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Like a Duck Takes to Water

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"Ladies and gentlemen of the City Council, I'm just a caveman... your world frightens and confuses me. When I see your tall buildings and flashing neon signs, sometimes I just want to get away as fast as I can, to my place in Martha's Vineyard. I'm more at home hunting the woolly mammoth than I am hunting a good interior decorator. And when I see a solar eclipse, like the one I went to in Hawaii last week, I think 'Oh no, is the moon eating the sun?', because I'm a caveman... but there is one thing I do know. The new resort housing development proposed by my partners and myself will include more than adequate greenbelts for recreation and aesthetic enhancement. Thank you."
Cirroc, The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Saturday Night Live

A character, usually a somewhat unassuming one, is inserted into an unusual situation or world. But rather than having difficulty adjusting, the character possesses knowledge, a personality type or physical prowess that allows him to leap up the social ladder to a far higher station than the one he had back home.

Can also be a Mighty Whitey (if a European does this in a non-European society) or a case of Villains Blend in Better. Some forms of New Life in Another World Bonus may also count, when the "bonus" is a skill the protagonist already had which helps them adapt to the new world. Compare Instant Expert and Never Accepted in His Hometown. Contrast Fish out of Water and Graceful in Their Element.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night: Most Heroic Spirits — souls of heroes of (usually) ancient ages given form to participate in a There Can Be Only One tournament — easily adapt to modern-day living. This is justified in that, when summoned, a Heroic Spirit instantly receives at least enough knowledge of modern-day living - including the ability to speak the language.
  • Whenever a human transfers from Earth to El-Hazard, they gain Personality Powers. A boisterous gym teacher gains Super-Strength (when sober). A shy geek becomes a Technopath. A High-School Hustler gains a Third Eye. A Control Freak becomes The Chessmaster (offscreen).
  • The Devil is a Part-Timer! is all about this, since it focuses on characters from a Heroic Fantasy universe who cross dimensions and end up in modern-day Japan. The title character goes from Evil Overlord of a demon army to the assistant manager of MgRonald's in a relatively short amount of time; in fact, his passion for the job and dedication to the customers are the first sign that just because he's called "Demon King" doesn't mean he's a bad guy. His opposite number, the angel-empowered Heroine Emilia, likewise lands on her feet and has very quickly set herself up with a steady job at a call center. About the only character shown struggling with the transition is the one whose cultural research relied a little too much on Jidaigeki TV dramas.
  • Zigzagged in the Battle City arc in Yu-Gi-Oh!; most contestants adapt to the new rules very quickly, but Jonouchi has some trouble, making a mistake in his duel with Espa Roba. He catches on quickly after that.
  • Ash Ketchum regularly zigzags with this in Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon. While he often acts like an accident-prone Fish out of Water adapting to Alola's different Pokémon and conventions, his experience built up across other regions makes him the most battle competent of his companions, and he adapts to the Z Ring mechanic even quicker than the native trainers do.
  • Most dragons in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid stick out like a sore thumb when they first come to Earth. On the other hand, Tatsuzawa adapts so quickly that Kobayashi had no idea they weren't human until she was informed by a third party despite them having been coworkers for a while.
  • Some girls in Negima! Magister Negi Magi take to magic like this despite having no experience or biological background in the field. The standout example though is Yue Ayase, a (mostly) normal girl who picks up magic quickly and early on in her training actually manages to perform better than a girl said to have more potential than the strongest mage in the story. The sequel UQ Holder! shows that she's become a legendary hero in her own right.

    Comic Books 
  • The Warlord (DC): Both Travis Morgan and later Mariah make the change to living in the Lost World of Skataris very easily. Mariah's easy adjustment catches Morgan by surprise as he did not suspect that the archaeologist was also a champion sabre fencer.
  • Superman, Supergirl and other Kryptonian characters are relatively ordinary under the light of a red sun (such as that of their home planet of Krypton). Under a yellow sun like that of Earth, they acquire powers and abilities "far beyond those of mortal men."
  • What If?:
    • One issue featured Conan the Barbarian being stranded in the twentieth century, where he promptly becomes a successful gang leader. This was actually spun out of a story arc from Conan's own comic, where he was sent back to his proper time and place eventually instead.
    • Conan also adapts to the present day in Savage Avengers. The 2019 Marvel 2099 event has him become a king, with at least a working understanding of 2099 tech and culture.
    • Another "What If...?" had the Hulk becoming a barbarian king; he did the same in the canonical arc Planet Hulk.
  • Harrison Oogar, the caveman of Wall Street, from the Age of the Sentry miniseries. He beat market five years straight!
  • Metamorpho: Java, the unfrozen caveman butler of Simon Stagg. Subverted in The Terrifics, which reveals that he hates the modern world and feels entirely out of place in it — it's just nobody ever asked him.
  • The Avengers: Kang the Conqueror. Bored with his life in a peaceful 30th Century, he traveled back in time to conquer Ancient Egypt and then hopped forward to take over a war-torn 40th Century. He was so successful, he became a few of Marvel's biggest villains.
  • Double Subverted by Booster Gold. Originally a screw-up in his native 25th century, he stole some future tech and a time machine to travel back to modern times, figuring he could become a beloved hero. Instead, he gained a reputation as a screw-up. He later does manage to find his niche, but as a guardian of space-time...which requires him to maintain his reputation as a screw-up to ensure that "kill Booster Gold back when he was still a loser" doesn't become the first step in every time-traveling villain's Evil Plan.
  • Belgian comic Suske en Wiske, has Jerom, an actual caveman who after being unfrozen managed to become in essence a sophisticated everyman, even while retaining his prehistoric Hulk Speak and Super-Strength.
  • Played with somewhat in the origin of DC villain Vandal Savage - while absorbing the radiation from a meteorite has made him intelligent and cunning enough to thrive in the modern world, it also gave him thousands of years to adapt along with it, and he's still fondly retained some of his old brutish habits (cannibalism, for example).
  • An early issue of Fantastic Four had Reed, Ben, and Johnny heading back to the 1700s. Ben had to be convinced to come home after he discovered that while he was a freak of nature back home in "civilized" New York, he made a pretty kick-ass pirate.
  • The Adèle Blanc-Sec adventure "Le Savant Fou" has an especially weird example: the (literal) unfrozen caveman turns out to be fluent in French and immediately asks the scientists who unfroze him for clothes, a stiff drink and -if it wouldn't be asking too much- a cigar. The drop-jawed scientists comment that "We'll have to revise our understanding of the Prehistoric ages."

    Fan Works 
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Defenders of Warmth, Alexa is an excellent flyer, even though she was originally a human, not a Pidgey.
  • In his first day within Artemisia's Natural Philosophy class, Hiccup in Prodigal Son was able to comprehend concepts that baffle students that have been there for weeks. Within months, he surpassed concepts that students that have been there for years have been struggling with.
  • A Rabbit Among Wolves: In order to counter the White Fang's popularity, Ozpin orders Team RWBY to become public superheroes. Ruby quickly proves herself to be an excellent Propaganda Hero, because she is a naturally cheerful, optimistic, and self-sacrificing person.
  • Since characters throughout The Infinite Loops often get sent to each other's universes, this can pop up for characters who adapt quickly. For example, Phineas and Ferb adapt to the universe of Codename: Kids Next Door with ease due to their natural childlike wonder, as well as being able to create amazing inventions with ease.
  • Despite having never cooked before, Hiccup in Dragons, Butterflies, And Who Knows What Else? takes to it immediately, managing to help Julieta fix the next day's batch of medicinal food and that night's dinner with exceptional skill and efficiency.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Fifth Path: Despite having never even set foot in a courtroom, Ingrid has zero difficulty defending Sylvain, even if she grumbles otherwise.
  • When Reason Fails: Some initial hiccups aside, both Izuku and Katsuki quickly adapt to the world of Initiates and rise up to become major names, a situation specifically noted by the narrative to be an outlier among those that were not born Initiates to begin with.
  • In the Better Bones AU, it turns out that despite Stormcloud not being born in the Clans' battle-focused culture he takes to it quite well, loving to fight and enjoying the admiration he gets for his scar.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Evil Dead's Ashley J Williams is a subversion. At the end of Army of Darkness, he could have become a king, but he chose to go back and become a clerk at S-Mart again.
  • In The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Mr. Limpet [a human played by Don Knotts] is fascinated by fish, and at one point says, "I wish, I wish I was a fish." He gets his wish and acclimates very quickly.
  • In Red (2010), Sarah crosses this with Unfazed Everyman when thrust into the life of espionage. She is surrounded by old and young spies, assassins and government agents who are fighting over her life all the time. She is kidnapped, drugged, shot at, almost blown up, and kidnapped again. What does she say when she is confronted with the death sentence or life in prison if she is caught? "Awesome." And when she is? That her boyfriend will kick the interrogator's ass.
  • In Encino Man, an unfrozen caveman (played by Brendan Fraser) becomes the most popular kid in school without even trying.
  • Several of the historical personalities in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. In particular, Ludwig van Beethoven immediately masters the use of synthesizers at a music store.
  • With Brendan Fraser again, in Blast from the Past he plays a guy raised in a fallout shelter by parents who were sealed in it during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Upon emerging in The '90s, he finds;
    • His Omnidisciplinary Scientist father's doting education is better than modern Ivy League colleges.
    • His father's boxing training is better than most gang members' bare-knuckles street fighting.
    • His old-fashioned manners and values render him impossibly charming to the average modern Joe.
    • His father's wise investments are worth millions!
  • Played with in Never Been Kissed. The protagonist was an outcast in high school the first time and she's on her way to becoming one this time around, despite her theory that she could study her way into the popular clique. Her brother, on the other hand, drops in and becomes the most popular guy in school with no effort. Again.
  • This is the implied fate of Dr. Gillian Taylor, a whale specialist from the 1980s who essentially bullies her way into going back to the 23rd century with Kirk and company in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. After Kirk's trial, she takes a post on a science vessel, exclaiming excitedly that she has "three hundred years of catching up to do!" This may be a case of Fridge Logic depending on the nature of the assignment. Unless said vessel is an ocean ship, it would be more than a bit odd that her first act be to ship off and leave the whales to fend for themselves, especially considering that she'd justified coming along with them by the fact that no one in the 23rd century would know anything about taking care of whales.
  • The Last Starfighter: Alex Rogan is stuck in a rut in his trailer park, and the only thing he's really good at is a video game. Turns out the game's actually an alien flight simulator that was delivered to his park (instead of Las Vegas) by mistake, and he's scoring in the top percentile. He finds his place in life as a hotshot Gunstar pilot for the Star League, thousands of light-years from home.
  • Back to the Future Part III:
    • Marty McFly travels through time back to the old west. Despite being only a teenager who has presumably never shot a real gun before, he turns out to be an expert at quickdraw and pistol shooting (once he adjusts to the recoil) because of his familiarity with a video game from 1985.
    • Despite being considered a crazy, dangerous nut in his own time, Doc Brown's love of the Old West made him fit in perfectly with Hill Valley in 1885. Throughout the third film, he's shown to be well-liked and on first name terms with many local townspeople, including even the Mayor and until he learned that Marty came back to prevent Buford Tannen from shooting him, Doc was quite content to simply live out the rest of his life in the past.
  • In Battlefield Earth the cave people of 3000 quickly learn how to fly implausibly still functioning Aircraft and beat the Psychlo who defeated the real military.
  • Dick Nelson of Mom and Dad Save the World quickly becomes a brilliant military strategist on the planet Spengo despite being an ordinary American suburbanite simply because all of the natives are idiots.
  • In The Gamers interquel episode, it's revealed that Nimble the master thief became a successful lawyer. He's very interested in the possibilities of white-collar crime.
  • Look Who's Back has Hitler miraculously returning from the dead in 2015. At first he is disoriented, and the movie plays his foibles for comedy. After his initial shock, however, he slowly comes to realize that the current political situation is not too different from the one in the 1930s and discovers new mass-media inventions such as the Internet, and the story begin to take a much darker turn.
    Hitler: I can work with this.
  • The Retreat (2021): After just the bare minimum instruction from Renee, Val's capable of hitting a target at long range on her very first try with a sniper rifle (it's made clear she's never even held a gun before).

  • A variant in one of the special Animorphs book The Hork-Bajir Chronicles: A character, an alien Alien named Dak Hamee is known as a seer, possessing greater intelligence than most of his species. His kind are shown to be born once a while. He quickly learns and adapts to another alien's culture from an Andalite by the name of Aldrea and in turn he teaches her about his culture. As time goes by he quickly learns of a malicious race of parasite-infesting aliens called the Yeerks and he along with Aldrea join together along with a couple of his kind to fight them.
  • Two of the modern characters in Michael Crichton's Timeline end up living with ease and comfort in Late Medieval France. The first is a Marine with an uncanny knack for languages. The second is a history grad student with a passion for all things from his period of study; language, clothes, culture, sports, war... The first insinuates himself into a French court. The second lives his natural span, happily married to a French noblewoman.
  • One of the Choose Your Own Adventure Books was called The Cave of Time, which, predictably enough, involved time travel. In one of the endings, you're aided in your journey home by a man in the colonial US who is dying from TB. Once the two of you return to your time, the guy is cured thanks to modern medicine, becomes a history teacher, and becomes renowned due to his expert knowledge of the colonial US. It was one of the very few CYOA books with a sequel.
  • Alan Dean Foster's novel Glory Lane features an '80s punk rocker who gets abducted by aliens along with his brother and a random girl from the local college. He fits in much better in space than he did on Earth.
  • Buck Rogers is probably the paramount example of this trope. No matter what version you hear, it's all about Buck, a guy from today's times, being sent a couple of centuries in the future where he turns out to be such a hotshot ace at everything that he single-handedly saves the world, defeats the evil empire, or whatever it is needs doing.
  • Lord Jagged of Canary in Michael Moorcock's The Dancers at the End of Time cycle is a time traveller, who ventured to the eponymous End of Time, made his home there, and became more at home there than many of the era's native inhabitants, and being more pro-active than the rather clueless and almost purely hedonistic natives, ends up solving many of their problems, all while cheerfully embracing their (from our point of view) decadent hedonism.
  • Pham Nuwen from Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. Medieval prince of a human planet that has lost spacefaring technology. He then has to adapt to life as a programmer-at-arms after his planet is visited by traders from another human civilization, and computers, travel between stars and life extension become commonplace. Millennia after, his corpse is unfrozen and he is confronted by a world where faster-than-light travel, antigravity, and thousands of civilizations of sentient beings, including godlike powers are a reality.
  • Matthew Mantrell in Christopher Stasheff's Her Majesty's Wizard (and later, other characters in sequels, including a grad school buddy and Matt's mother), decodes runes he finds in a book in the library and is transported to a magical kingdom under siege. He finds that not only does he fit in perfectly to this fantasy kingdom, but that being an English major is a distinct advantage in a world where poetry IS spellcasting.
  • Also in Christopher Stasheff's works, there is Yorick, the telepathic Neanderthal from Warlock of Gramarye: King Kobold Revived. (Justified by the fact that he, and his entire tribe of caveman espers, were rescued by a time traveler and relocated to another part of the planet the series takes place on in order to save them from extinction.)
  • There is a Poul Anderson short story in which a white-collar worker has his soul switched with a Conan-esque barbarian warlord. In the end, the goddess that switched them offers to return them to their original bodies. They both turn down the offer.
  • Discworld:
    • When Carrot Ironfoundersson first arrives in Ankh-Morpork, he has no idea about city life and is completely naïve about nearly everything. By his very next book, he's completely at home, in some ways more so than his boss Samuel Vimes, a classic city man who's lived in Ankh-Morpork all his life. Justified in that it is strongly implied that he is the rightful king of the city, and thus the whole city bends to his will.
    • Carcer in Night Watch is thrown through time and adapts with terrifying speed, to the point that he ends up becoming a secret policeman.
    • Zig-Zagged whenever Death Takes a Holiday; his attempts to engage in non-Death activities will either show him to be extremely competent or extremely incompetent. He gets a job as a cook at a greasy spoon in Mort and excels, turns out to be a great farmhand in Reaper Man, and even has success as a beggar in Soul Music (it's hard to say no to him). But when he turns up on a stage in Wyrd Sisters he fudges his lines (he doesn't forget, he just has a bit of stage fright), has middling success standing in for the Disc's equivalent to Santa Claus in Hogfather, and can't learn music to save his "life".
  • Tom Billings, the hero of Edgar Rice Burroughs The People That Time Forgot, who adapts to life very easily in the primeval Lost World of Caspak and elects to stay there with the woman he loves. Possibly crosses over into Born in the Wrong Century.
  • There is a Frommer Files story where Erich Brunner, a disaffected aristocrat living in the late 21st Century, develops time travel and sends himself back to 1919 in an attempt to (of course) stop Hitler. He fails miserably, but winds up as a medievalist historian at Cambridge and works there happily for the rest of his life.
  • The downtimer community in the Time Scout series adapt to varying degrees. Some are Fish out of Temporal Water, some are this trope. The same is true of people who travel to the past. Some are conspicuous tourists, others are invisible. Being a downtimer tourist is only possible down a gate developed for that; uptime is more friendly to downtimers. They even provide counseling.
  • In Leo Frankowski's The Cross Time Engineer series:
    • Conrad rapidly adapts to being stranded in medieval Poland. Justified in that he is college-educated, military-trained, and is unwittingly receiving assistance from the time travelers that stranded him.
    • In Conrad's Time Machine, a whole time-traveling society known as the 'Killers' revel in joining ancient societies, especially in combat. At the same time, subverted by the other time-traveling society of 'Smoothies' who are incapable of coping with so much as a scraped knee.
  • Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is completely out of his depth for nearly all his adventures in space, but eventually tries to settle down on a nice peaceful planet and live a normal life. The people there are primitive, so he hopes to use his comparatively advanced knowledge to aid them, only to realize he has no idea how any earth technology actually works. Getting depressed, he makes himself a sandwich, only to discover that the locals have never seen one before and think it's a stroke of genius. He becomes a highly respected member of the village as a sandwich artisan.
  • Susan Shaw in Edward Ormondroyd's Time at the Top was much more at home living in the 19th century than in the 20th.
  • In the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, someone figured out how to clone Neanderthals. It turns out they are a bit different from Homo sapiens, most importantly, they are unable to lie. This leads to a literal caveman lawyer, a neanderthal who figured out how to deceive others by not saying the whole truth. As everyone knows his kind is unable to lie, he promptly became extremely successful.
  • H. Beam Piper's Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen. He quickly goes from State Trooper to Great King.
  • John Carter of Mars gains superstrength on Mars, thanks to Earth's higher gravity. When he arrives on Mars he's an ordinary warrior (albeit with exceptional fighting skills). By the end of the third book, he's Jeddak of Jeddaks, Warlord of Barsoom, and in charge of the Twin Cities of Helium and Lesser Helium. In later books, he conquers even more cities/civilizations. His biggest advantage is that in the lower gravity of Mars, an Earthman is a Heavy Worlder.
  • Lampshaded in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Cao Cao is referred to by a man known for evaluating people thus: "You would be a capable minister in peaceful times and an unscrupulous hero in chaotic times." Cao Cao bears it out: before the Yellow Turban Rebellion, he's a loyal, if minor, magistrate. As the land descends to chaos, he comes out on top of the feudal lords of central and northern China. His line would eventually supplant the Han. This is fairly common in the book. The civil war offered opportunity to minor nobility to go far farther than they would have normally, assuming they had the talent to survive the turmoil. Of the other two emperors of the titular Three Kingdoms, one was the son of a merchant. The other was distantly related to the emperor, and starts the novel selling shoes and weaving straw mats.
  • Quite a few people who lived normal, uneventful lives in the year 2000 in Virginia become extremely rich and/or influential when thrust back in time to 1632 Europe in the 1632 novel series, due to their knowledge or political acumen.
  • In Dune, one of the signs of Paul's Messiahdom is that he is able to, among other things, perfectly utilize a stillsuit without instructions.
    • The full awesomeness of the Dune Prophecy is "He will know your ways as if born to them."
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court has the title character replace Merlin as court mage, eventually gaining much power and even an army.
  • World War Z mentions people like this, mostly paranoid survivalists or gangs of thugs who managed to carve out an area for them to 'rule' when civilization collapsed.
  • In Abarat, everyone notices how quickly outsider Candy gets used to Abarat. Most outsiders take weeks to fully adjust to its quirks. Foreshadowing, of course, since Candy was an Abarattian princess in a former lifetime.
  • Leviathan: Deryn never fit in as a typical Edwardian young lady, but when she sneaks into the Air Service, she not only fits in with the other middies but is shown to be the best of them all.
  • In the Guardians of the Flame series, a group of college students is transported into a fantasy world and end up using their modern knowledge to establish a kingdom dedicated to liberty and equality - and defended with gunpowder and machinery.
  • Flores Quintera, the old girlfriend Jonathan Thomas Meriwether accidentally helped summon in the first book of Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series, became acclimated to that universe's way of life rather easily, to the point of happily going off with a talking rabbit at the end of the second.
  • In the Emberverse novels, some characters and groups take more readily to the end of technology than others. Especially noteworthy is Norman Arminger, who parlays an influential position in the Portland chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism and a decent theoretical knowledge of medieval combat tactics into a neo-feudal kingdom that emerges from the chaos as one of the major military and economic powers in the region.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter spent 11 years being told magic didn't exist. Within a few months of learning that brooms could be used for flight, he became the youngest Quidditch Seeker in a century and proceeded to have a nearly undefeated run (the only times he ever lost were due to outside influence, such as Dementor attacks or taking a bludger to the skull).
    • Hermione Granger is muggle-born, and so likewise grew up without even knowing she was a witch until age eleven. Her naturally studious nature makes her the best and most knowledgeable student in her class.
  • In Domina, Adam Anders was just a rich kid with mild sociopathic tendencies who got thrown into a city of criminals who like using a Bio-Augmentation device to turn themselves into monsters, and then the Composer showed up with zombies. Turns out sociopaths are pretty good at killing without remorse. He even makes quite a bit of money on the side hunting non-human monsters.
  • Waldo Butters from The Dresden Files lacks any major talent in magical abilities in a world of gods, angels, demons, necromancers, The Fair Folk, and a whole slew of other things in the Fantasy Kitchen Sink. However, his analytical mind and understanding of proper theory is beyond the hero Harry Dresden, who is a very powerful and dangerous wizard. So, with the right aide in magical theory and proper battery he goes from one trying to deny magic exists despite being attacked by a necromancer who revived his coworker as a zombie, to a curious coroner who studied Harry for some biological answers to making some minor Magitek, to dressing like Batman to fight evil when Harry was out of commission, to becoming a Jewish Jedi Knight of the frikking Cross complete with a holy blade in the form of a lightsaber.
  • Jerin Whistler of A Brother's Price is a country bumpkin, and when he receives an invitation to spend some time at the royal palace, he is bored at first, because there is absolutely nothing to do. Then, as tends to happen in novels, he finds out about an intrigue against the royal family, and puts to use his hobbies, which include code-breaking and lockpicking, as some of his ancestors were spies and the family upholds traditions.
  • In the short story "Gun for Hire" by Mack Reynolds, a hitman is time-scooped to a future utopia without violence or competition, all to kill a dissident who's threatening to upset this by making himself leader. So the hitman just offers his services to the dissident instead. What did the scoopers expect to happen?
  • In Iain Banks' Matter the heroine becomes an agent of Special Circumstances, a combination of 007 and Navy Seals, in the very advanced Culture, despite having been raised in a society that is approximately 1500 AD our time.
  • The Terry Pratchett story "Final Reward" has a fantasy writer kill off his Barbarian Hero, only for said hero to show up at his front door. While initially something of a Fish out of Water, being a "basic hero type" apparently lets you adapt to anywhere, and by the end of the story, the writer feels the barbarian fits into the modern world better than he does.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel:
    • Lorne is a demon from the dimension Pylea who stranded in the Earth dimension via a porta. As Lorne actually always hated his own life in his homeworld, he fits in into Earth quite well, finding a real interest in human music.
    • Daniel Holtz is a vampire hunter from the 18th century who was brought into present day to get his revenge on Angel and Darla. As he knew he would pass 200 years in process he never seems to have any difficulties to accept the changes in the world since his absence, fully focussing on his revenge.
  • Chiefs: Will Lee is a simple farmer with no police experience, but once he's made police chief, he proves to be a good peacekeeper and investigator.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Nimrod the neanderthal adjusts pretty well to being a butler in the serial "Ghost Light", and later an interstellar explorer.
    • As does Ancelyn, the medieval knight catapulted to the late 20th century in "Battlefield". He manages to hook up with Bambera, the commander of UNIT in that era, and get a job as a gardener for then-retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
    • "The Curse of the Black Spot": 17th-century pirate Captain Henry Avery is able to immediately identify the major controls of the TARDIS and how they work, as well as later pilot an ancient alien ship, because, well, "a ship's a ship".
  • John Crichton, star of Farscape has his season-or-so of being a regular Fish out of Water. However, after that season ends, the series sees John pull stuff that not even the Evil Plan-wielding villains had ever once considered- with the possible exception of Scorpius. And, boy, was he just getting started... Heavily justified as though every other race is stronger, faster, tougher, and/or smarter, Crichton has three little aces up his sleeve; first, he's the only man in the Uncharted Territories who is not from a Planet of Hats, making him both familiar with most of those Hats and fairly skilled at facilitating communication between different ones; second, he simply doesn't know when he's been beaten; and third, he is completely and totally batshit insane. By the end of the series, Crichton is willing to strap a nuclear weapon to his hip and stroll right into The Empire's most secure facility and blackmail them as part of a rescue mission - and it works!
    • This sentiment is expressed in the series finale "Bad Timing", though (presumably) not meant to be taken literally.
      John: What did you imagine for your life?
      Aeryn: Service, promotion, retirement, death. You?
      John: This is exactly what I imagined... and a couple of kids.
  • Green Acres: Lisa, who ironically wants to return to New York, but adapts better than her husband to the unique ways of Hooterville. Justified in that she is a Cloudcuckoolander and Hooterville is prime Cloudcuckooland real estate.
  • Lois & Clark: A time-traveler from the 30th century, a time with no war, crime or poverty, visits the 20th century. He's so enthralled by the violence and vice of the era that he decides not only to stay but to try and take it over.
  • Elizabeth Bennet in Lost in Austen adapts to the 21st century a lot better than the nominal heroine adapts to Regency England, despite her assumption of being Genre Savvy from reading and re-reading Pride and Prejudice, the book she's trapped inside.
  • One of the escaped souls in Reaper was a Hun. Although initially unfamiliar with the modern world, being frightened off by Sam's cellphone, by the next time they encounter him he's a fully adapted businessman.
  • Keyrock, the unfrozen caveman lawyer, from the Saturday Night Live sketch. The former Trope Namer. Keyrock becomes a sleazy lawyer who repeatedly uses his past to help make his arguments in court.
  • Sherlock: When John meets Sherlock he quickly becomes used to the kookiness of his friend and hands ass to two villains, and a lot more.
  • Space Precinct: Intelligent races tend to homogenize and eventually follow rules as a manner of etiquette. Then Faster-Than-Light Travel was discovered, they started interacting, finding that they had different forms of etiquette, and parts of their civilizations started rediscovering crime. Solution: find a race that still practices criminal investigation and recruit them as Space Police!
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Scotty from Star Trek: The Original Series becomes one in "Relics", as he tries to show that his engineering expertise is still useful in the 24th century, despite all the advances in technology since his time.
    • The original series featured Khan Noonien Singh, who within 24 hours of being awakened from over 200 years in cold sleep had studied the Enterprise's technical manuals and learned them well enough to take control of the ship. Of course, being a genetically-enhanced superman who can outdo even Spock physically and mentally doesn't hurt.
    • Captain Kirk quickly becomes the greatest gangster of them all in "A Piece of the Action".
  • On Supernatural, when Sam and Dean get sent to prison, Dean adapts to the situation with ease and actually seems to be enjoying his stay. It gets to the point where Sam asks, "Dean, doesn't it bother you how well you seem to fit in here?"
  • This is the basis for the short-lived sitcom Cavemen, featuring modern-day Neanderthals who evolved alongside "modern" humans. The opening credits even show cavemen involved at different points in world history, such as one caveman accompanying George Washington crossing the Delaware River.
  • The Good Place: When the heroes have to infiltrate the Bad Place, Tahani (rich British socialite) and Jason (friendly idiot) both fit in without any trouble. Eleanor (cynical pathological liar) probably could have done well, but she ends up not needing to talk to anyone. On the other hand, Chidi (scrupulously honest moral philosophy professor) gets mistaken for a specific demon and has a lot of trouble maintaining his cover, especially when the other demons ask him for advice on torture. He eventually tells them a story about how he tortured a girl by forcing her to read moral philosophy books.
    Chidi: You know, everyone hates moral philosophers.
    Chet: That is true.
  • Played for laughs in The X-Files in the episode "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster". Guy Mann, who is a creature cursed to periodically turn human, explains to Mulder how he passes as human:
    Guy: You see, now I possess the one Darwinian advantage that humans have over other animals: the ability to B.S. my way through anything!
    Mulder: You wouldn't happen to be, uh, B.S-ing me right now about all this, would you?
    Guy: I don't know... maybe? I don't understand half the things I'm telling you.
  • Alfhildr of Beforeigners has done a fantastic job of assimilating from 11th century to 21st century life. You'd almost think she grew up with smartphones and Google. She did. Her tech-savvy is foreshadowing that the time holes can be used to travel into the past.
    • Navn has managed to found and run both a fashion brand and a drug empire, in spite of having lived as a hunter-gatherer until his twenties. He lives in a mansion in a gated community and is Happily Married to an up-time woman.
    • Othilia Winter was a journalist in the 1870s, and saw no reason to abandon her career just because she was thrown into the future. She occasionally makes some archaic word choices and hasn't really understood modern reporting standards, but there is nothing about her that indicates that she is a time-traveler rather than an eccentric with a taste for sensationalism.


    Video Games 
  • Left 4 Dead:
    • Zoey was doing poorly in college and spent most of her time watching horror movies about zombies. After the world is overrun with zombies, she is Genre Savvy enough to survive.
    • Played for Drama with Bill, a Vietnam Vet who was implied to have no friends and either has no surviving family members or is estranged from them. He was about ready to let the clock run out when the zombie apocalypse hit and seemed almost too eager to get back into the fight.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, despite most potential Wardens having fairly humble origins, they have the potential to become a better Grey Warden than the more experienced and Templar-trained Alistair. For example, the City Elf and Dwarf Commoner Wardens are self-taught fighters with no formal combat training, the Dalish Warden have little knowledge of the world outside of their clan and the Human/Elf Mage Warden is simply a Badass Bookworm who probably hasn't been outside the Mage Tower in years. Justified as most Grey Wardens recruits are often picked precisely for this reason, having unique qualities that can be honed to make them excellent at fighting Darkspawn.
  • Eddie Riggs of Brütal Legend not only fits in better than the natives of his new land, but he also picks up battle-axe usage oddly quickly, and is even genuinely shocked they would think he'd want to go home again. It's foreshadowing, of course. Both his mother and father were from that world; his dad was a human hero, while his mother was the queen of demons and said battle-axe had belonged to her.
  • In Mass Effect, the entire human race comes across as this to the other alien races, who are a little perturbed how quickly humanity is adapting, integrating and rising to prominence within the galactic community. Especially since humanity went from discovering mass effect technology and unsealing their Mass Relay, to making first contact, to gaining a seat on the Citadel Council in just under forty years.
    • In Mass Effect: Andromeda, the krogan split off from the rest of the Andromeda Initiative thanks to shabby treatment some months before Ryder shows up. In the following months, they've managed to make the most successful colony in the area, on a planet with searing heat, constant daylight (it's tidally locked), barely any water, and highly aggressive local wildlife. There are grumblings from them, but they're still doing better than anyone else, a fact their leader rubs in Ryder's face when they first meet.
  • Despite being an amnesiac pulled off a crashed truck carrying corpses with no equipment or resources, The Marked One proves capable of wiping out dozens of armed opponents alone. Turns out he's not new at this, not that he remembers it at all. It's possible for the player to subvert this trope, as one of the beginning options is to say that you do remember the basics of surviving in the Zone.
  • Present in Persona 4 with Teddie. The rate at which he adapts to living in the human world is startling, given the fact that just less than 2 months earlier, he didn't even know that "Evidence" isn't a type of food, that a human hand isn't edible or what filming is, among many other things. In fact, he didn't even have a humanoid body until a short while before entering the human world, yet within a mere span of days, he is part-timing at a Department Store, pleasantly enjoying modern commodities and flirting through half the female population of Inaba. Some concepts do remain unfamiliar to him for a longer while, but they are not the ones you would expect.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: The main characters of the series seem to be pretty competent at fighting even though they're actually humans. They can even beat legendaries despite the fact that they're at their first evolutionary stage most of the time.
  • Pikmin: Olimar becomes a Pikmin-chucking badass pretty quickly for a humble space freighter.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: The Player Character takes quite well to Jedi training for a junior Republic Navy crewman. Of course, the Tomato Surprise subverts this by revealing they were once the Big Bad Darth Revan.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Throughout the series starting with Daggerfall, the Player Character can join various guilds and factions, often with their own questlines nearly as expansive as the main quest itself. Despite always joining as the lowest rank in the faction, the player character can nonetheless complete the questline and shoot up through the ranks in a matter of a few in-game weeks, even despite the presence of other members who've been serving for years if not decades in some cases. Asskicking Leads to Leadership plays into this, as the player character is just that sort of omnicompetent badass who can resolve the questline's conflict and inspire the loyalty of the other members.
    • The three joinable Dunmeri (Dark Elf) Great Houses in Morrowind are a particularly prominent example, crossing over with Mighty Whitey. The Nerevarine is explictly an outlander (even if played as a Dunmer) who arrives in one of the most alien settings in Tamriel. Despite this, they can join any of the Great Houses and rise in rank as easily as any of the Imperial factions. In many cases, the other high ranking members have been active in the house for decades (or centuries in the case of the Telvanni) but will easily be jumped. Helping matters is that each house has a councilor who serves as a mentor to the Nerevarinenote , helping them to navigate the tricky politics, red tape, blackmail, and even outright murder that tends to slow down progress. That same mentor will also gladly step aside when the Nerevarine reaches the highest ranks, gladly serving as a "#2".
  • Half-Life: Gordon Freeman was by all accounts an ordinary theoretical physicist whose only claim to notoriety is being trained to use a particularly high-tech piece of PPE, which itself is in no way unique. Then the Black Mesa Incident happened, and he became a One-Man Army capable of plowing through aliens, monsters, and U.S. Marines to get to the source of the chaos and blow it up. Half-Life 2 plops him down decades later in a Vichy Earth ruled by an interdimensional empire called the Combine and told, more or less, to just do what comes natural. A few weeks later, their Citadel explodes, their forces are in retreat, and the Rebellion is well on its way to reclaiming Earth.

    Visual Novels 
  • Melody:
    • The protagonist has no tutoring experience before teaching Melody, but he is able to teach her a great deal.
    • Downplayed with the protagonist's management of Melody’s career. He does do much better than his lack of experience would suggest, but he gets some lucky breaks as well.

  • Parson Gotti of Erfworld, Justified in that he was specifically summoned in order to be able to adapt rapidly. The spell was supposed to summon someone who would find the place familiar. There's also the fact that he's by reputation a hardcore (and pretty ruthless) wargamer, and Erf is a wargame. In his mind, he's been living in a series of close cousins of Erf for years, his biggest problem is that he doesn't know what the rules are at first. As soon as he finds out, he begins finding ways to subvert them.
  • Rina Lee in The Dragon Doctors, a girl turned to stone and left in an abandoned mine for 2000 years before being rescued by the magical doctors. Society has actually been destroyed fully four times in a row over the course of 2000 years and is currently more or less back at the same level that Rina is able to relate to, though she's still horribly traumatized at first. The doctors point out that if she had been frozen during one of the Dark Ages she wouldn't have fared nearly as well. It also helps that she already knew magic before emerging into a magical world.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Gav, the former webcomic artist who wrote Nukees, was a Human Popsicle for a millennium (ever since the 21st century). When he was defrosted, he became... a wormhole physicist. Justified as he was defrosted just as an alien technology-suppressing conspiracy was broken, meaning he has an untainted viewpoint.
  • The Compozerz is set in modern times, with five famous classical music composers inexplicably transported to the desert of the American Southwest, where they suddenly speak perfect English and get used to modern conveniences in no time. With a little help from their new friend Connie.

    Web Original 
  • The Time... Guys: Caveman the intern, a native of the 40th millennium B.C., is leagues more competent than Dr. Chronos, D.D.S..
  • In Dragonbored, Jimbroth is a Barbarian Hero from Skyguard thrown into the real world, who ends up stealing his former player's promotion at work after he successfully applies the rules of medieval warfare to that of the corporate business structure.
  • Turnabout Storm: Unlike Phoenix, the Judge takes the whole "Unwillingly summoned to a land full of colorful equines" issue lightly. He adjusts to Equestria almost instantly and is thrilled to explore and meet its inhabitants.
    Judge: Aren't these ponies just remarkable, Mr. Wright? They have shown me nothing but a good time!
    Phoenix: All they've done for me is make fun of my hair...
  • A number of humans in The Jenkinsverse fit just right in, especially post-contact (once A) humans gain proper sentient status instead of their former classification as "non-sapient fauna" and B) translators are generally programmed for human languages). Justified because in that universe Humans Are Superior, not only physically but compared to most of the galaxy, mentally as well.
  • The plot of Caelum Lex begins with Leta Adler, a doctor from a wealthy planet, getting dragged onto a Space Pirates ship. Does she cry? Does she panic? No - she treats the wounded and becomes part of the crew in a flash, and she's happy about it because she's been looking for passage off-planet for months.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, when Betty jumps through a wormhole into the present, she has no trouble adjusting to the land of Ooo and immediately manages to beat a monster whose Anti-Magic had thwarted a whole legion of wizards. Within a few months, she's elbow-deep into research about the origins of magic, something she apparently was investigating pre-Mushroom War. This doesn't work out as well for her.
  • Amphibia:
    • While Sasha started off in a worse scenario than Anne when both became Trapped in Another World, having been imprisoned in an army encampment rather than simply lost in the wilderness, her skills as a master manipulator and fighter have her as the second-in-command of the valley's toad army within a month's time.
    • Marcy ended up within the city of Newtopia, and while her initial circumstances are otherwise unclear, her obsession with roleplaying games and fantasy settings in general served her well:
      Marcy: I just role-played like your typical artificer/rogue and the next thing I know, boom! I'm the chief ranger of the Newtopian Knight Guard!
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force did a joke with a caveman who kept on ripping off Frylock's inventions while pretending to be just a stupid caveman.
  • Back to the Future: Clara and Verne adapt to life in the 1990s perfectly. Jules is unpopular, but it's because he's a nerd, not because he was born in the 1880s.
  • Duck Dodgers is a pastiche of Buck Rogers, and is made a captain because IQ High is Wrong Genre Savvy, who expects him to be better at everything because he's from the past. He and everyone wise up pretty quick to Dodgers' incompetence, but the duck still has his uses as no one else in the 2250s is stupid enough to attempt some of the crazy things he does. And some of those stunts actually work. Some.
  • Played for Laughs in the DuckTales (2017) episode Timephoon!, where after being excited that a real caveduck came into the present giving him the chance to deduct his abilities and life, Huey is driven crazy by the fact that said caveduck has no problem to adapt to everything he is confronted with, succesfully riding a skateboard and later a similar time displaced dinosaur with ease. It helps that he is revealed to be an ancestor of Scrooge McDuck, implying he might be way smarter than his contemporaries.
  • The Falcone's crime history in Fugget About It start with their ancestor Giuseppe, a cobbler, mistakenly thought to have killed the don. He adapt to the life of crime and violence fast because making shoes for people gave him a lot of pent up aggression.
  • Futurama
    • Fry makes several comments throughout the series about how he fits in better in the future. While he's still a naive delivery boy, he is much happier with his now futuristic life. He eventually turns out to be the most important person in the universe. For more than one reason.
    • When Fry's ex-girlfriend from 1999, Michelle, shows up, she is confused and terrified by the world of the future; Amy and Leela point out that Fry was a bizarre outsider in his own time, and so he has adapted much better to the bizarre world of 3000.
    • "That Guy" (Steve Castle), another stereotypical '80s guy, picks up right where he left off as a successful corporate raider. Granted, he and Fry met in a counseling group for unfrozen people. A caveman at that group was having the hardest trouble coping with the fact that his wife was on display in a museum. "That Guy" is a Disco Dan who should be even more out of touch than Fry, having been frozen since The '80s. Nevertheless, his business acumen and ruthlessness serve him well, and he's able to increase the value of a business despite initially not even knowing what it does. The only reason it didn't last is that he forgot to get his terminal disease cured (which, incidentally, was the whole reason he even froze himself in the first place).
  • Galaxy High: The two lead characters (Doyle Cleverlobe and Aimee Brightower) are the first humans to attend the titular school (an intergalactic boarding school) after previously attending a regular human high school back on Earth, where Doyle (a Jerk Jock who was failing pretty much all of his classes) was easily the most popular kid in school while Aimee (a super-smart bookworm) was near the bottom social ladder. But after arriving at their new high school, their roles end up being reversed, in that Aimee ends up becoming one of the most popular kids in school (not only due to her past academic record but also because there's three times as many boys as there are girls at Galaxy High) while Doyle's now the least popular in kid school (at least partially due to how sports aren't as big of a thing at Galaxy High as they were at his and Aimee's old high school).
  • Gargoyles:
    • Brooklyn, Lexington, and Broadway take pretty quickly to the world of 1994, despite being a thousand years out of date. All the Gargoyles have shades of it, really, but it's most noticeable with the trio.
    • Hudson too, once he discovers television. And reclining easy chairs...
      Hudson: Well, now. This isn't too bad!
  • Over the Garden Wall: Wirt is socially awkward in his hometown, but is considered a pilgrim of sorts in the Unknown; at least, according to the members of the tavern.
    You're a pilgrim! You're the master of your own fate!
    The maker of your own destiny!
  • The animated series Martin Mystery has a character named Java, a caveman that was frozen in ice for 200,000 years. He works at the titular Martin's high school as a cook and janitor and helps him and his stepsister Diana solve supernatural mysteries for The Center. He's rather wary of technology and has terrible hygiene and grammar, but otherwise has adapted to 20th-century life quite well.
    • And of course, the character is based on a character of the same name from an Italian comic, and works as an assistant and sort-of butler for Martin Mystère. No bad hygiene or wariness of technology is evident, in fact, he almost seems to fit everyday modern life a bit better than his boss. His only seeming flaws are his lecherousness and 'wandering hands'.
  • The titular Samurai Jack quickly becomes this in the future where Aku flings him. The demon had intended him to be lost and helpless in a world where HE rules, but the samurai rapidly adapts quite well seeing how most of it feels like a Kurosawa movie. That said, for four seasons he prefers living simply and using future technology only when he must, and is a disaster behind the wheel whenever he takes it, sheepishly saying "I like to walk". In Season 5 he's adapted fully to using futuristic weapons and vehicles, but by that point, he's been in the future for fifty years.
  • In The Simpsons episode "You Only Move Twice", Homer gets hired as a manager for Cyprus Creek's operations. Surprisingly, he turns out to be pretty good at it; his managerial duties are basically just to check on everyone's needs, not get in their way, and occasionally say something motivating, all of which is well within his skill set. His general gullibility, low ambition, and willingness to listen to rambles also makes him a good henchman for Hank Scorpio. The Dilbert Principle in action, perhaps.
  • Inversion: "Gorak" from South Park. Frozen in the ice nearly 32 months previous; after thawing, was difficult to train in "modern" communication, unable to adapt to "modern" ways, and ultimately moved to Des Moines, Iowa, because they're nearly three years behind everyone else.
    • In "Go God Go", Cartman has great trouble adjusting to life 500 years in the future. In "Go God Go XII" (which is the very next episode), he has lived there for some time, has formed a tenuous alliance with the Otters and gets around much more confidently.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Played with in regards to Lapis Lazuli, who has hydrokinetic powers that's only limited by the volume of water she has access to. Proximity to Earth's ocean makes her a Person of Mass Destruction, and the show just so happens to take place in a coastal town. Meanwhile, the Gem Homeworld lacks water, so she's pretty powerless there—her kind is specifically meant to travel other worlds and assist in Hostile Terraforming. The irony comes in the fact that Lapis doesn't really care about this power and absolutely hates the planet Earth, initially wanting to leave Earth for Homeworld (which was one thing she couldn't do without Steven's help). When Lapis is eventually forced out of Homeworld's Empire, with Earth the only other known residence of intelligent life, she's very much a Fish out of Water when it comes to adjusting emotionally.
    • When the "Navy" Ruby tries to join the Crystal Gems, her congenial personality seems to let her adjust to life on Earth almost instantly, much to Lapis' resentment. While Navy does have some interest in Earth, she turns out to be a Fake Defector who was exaggerating her affection for the planet.
    • Lars is a human, and not a strong or well-adjusted one. However, when he gets stranded on Homeworld, it's discovered that much of Homeworld's automated weaponry naturally relies a lot on detecting gemstones, which humans don't have. To gem Attack Drones and security scanners, Lars is invisible. He uses this, along with a general uptick in confidence, to turn the Off Colors from a desperate band of fugitives to a crew of Space Pirates who managed to repeatedly elude Homeworld and hijack several ships.
  • In one episode of Timon & Pumbaa, Simba finds himself with the duo in Rome, Italy. Simba is not at all bothered by his Fish out of Water setting as opposed to his usual appearances in either the Pridelands or the Jungle and adapts to his location quite well. Even going along with Timon and Pumbaa's antics!
  • The Season 7 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic saw the coming of a group of old Equestrian heroes called "the Pillars" to modern Equestria, a time difference of over 1000 years. Barring one, the season 8 episode "A Rockhoof and a Hard Place" shows that the Pillars all have jobs that are either the same or utilize their talents effectively in another way. One, military pegasus Flash Magnus, gets back into the guard and even is leading the first mixed company of guards seen in the show with earth pony, pegasus, and unicorn members.
  • The DuckTales (1987) version of Bubba the Cave Duck quickly adapts to 20th century Duckburg. Parodied with the DuckTales (2017) version, who even more quickly starts skateboarding around McDuck Manor in sunglasses while Huey protests that this is totally contrary to everything known about prehistoric duck.

Alternative Title(s): Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Like A Fish Takes To Water, The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer