct.
    • In "Fear on a Bot Planet", we see how a planet of human-hating robots view humans, specifically as the monsters in crappy B-movies. This is the result of a lot of fear-mongering by the planet's leaders.
      Fry: Stay back, or I'll, uh... breathe fire on you!
      Robot Elder 1: [whispering to one of the other elders] Can they really do that, or did we make that up?
      Robot Elder 2: [whispering back] I can't remember. It might just be from that stupid movie.
    • In "I, Roommate," Fry moves in with his Robot Buddy Bender only to discover that robots sleep standing up in "apartments" the size of closets and that Bender isn't expecting him to live any differently. When they look at a human-sized apartment instead, Bender is dissatisfied until he finds a broom closet, which he happily claims as his bedroom. By the end of the episode, the roles are reversed when Fry finds out that Bender's apartment has its own closet the size of a human apartment.
      Fry: Bender, why don't I just live here?
      Bender: In a closet? (sighing) Ohhhh, humans.
      • Despite not needing to eat (or having any sense of taste), Bender loves to prepare food, but is pretty unclear on the concept where it applies to his human friends. At best he's offered Fry a whole cabbage as a snack. At worst...
        Bender: I found some rocks. You guys eat rocks, right?
        Leela: No.
        Bender: (temptingly) Not even if they're sautéed in a little mud?
    • "T: The Terrestrial" plays out a role reversal of ET: The Extraterrestrial in which young Omicronian Jrrr is the boy and Fry, stranded on Jrrr's planet, is the homesick alien that forms a bond with him. By the time Bender finds Fry, he's been taken to an Omicronian vet.
      Jrrr: Can you save him?
  • Played straight out in Invader Zim when Dib's guidance counselor asks some aliens, "So you guys are real aliens from outer space?", to which one answers, "Well to us, YOU'RE the aliens." Followed by the aliens bursting out in laughter, "Oh man! That one never gets old!"
  • In Ready Jet Go!, Jet and his alien family do not seem to understand the Earthlings' behaviors and vocabulary, often using them the wrong way. Once, Carrot was shown mowing the roof.
  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2023): Beyonder’s motive in the series is that he has been sent to study humanity - their activities and nature - to determine if they are worthy of continued existence. He chooses Lunella for this purpose, having her explain human relationships and things like eating food.
  • The Owl House: Human culture is apparently rather exotic and mysterious to the residents of the Isles. Eda thinks that deodorant is "human candy", for example, and tosses out several valuable objects, including a literal golden chalice, in favor of a pair of gag glasses.
  • One episode of The Real Ghostbusters involved the Ghostbusters ending up in a parallel ghost dimension where the locals feared humans and they had Evil Counterparts called Peoplebusters.
  • Considering that Rick and Morty visit a lot of different alien planets, you should expect this trope come into play from time to time. In many cases, the aliens view Earth (or Ee-arth if you will) as a primitive, undeveloped planet whose cultures are built around their junk.
  • Steven Universe:
    • The Crystal Gems don't always understand humans despite being on Earth for thousands of years, partially because they've isolated themselves from humans for most of that time. Amethyst is the most worldly, but even she doesn't understand certain things. For example Pearl is horrified at eating and refuses to do so.
    • And the Homeworld Gems, who do not live on Earth, have it far worse. Peridot, having not spent any length of time on Earth before, displays this even more flagrantly, asking if a towel, a comb, a toothbrush, and several other bathroom accoutrements were weapons. As Gems name themselves in a different fashion from humans, Peridot seems to initially believe that Steven is "a Steven" and asks if Stevens have supplanted humans as Earth's dominant species. Steven (unaware of the implications, and apparently under the impression that Peridot was referring to the fact that he is a Half-Human Hybrid) gives a short list of humans he knows. Homeworld takes this list as varieties of human, including "Mydad", "Themailman", and "Onionithink", and Aquamarine doesn't understand that asking various humans if they are "Mydad" is not going to accomplish much (at one point exasperatedly saying that she's not looking for "Yourdad" when such a thing is suggested).
    • One of the more peculiar issues with Gems is that they're the only form of life in their ecosystem. Thus, many don't understand the difference between sapient, sentient, and non-sentient life — they're confused even more by nonhuman organic life. Lapis and Peridot thought that plants like corn, when grown well enough, would be able to walk around and talk (to be fair, Steven can make them do that). Jasper has treated people, insects, and blades of grass as if they were equally capable of consciously invading her space.
  • In Tom and Jerry: Blast Off to Mars, Tom and Jerry accidentally cause chaos on Mars, inadvertently causing the aliens to invade Earth in retaliation.
  • Transformers:
    • In Transformers: Animated, Optimus Prime makes the mistake of asking how new humans are manufactured. We don't actually hear the answer Sari whispers into Prime's ear, but judging from his shocked expression, it seems safe to assume she told him the truth. Bulkhead and Bumblebee also saw Sari with a robot dog and thought she was the pet.
    • Transformers: Rescue Bots gets a lot of mileage from this trope. Optimus tells the Rescue Bots that they have to learn more about humanity by living among them. They deal with a lot of confusion on Earth. They don't grasp the concept of Earth seasons. Blades describes birthdays as "setting the dessert on fire and reassembling a donkey", and the holiday with the lit-up tree is Arbor Day. Blades also says that a lot of human things don't make sense, like hot dogs, which aren't pets.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Humanity Through Alien Eyes


What Humans Do To Green Aliens

Probe told Adu Du what humans did to green aliens like him, unaware of what broccoli is.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / HumansThroughAlienEyes

Media sources: