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Mistaken Nationality

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The Boss: Listen, you French fuck...
Phillipe Loren: Please! I am Belgian!
Johnny Gat: So make yourself a fuckin' waffle! We're done here.

In Real Life, people far too often make erroneous assumptions about others based on flimsy or non-existent evidence. This is especially the case when regarding those who in some way are "outsiders". Often, hilariously wrong assumptions will be made based solely on appearance, failing to take into account the behaviour of the subject or other relevant circumstances. One common form of this is to presume that a foreign-looking person belongs to such-and-such nationality and getting it very wrong. This also happens with people of nationalities with animosity towards each other, e.g. some former Soviet countries assuming people are Russian. It may even be a Berserk Button that they'll take as an insult: you'd be ill-advised to, say, ask the Violent Glaswegian what part of England he's from.

For example: in East Asian countries like Japan or China, anyone with sufficiently pale skin will usually be presumed to be Americans, despite this nationality only constituting a minority of "Western" visitors to these countries. A related form is assuming that foreign-looking people with the same nationality and native tongue as yourself are foreigners ignorant of your language. Or assuming that people who both look foreign and are foreign are ignorant of the local tongue, when they are in fact fluent.

Interchangeable Asian Cultures is a Sub-Trope dealing specifically with confusing or lumping Asian ethnicities and cultures together. Mistaken for Foreigner is another sub trope. May result in Misaimed Stereotyping. Non-Specifically Foreign is when no-one knows what country the character is from.

Compare I Am Not Weasel, where the problem is a mistaken species. Contrast Fake Nationality and its sub-tropes. Note that this is different from Mistaken Ethnicity, which deals with a person's background rather than where they live.


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  • Played for Laughs in a famous Australian ad for Moccona "Mocha Kenya" coffee. A woman is in a supermarket when she sees an incredibly handsome black man standing by the coffee shelves. She asks him to reach for a Mocha Kenya jar for her, flirtily saying "I'm into something slightly more exotic... like where you're from!" The man responds, in an incredibly camp English accent, "Really? Shropshire? How wonderful."

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ame Nochi Hare, four out of the five protagonists spend a good potion of the series assuming that the blond-haired, half-Japanese fifth protagonist, Touma, is half-American, given his ability to speak English. It's only when he takes a call from his father in front of them that they realise he's actually half-French.
  • Leo and Sana Halford from Angel Densetsu are blond Japanese middle schoolers with a white father. They are often assumed to be foreigners despite having lived in Japan all their lives; people assume they know English and don't even understand Japanese, and Leo's classmates are surprised to see him do well at a particular arcade fighting game because "Gaijin usually suck at these games.". Ikuno uses this to make a point to Leo about main character Kitano Seichiro having a Face of a Thug: just like Leo doesn't know English despite looking white, Kitano similarly isn't evil despite looking scary.
  • In an episode of Azumanga Daioh, Yukari attempts to show off her English skills by running up to a random white person on the street and jabbering at him (for as all Japanese know, gaijin are always Americans). She then runs away in embarrassment when she discovers her target is, in fact, German.
  • From the same author, Yotsuba&! has a group of students who find Yotsuba asleep on the school's stairs (long story) speak to her in English, assuming she's a foreigner due to her green hair. She actually is foreign (place of birth "an island to the left" - nobody in- or out-of-universe has a clue where that actually is), but has spent most of her life in Japan.
  • In Kodocha, the But Not Too Foreign character is assumed to be foreign.
    "Oh, he speaks Japanese".
    "I am Japanese!"
  • In Himitsu no Akko-chan from the 1980s, Akko is trying to communicate with a lost child who speaks only English. As it happens, Akko's special ability is taking on the appearance and skills of any person she can capture the image of in her magic compact mirror. Akko sees an obviously foreign woman and assumes she's American — but when she gets back to the lost child, discovers that the child still can't understand a word Akko is saying. Turns out the copied woman was Spanish....
  • In the Gravitation anime and manga Yuki Eiri is often mistaken as a foreigner, a cause of shame for his conservative Buddhist monk father. Seguchi Tohma also has very foreign features and takes Eiri to New York as a teenager hoping that he will feel more comfortable outside of Japan.
  • In Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, when Mr. Itoshiki first writes his name on the chalkboard, his students, at a loss as to how to parse the kanji of his name, briefly speculate that he might be Chinese. Predictibly, Itoshiki gets a good rant in about this.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers:
    • Overlapping with Accidental Misnaming, nearly everyone mistakes Canada for America.
    • In the 2011 Hetalia Bloodbath, Seychelles seems to be under the impression that Cuba represents an Asian nation.
      Seychelles: We show a lot of cleavage in the West and Africa, but they don't really wear open-chested clothes in Asia. Huh, Mr. Cuba? Huh?
      Cuba: Why are you asking me this?
    • At least twice, England is mistaken for an American. Germany and Prussia also sneak into America by disguising themselves as Americans.
      Random man: look kinda German to me, you couldn't be...
      Germany: Hahaha! Well that's because I'm German-American! I'm just crazy for hamburgers! [American smile]
  • Suzuka assumes Fate Testarossa is Italian due to her last name in the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's manga. Nanoha's response is Sure, Let's Go with That.
  • In Blade of the Immortal: Bakumatsu Arc while in America, some people assume Manji is a Native American.
  • In Great Pretender, Makoto is mistaken for Korean while in France, much to his consternation: "DUDE, I'M JAPANESE!" Laurent, meanwhile, is frequently mistaken for French, but is actually Belgian.
  • In one Ijiwaru Baa-san (Granny Mischief) strip, the title character watches a television report about the Apollo 11 lunar landing, and congratulates the first foreigner she sees in broken English. Unfortunately, said foreigner was Russian. Granny tries to pass off her action as "all foreigners look alike" while her neighbors accuse her of being offensive on purpose.
  • Hajime no Ippo: Takamura says of a blond boxer that they know how to make them tough in America. When told he's Australian (America isn't even in the same division), Takamura just stutters "but... but he's white!"
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin finds a blond Western man waiting for him at home and greets him with a "Bonjour." Turns out the man is actually German.

  • During one of his opening rants, Carlos Mencia decries this trope because he hates the fact that when he tells people his mother is Mexican but his father is Honduran, they only focus on the Mexican part. He then goes on a rant about how, if he lived Florida, everyone would assume he was Cuban, or if he lived in New York, he would be assumed to be Puerto Rican.

    Comic Books 
  • Wolverine once went to Japan to deliver a ransom for a friend's son. The gangsters who greeted him were surprised; they hadn't expected an American. Wolvie callously states that he's Canadian, bub. The lead gangster laughs, saying that it doesn't make any difference (and hinting that he might not know the difference). This is almost a Running Joke, since readers forget that he's Canadian due to how much time he spends with the X-Men.
  • In Mingamanga: On Korbinian's first day in school, the teacher mistakes him not only for a girl, but a Pole. Reasons: His last name Panikowski (because of a great-grandfather who was a soldier from Prussia who stayed in Bavaria), his thick dialect which renders his home village Kleinbierbach to "Kloabirboch", which is mistaken for "Globirbow", which sounds Polish indeed.
  • In Asterix and the Great Crossing, Obelix and Asterix mistake Native Americans for Cretians and then Iberians. The Viking crew that picks them up also mistake the Gauls for Natives.
  • When the Runaways got stuck in New York City circa 1907, leader Nico Minoru was repeatedly called a "Chink" or an "Oriental" by various locals. When their host, the Swell, calls her a "Chinee", she's annoyed enough to correct him by stating that she is "from Japan, by way of Glendale" — which is to say that she considers herself every bit as American as the Swell. This, of course, does not stop her from being rounded up by the bigots of the Upward Path.
  • Meta-Example: Most readers assume Bishop from X-Men is African-American, when he is actually an Australian Aborigine. On one hand, this wasn't revealed until ten years after the character was introduced. On the other hand, even in the beginning his features never were quite right for someone of African descent.
  • Puerto Rico Strong: Tito in the autobiographical comic Blame It On 'Rico lived in Brazil for a while. Many people didn't think he was American because of his brown skin and black hair. When told he was Puerto Rican, one guy still called him Mexican. Depending on what country he's in, Tito also has a tendency to get mistaken for numerous other nationalities and ethnicities including Brazilian, Colombian, Iberian, Pakistani, and Italian. Being Puerto Rican, he admits that he might have some of those in his DNA considering how multiracial Puerto Rican is.
  • Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed: Raissa knows Ayen is Sudaneese, but mistakes her ethnicity and language because Ayen is still learning English and doesn't speak it much. She is surprised to learn Ayen is Dinka, but a lot of that surprise comes from Diana knowing how to speak Dinka.

    Fan Works 
  • RWBY: Epic of Remnant: Lancelot and Sherlock Holmes are both mistaken for natives of Atlas due to their looks.
  • The Last Son;
    • X-Force member Tina Wilkinson turns out to be a sci-fi example of this; after years of believing she's a human mutant who can turn things invisible, she learns that her real name is Tinya Wazzo and she's actually an alien whose abilities are natural for her species.
    • Fellow X-Force member Ron Williams, codename Leviathan, was mutated into a fish-like state after his abilities activated; by sheer coincidence, his mutation causes him to resemble the Lemurians, a rival nation to Atlantis, allowing him to conduct a reconnaissance mission into Lemurian territory at a crucial point.
  • The Westerosi: Jade Hasegawa is frequently mistaken for a native of Dorne due to her looks.
  • With This Ring: Paul is annoyed by a reporter mistaking him for American.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Occurs repeatedly in the movie Crash.
  • In Falling Down, Prendergast interviews the Korean shopkeeper Mr. Lee (Michael Paul Chan) and asks Detective Brian (Steve Park) if he can translate for him. Brian says no, because the shopkeeper is Korean, and he's Japanese-American. (In Real Life, Park is Korean and Chan is Chinese.)
  • Finding 'Ohana: In Brooklyn, so many people assume Pili (Hawaiian) is Puerto Rican that she decided to learn Spanish.
  • In Blood Diamond an American journalist mistakes Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) for South African. He comments that he's in fact from Rhodesia (intentionally using the old name for Zimbabwe).
  • An exchange between three elderly cowboys early on in the film 7 Faces of Dr. Lao:
    "Who's that, anyway?"
    "I don't know. Looked like a Jap to me."
    "Nah, he's Chinese."
    "How do you know?"
    "'Cause I ain't stupid."
  • Brilliantly used in The Spanish Prisoner because "nobody suspects Japanese tourists".
  • In In the Loop, the American General Miller gets into a pissing contest with the Scottish Malcolm Tucker, ending with calling the Scot a "little English bitch." Malcolm doesn't mind any of Miller's profanity, but bristles at being called English, which leaves Miller confused.
  • Put in the movie Fanboys, possibly as a moment of did not do research. The Star Wars fans and the Star Trek fans are fighting, and one of the Trekkies proclaim Captain Picard is British. The character of Jean-Luc Picard is French. The actor who portrays him, Patrick Stewart, is English.
  • In the French movie Le Boulet, the villain Mustapha Amel (José Garcia) in repeatedly called "The Kurd" — to his great annoyance, since his correct nickname is "The Turk". It reaches a point where he's ready to start gunning down anybody making the mistake.
  • In Big Stan, when Rob Schneider got the respect of everyone in prison, and everyone is turning to him for advice, one of the problems that arise is that the Brazilian guys keep calling one inmate "Arab" when he's actually Persian. (In Real Life, Brazilians DO tend to call anyone from Middle Eastern either "Arab" or "Turkish".)
  • In the Affectionate Parody Murder by Death, this is the Poirot Expy's Berserk Button:
    Milo Perrier: I am not a Frenchy! I am a Belgy!
  • Go for Broke, a film about the predominantly Japanese-American 442nd regiment, has this exchange with a new Lieutenant who momentarily believes he's been given an Irish sergeant.
    "Your platoon sergeant is over in the supply room. Ohara"
    "That's right, Takashi Ohara."
  • In the film In Bruges, Ray argues with, and punches, a loud-mouthed Canadian tourist in a restaurant, thinking him to be American (although played by Slovenian–American Željko Ivanek).
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • In the reboot of The Karate Kid, Dre is ordered by his mother to practice his Chinese while on a plane. So he turns to a Chinese guy sitting near him and says something, only for the guy to respond, "Dude, I'm from Detroit."
  • In The Replacements (2000), Nigel Gruff gets confused for an Irishman. He angrily retorts that he's Welsh.
  • Played for Drama in Born in East L.A. A racist immigration official refuses to believe that the Hispanic-American protagonist is not an illegal immigrant. He deports the poor guy who spends the rest of the movie trying to return to America. (Note: The movie is based on a song, listed below.)
  • Vet Hard: This Dutch / (Flemish-)Belgian movienote  features a character who's referred to as "Yugoslavian" - except that the movie came out in 2005, the mobile phones shown within the movie make it clear it takes place around 2005, and Yugoslavia hasn't existed as a country since the early '90s. The character's unfortunate name is Vuk, which in the movie by the other characters is used to abuse him as a Butt-Monkey as they consistently call him Fuck (which in the Netherlands is the same swear-word as in English). Vuk is an actual Serbian namenote , so the character most probably is actually Serbian.
  • Mean Girls: Mixed with a bit of casual racism as Mrs Norbury hears that the new student 'just moved here from Africa' and gives a warm welcome to a black student, who replies 'I'm from Michigan' in bewilderment.
  • Dr. Terror's House of Horrors: When Biff first meets calypso singer Sammy Coin in a club in the Caribbean, he assumes that he is West Indian. It turns out that Sammy is actually a Londoner.
  • In Lust for Gold, everyone except Julia assumes Walz is Dutch. He's actually German.
  • In Knives Out, the Thrombey family describe Marta as an immigrant from different countries at different times, including Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil (the correct answer is never given, but Marta is played by the Cuban-Spanish Ana de Armas). This is one of the hints that, despite their claims that they consider her part of their family, the Thrombeys really don't and are actually pretty xenophobic once circumstances turn against them.
  • In Joyeux Noël, when German opera singer Nikolaus goes up over the trenches singing Adeste Fideles, he finishes by greeting the listening soldiers on the other side, believing they are Englishmen. To which an amused soldier replies, "Good evening, Germans. But we're not English, we're Scottish!"
  • They Call Me Bruce is about a Korean who gets named after Bruce Lee because Interchangeable Asian Cultures. He decides to play up the role of a martial arts badass to make himself look cooler, posing as a Chinese kung fu master or a Japanese samurai warrior.
  • In Adventure in Sahara, Captain Savatt survives his trek through the Thirsty Desert and arrives at Legion HQ with a ragged beard, wearing Bedouin robes and covered in dust. He is taken to be a mad old Arab and they attempt to drive him away. It is only when he makes it into his commanding officer's office that he is able to establish his true identity.

  • Hercule Poirot is commonly assumed to be French by people who do not know that more than one francophone country exists. Especially ironic since Frenchmen and Belgians tend to disparage each other. At least once it almost caused serious problems: Poirot was arrested while abroad, and one of his acquaintances promised to inform the French Consulate immediately of his plight. Luckily he managed to shout "Belgian Consulate!" as he was being dragged away.
  • In the CHERUB Series, the training instructor Yosyp Kazakov is Ukrainian. ''Not'' Russian. Call him a Russian, and he will not be happy.
  • Edilio Escobar from Michael Grant's GONE series is from Honduras, but is often referred to by the ignorant townsfolk of Perdido Beach as "The Mexican one", much to his chargin.
  • The Laundry Files (by Charles Stross): In The Atrocity Archive, Bob believes his co-worker Boris to be a Russian spy. In The Fuller Memorandum, Bob corrects his mistake by revealing that Boris is a native British subject who suffers from Foreign Accent Syndrome induced by close encounters with eldritch abominations.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Subverted, The novel emphasizes the mystery of Captain Nemo hiding his nationality. Even when his eyes are black and his skin is pale, Aronnax lampshades that he is not sure invoking Interchangeable Asian Cultures:
    "I admit that the nationality of the two strangers is hard to determine. Neither English, French, nor German, that is quite certain. However, I am inclined to think that the commander and his companion were born in low latitudes. There is southern blood in them. But I cannot decide by their appearance whether they are Spaniards, Turks, Arabians, or Indians."
    • Although The Mysterious Island reveals Nemo is actually an Indian fighting the British in revenge for the death of his family, he appears Caucasian in the original illustrations because Verne first planned to make him Polish and fighting against the Russian oppressor. As France was an ally of Russia at the time, his editor had him pick a different origin. The search for an expansionist power that would be an Acceptable Target to the French presumably did not take long.
    • While the crew of the Nautilus speak their own tongue, Arronax is stunned to discover one is French due to instinctively yelling for help in his mother tongue.
  • In the western novels of J.T. Edson, General Hardin's valet Tommy Okasi is Japanese. Almost everyone assumes that he is Chinese. Justified as the Chinese were the only Asians most people in The Wild West had ever encountered.
  • In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lizbeth Salander's boss, Dragan Armansky, is stated as having been born in Croatia to an Armenian Jewish father from Belarus and a Bosnian Muslim mother of Greek extraction. Because of his mother, he is considered Muslim, but the Swedish immigration authorities supposedly list him as a Serb (an ethnicity that is, of course, famous for being associated with Muslims.) And apparently, despite having no Arab ancestry, there are still people who call him "the Arab".
  • A running gag in The Affix: Matt keeps forgetting Henry Bartlett is from New Zealand, not Australia, over and over. Mostly it's because he made a joke earlier that the next villain to pop out of the woodwork would be "Crikey the Australian" and the idea of it got stuck in his head. It probably doesn't help that Matt undergoes serious Sanity Slippage throughout the book.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Fantasy version. One of the first signs that someone is looking at a Herald (immortal men and women who have been wandering the world in anonymity for five thousand years after abandoning their duties) is when the modern character can't figure out what ethnicity the Herald is. It's quite likely that natural ethnic drift has rendered all of the original races of the Heralds extinct.
    • Worldhoppers have a similar, but different problem. All the races of Roshar except for the Shin have epicanthic folds in their eyes, so the Shin are described as having "wide, childlike eyes." Since epicanthic folds are more rare on other worlds, worldhoppers are often mistaken for having Shin ancestry.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: While almost all adaptations remember to put Dorothy in her Iconic Outfit of blue and white gingham, barely any reference why it was a plot point. She landed in Munchkin Country, who are both short and favor blue as their national color. Also, in Oz, white is the color favored by sorceresses (magic users a step below Witches). The Munchkins, upon seeing her house land on the Witch, looked in and saw what they thought was a full-grown (albeit young) and unknown Munchkin sorceress who had just assassinated the tyrant in charge! Unable to identify her or know her intentions, they called the North Witch for backup.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Clive James: Due to the fact that he often appeared on British television many people assume he is English, but he is actually a native of Sydney. He has lived and worked in the UK since 1962.
  • Doctor Who: In "Rosa", Yasmin Khan, a Brit of Pakistani descent, is mistaken for Mexican by various racist locals in 1955 Alabama, something which she snarks about several times, including noting that there probably aren't many South Asians in the area.
  • In the last episode of Father Ted, Ted attends the "It's Great Being a Priest" conference where he saves the life of a suicidal young priest. A nun speaks to a black priest stating that she thinks all the work being done in Africa is wonderful. The priest says, "Sure I wouldn't know. I'm from Donegal." in a thick Donegal accent.
  • In Flight of the Conchords, the duo (New Zealanders living in New York) are mistaken for Australians or Brits several times.
  • In the Australian comedy The Games, John Clarke tries to demonstrate the multinational nature of his team by first explaining that his parents were from Scotland, then asking where an obviously Asian character comes from, which turns out to be Sydney. John tries to probe further, and it turns out that his family has lived in Australia for several generations.
  • Really more of a Mistaken Ethnicity, but in Glee Rachel makes the claim that Natalie Wood was Jewish, when, in fact, she was Russian Orthodox...
  • Another case of (deliberately) mistaken ethnicity in Parks and Recreation is Dennis Feinstein, played by the Greek-American Jason Mantzoukas. His real name is Dante Fiero, but he changed it to sound Jewish since Jews are considered exotic in Pawnee.
  • In Heroes, Hope refers to the Japanese Hiro and Ando as "Chinese".
  • In Plain Sight: Marshall, trying to make small talk with a witness, comments that Albuquerque must be a big change from Moscow. The witness responds that she is from Kiev, but Marshall continues to assume that she's Russian, and she has to explain that Kiev is in Ukraine.
  • In Just Shoot Me!, Maya is often mistaken for Puerto Rican. There was an entire episode about this one. The most painful bit was when a starving Elliot mistakes a visiting Japanese businessman as a Chinese food delivery guy.
  • In the Law & Order episode "Sanctuary", tensions between the black and Jewish communities lead to the death of an Italian-American motorist who was thought to be Jewish. Lenny Briscoe observed, "Blame it on the Jews, sometimes you get an Italian by mistake."
  • In season 1 of Lost, Hurley repeatedly refers to Sun and Jin as being Chinese. Michael eventually corrects him.
  • Mohawk Girls: Bailey looks fairly white, even though both of her parents are Mohawks, so she's repeatedly mistaken for this, to her resigned frustration.
  • On The Office (US) Michael Scott comments that Karen looks "exotic", and goes on to ask, "Was your dad a GI?"
  • A running gag in Rules of Engagement is Russell forgetting that his assistant Timmy is South African and referring to him as English.
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch from the early '90s revolved around the Turkish-American owner of a convenience store, which would be repeatedly vandalized by the same man (John Goodman) every time the US found itself in an affray in the Mideast — the oil embargo, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Gulf War, etc. — Goodman's character repeatedly assuming that the owner is from the nation involved.
  • Carla from Scrubs is Dominican, and gets angry when people (particularly her husband) think she's from Puerto Rico. This is the subject of her song in The Musical.
  • On Silicon Valley, Dinesh is mistaken for Mexican by Chuy, the Mexican artist Erlich wants to hire to design their company's logo. He agrees only because he believes the company has hired a Latino. Dinesh is actually Pakistani (played by Pakistani-American Kumail Nanjiani), but Erlich doesn't correct Chuy until later.
  • The Strange Calls: Nobody can decide where Lola comes from, whether she's Swedish, Danish or Hungarian, and they keep confusing what European country she's from. She'a actually a mermaid.
  • Subverted in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, where a Nevada judge (also played by John Goodman) merely pretends to mistake a Chinese guy for Japanese.
  • On the short-lived Whoopi Goldberg sitcom Whoopi, the title character had an Iranian friend named Nasim who would blow up when people called him an Arab.
  • The Wire has a few examples.
    • "Boris" is actually a Ukrainian named Sergei Malatov, but everyone in Baltimore assumes he's Russian the moment they hear him speak, and they insist on calling him Boris, much to his confusion. For somebody who kills and dismembers people for a living, he takes it pretty calmly, although he does occasionally put his foot down when people try to say Russia and Ukraine are the same thing.
      Sergei: [Gives out a long suffering sigh] Boris. Why always Boris?
    • Sergei's boss is a man known only as "the Greek", but when the boss is about to skip town at the end of Season 2, he is amused that just about the only thing the police know about him is that he's called "the Greek", when, as he notes, "I'm not even Greek." Subtle clues suggest that he's either Pontic Greek, (i.e., from northern Turkey with Greek heritage) or from the island of Cyprus, again with Greek heritage.
    • There's also a more meta-example. In one episode Kima randomly gets asked by a shop keeper if she's "one of those black-Vietnamese mixes". (Possibly from a black soldier in Vietnam and an Asian Baby Mama). While Kima's ethnic background is never elaborated on, the actress playing Kima is part black and part Korean.

  • The Cheech & Chong song "Born In East L.A." note  is about a Hispanic-American who gets mistaken for an illegal immigrant by a racist immigration official and deported. The rest of the song is about his struggle to return to the United States. Inspired the movie listed above.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This was invoked by Sugi Sito, who by all means should have been the ideal Face while World War II was still raging simply by virtue of being a Chinaman. All he had to do to deter this was come up with a Japanese sounding ring name and not correct anyone who heckled him for being a "Jap".
  • Primo Colón initially assumed Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder were Canadian (because they were Edge lookalikes), so when they threatened him about what they could have La Familia do to them he's flabbergasted that they're apparently Latino (they're not that either, and were called "La Familia" because Edge had them unofficially brought into the Guerrero family when he became engaged to Vickie Guerrero) and starts to cuss at them in Spanish before Carlito Colón calms him down. Incidentally, Primo does have Canadian family, including his brother Carly. For that matter, Zack Ryder's real last name is "Cardona", so he could be Latino, or at the very least could pass for it.
  • El Patron Alberto called Glamour Boy Shane a "Yankee" even though Shane is Canadian.
  • Steve Corino berated Ring of Honor referee Dan Tanaka for not being able to speak Japanese, not realizing Tanaka was from Boston.
  • When Eli Drake and Scott Steiner were challenging LAX for TNA's Tag Team Titles, Steiner, in oh so many words, basically mistook Konnan for a Mexican. Konnan's most successful and best known work is in Mexico but the man is a Cuban, a Cuban who is also a US citizen!
  • On WWE's 2001 DVD release Divas in Hedonism, which was filmed in Jamaica, there is a scene of Jacqueline, who is an African-American woman from Dallas, Texas, shopping at an outdoor market and talking about how the Jamaicans mistook her for one of their own.
  • WWE billed the Texas-born Tito Santana not just from Mexico, but from "Tocula, Mexico", which apparently was a misspelled reference to the city of Toluca, Mexico, making Santana possibly the most normal wrestler to be billed from a nonexistent place.
  • CHIKARA billed Lince Dorado, who is Puerto Rican, from Mexico.
  • Lince Dorado's Full Impact Puerto Ricans partner Jay Cruz has also at times been mistaken as a Mexican and at one point decided to run with it and put the Mexican flag put on his pants. Eddie Rios is the only member who hasn't been called Mexican, though he has been mistake for various other nationalities, including, confusingly Spanish(as in Spain).

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the fiction section that opens Scion: God, Coyote hears that Yukiko (daughter of the Japanese god Susano-o) is after him to retrieve the golden cup from the Wishing Staff of Sun Wukong (a Chinese god) and assumes she's Wukong's daughter, saying, "I thought you looked Chinese." He is corrected very quickly. At swordpoint. What is more, Sun Wukong is a monkey god.

  • In Wonderful Town, Lonigan and the other cops sing and dance an Irish jig in honor of Eileen, under the mistaken impression that she's as Irish as her first name.
  • Subversion in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. It is mentioned that Marcy (who is usually played by an Asian-American actress) is new to the county, a new transfer student from Virginia, to which Leaf responds with something to the effect of, "Virginia's a beautiful country". (In addition, some productions have Rona misread the line as "new to this country" only to correct herself after some response by Marcy.)
  • Yellow Face, by David Henry Hwang, is about a Chinese-American director who accidentally casts a white actor in an Asian role. He then attempts to hide his mistake by convincing everyone else that the actor is actually Asian.
  • In Boston Marriage, it's a running gag that Anna persists in the belief that her maid Catherine is Irish, no matter how many times Catherine reminds her that she's actually Scottish. When Anna is particularly annoyed at her, she goes into an entirely misplaced rant about how the Irish brought the Potato Famine on themselves.

    Video Games 
  • In Fallout 3's Mothership Zeta expansion, Paulson (a 19th century cowboy) refers to Toshiro Kago (a 16th century Samurai) as a "Chinaman" until he is corrected.
  • In Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, Larry Lovage starts off talking to Analisa by speaking Spanish to her, thinking she's Mexican. She then rudely barks back, "Hey, fucko! I ain't Mexican, you prick; I'm Italian."
  • In Saints Row: The Third Philippe Loren is constantly mistaken for French by the Saints. He is always quick to correct them that he is Belgian, growing more agitated with the mistake each time.
  • In Project × Zone, Gemini and Erica think that Sanger is a Japanese samurai, though he never says what nationality he is anyway.note 
  • Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag:
    • Edward Kenway responds to being called "Englishman" with an emphatic "I'm Welsh."
    • Just before storming a fort, Edward asks his quartermaster Adéwalé, a former slave, if he'll return to Africa and live like a king with his share of the gold they'll take. Adéwalé then explains that he was born in Trinidad. When Edward asks if he'd feel more at home in Africa, Adéwalé asks if Edward would feel at home in Paris.
  • There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension: A Running Gag in the non-game is various characters mistaking Game's thick French accent for a Russian one, which Game hates.

    Web Comics 
  • In Misfile, Missi is accused of liking Japanese cars for no other reason than she's Japanese, and she angrily retorts that she's actually Chinese.
  • Waterworks: A Running Gag is for Jose to be mistaken for a French man, much to his frustration.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • Though the comic's art style makes discerning anyone's ethnicity difficult, Adrian Raven was apparently mistaken for a Russian in the past, as the former head of The Men in Black attempted to deport him there. Some out-of-canon moments suggest that he's actually British.
      Mr. Verres: To be fair, you did enter the country on falsified information.
      Raven: The only thing I lied about is my age, and I'm not from Russia!
    • Ashley complains that she's had people assume that she's an Asian immigrant, when her family has lived in California for generations and the only language she speaks is English. She's not sure herself what ethnicity she actually is, except she is fairly certain that she's not Japanese.
  • In Eternal Night people constantly asks Terence if he is from India although he was born and lived his life in Britain.
  • Unsounded: Turas is from Madishane but due to his looks can pass as Crescian which the Red Berry Boys use to their advantage. Then when Jivi is talking about the Red Berry Boys he says they were all from Sharteshane.

    Web Original 
  • Ambiguously Brown Amir in Awkward Black Girl is ironically one of the worst offenders.
    Amir: We should totally get Cinco de Mayo off. I mean, my arms are... shit... they're still tired from all that swimming. Right, mija?
    CeCe: (who's Indian) You know I'm not Mexican.
  • More than a few first time viewers assume the Epic Meal Time chefs are American because of the greasy foods they partake in once a week.
  • When Generator of the Whateley Universe starts school at Whateley Academy, some cliquish girls tell her to go back to China. She was born in Topeka, Kansas. She does have some Japanese ancestry.
  • Psycomedia has this preceded by a great deal of foreshadowing by one host, until it's used to introduce their episode on prejudice.
  • Todd in the Shadows: In the "Hooked on a Feeling" review, he attempts a crossover with That Dude in the Suede. Suede thanks him, but points out that he misread the group's name (it's Blue Swede). Todd tries to salvage it by claiming Suede is Swedish.
    Suede: "I know you know I'm Australian."note 

    Western Animation 
  • Johnny Bravo: A Running Gag is the clueless titular character's complete lack of knowledge of foreign countries (among many other things), such as calling a German guy "Frenchie".
  • King of the Hill:
    • In the episode where the Souphanousinphone family is introduced, the page quote exchange takes place. Amusingly, Hank's irritable and somewhat bigoted father knows immediately Kahn is Laotian, possibly from being a World War II vet. Even more amusing is that "next to Vietnam" doesn't ring a bell, given Hank's age.
    • On the other hand, in a Japanese Steak-house, Cotton calls the Hispanic cook a "Tojo", causing the cook to ask, "¿Qué es 'tojo'?" ("What's a 'Tojo'?")
  • In Pet Alien, everyone, without exception, mistakes Granville DeSpray for Norwegian despite his obvious Englishness — tea and crumpets and everything.
  • South Park:
    • Pip Pirrup, who's unmistakably British. All the other kids assume he's French, though.
    • Reversed in the movie, where Cartman assumes walking French stereotype The Mole is English.
  • In the two-parter Code Lyoko prequel "XANA Awakens", this happens to Yumi Ishiyama at least twice.
    Sissi: (to Ulrich) What are you doing with this Chinese girl!?
    Yumi: I. Am. JAPANESE!!
  • In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer, Abe, Ned and Apu buy medicine in Canada in order to smuggle it over the border. Abe gets very enraged when the clerk at the pharmacy assumes him to be a fellow Canadian, forgetting for a moment that posing as Canadian citizens is the whole point.
  • While Phoebe Heyerdahl on Hey Arnold! is indeed at least twenty-five percent Japanese, her principal believes she is a foreign exchange student form the far off land "Ken Ta Kay". She said she was born in Kentucky.
  • The Legend of Korra plays with this: shortly after Korra meets Bolin, he correctly deduces her nationality/ability; when she replies that she's actually an earthbender, he hastily apologizes for the assumption. She enjoys confusing him further by stating that she is indeed a waterbender, as well as a firebender.
    Bolin: Okay, I'm confused.
    Mako: You're the Avatar, and I'm an idiot.
    Korra: Both are true.
  • Subverted in Captain Planet. Wheeler calls Linka Russian in the first episode. She corrects him by telling her she's Soviet... However, Linka is actually Russian. Like many Russians in the late 80s, early 90s she self-identified as Soviet more than Russian. In the intro Linka is always stated as being from the "Soviet Union", changed to "Eastern Europe" in later episodes.
  • Invoked in DuckTales (2017). When preparing Scrooge for a TV interview to help buffer his failing reputation, Mrs. Beakley agrees to give him an easy practice question. "Mr. McDuck, I love your accent. What part of Ireland are you from?" Scrooge barely stops himself from going into a rage. Of course, the interviewer asks that exact same question, and Scrooge still hasn't gotten his temper under control.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Brian in Love", Tricia Takanawa is doing a news story about sex, which eventually leads her into a one-night stand with Quagmire, who says he’s "never had a Spanish chick before".
  • Carmen Sandiego: When Zack recognizes Neal the Eel, he and Ivy take chase, leading to this inappropriately-timed exchange.
    Zack: It's that Australian guy!
    Neal: I'm from New Zealand, nitwit. It's a completely different country!
    Zack: He's right. I really should know that by now.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In "Sidetracked", villain Professor Bannister is initially assumed to be Canadian; he’s actually from Greenland.

    Real Life 
  • Bruce Lee: Many people assume he is Chinese, but he was in fact born in the USA, raised in Hong Kong and was a Chinese American. His mother was also half white (most likely German).
  • There are many Scottish and Irish people who are assumed to be English and vice versa: soccer player George Best and The Duke of Wellington are often perceived to be English, but were in fact born in Northern Ireland or Ireland, for instance.
    • As an international, Best played for Northern Ireland, which opens another can of worms.
    • The Duke of Wellington was Anglo-Irish, the social class. Though born in Ireland, was more English than most English. He did not care for the Irish much, although he probably did not say "being born in a barn does not make one a horse" as is occasionally alleged.
  • Some British actors who moved to Hollywood are so Americanized that many people incorrectly assume they were actually born in the United States: Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Cary Grant, and Bob Hope.note 
    • When Charlie Chaplin narrated the commentary to the collection of his films, he did it in his native London accent. A lot of American watchers were perplexed about why an Englishman would comment on such an American icon.
  • Christopher Columbus is often thought to have been Spanish, because he worked for the Spanish Crown, but was actually born in the Italian city of Genoa. However, he was not just some Genoese freelancer working for Spain; he had emigrated to Spain and settled there (as much as a career sailor can truly be settled) before he made his pitch to the Spanish monarchs, as the shipping business out of Genoa had dried up after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.
  • Napoléon Bonaparte is often perceived to be French, but was born on Corsica. It is complicated — France acquired Corsica from the Republic of Genoa shortly before Napoleone Buonaparte's birth, but in legal theory it was treated as Genoese territory in hock to France (theoretically, Genoa could have gotten it back by repaying its debts to the French, but that was not a realistic option). Corsica was only officially declared to be fully part of France during the French Revolution. That said, some Corsican nationalists have no love for Napoleon and say he and the other Buonapartes were not real Corsicans but Italians because the family originated from the mainland and settled on Corsica as Genoese colonists. Charles Bonaparte, Napoleon's American great-nephew and US attorney general under Teddy Roosevelt, was hailed as an Italian-American hero by that community, on the account of his Genoese ancestry (Corsicans are not always considered to be Italian).
    • One of these, a Bonny's childhood acquaintance and a lifetime Rival Carlo Andrea Pozzo di Borgo was actually best known as a Russian ambassador to the Bourbons' court.
  • Adolf Hitler: Many people believe he was German, but he was actually born in Austria. However, he viewed himself as German, being big on pan-German nationalism. When World War I began, he refused to join the Austro-Hungarian Army, instead joining the Germans. In 1938, he annexed Austria to unite ethnic Germans (with parts of Czechoslovakia and Poland being taken to achieve this later).
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau is often ranked among the most important French philosophers. However, Rousseau was born in (French-speaking) Geneva, which at the time was a semi-independent Protestant theocratic republic generally associated with Switzerland but under heavy French influence; the city became a full part of Switzerland a few decades after Rousseau died.
  • Similarly, a famous architect Le Corbusier is often believed to be French. Just like Rousseau, he was Swiss.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is contested by both the Austrians as well as Germans for being one of them. The complication partly arises from the fact that Austria was part of the German Empire during Mozart's lifetime. To further complicate matters, although for a lot of his life Mozart lived in Vienna, he was not an Austrian national, but was born in Salzburg, which only became part of Austria after his death. He also was a citizen of his father's country of origin, the Imperial City of Augsburg (now in the state of Bavaria in Germany). At the time, no clear distinction existed between Austrians and Germans, for the former were simply a variety among the latter.
  • Brazilian people are often confused with Portuguese people. Carmen Miranda, for instance, starred in many Brazilian musicals, including The Three Caballeros, but was actually born in Lisbon, Portugal. She settled in Brazil with the age of ten months though, and never returned to the country where she was born ever again. Given that Brazil is a former Portuguese colony, many Brazilians have Portuguese ancestry. As well, a variety of Portuguese (older than the one used in modern Portugal, but still) is the national language. So this is a mistake that can be understood.
  • Quite some Walloon people are often thought to be French. Jacques Brel, Hergé and Georges Simenon, for example. Django Reinhardt, however, although born in the Walloon part of Belgium, was a French national (his parents came from Alsace, originally, and on Django's birth certificate they are stated to be Parisians) and ethnically Manouche (Sinti).
  • Similar to the Interchangeable Asian Cultures trope, a lot of Americans seem to think that any Hispanic people are "Mexican".
  • The Dutch are, outside Europe, commonly mistaken for either Germans note  or Belgians (at least with the Flemish half of the latter they share a language - well, mostly). On top of that, non-Europeans often mistakenly call the Netherlands "Scandinavian" even though this country is geographically and culturally a total different place than actual Scandinavian countries.
  • Chinese-American Vincent Chin was beaten to death by two men who apparently assumed he was Japanese.
  • People from one Eastern European country might get mistaken as coming from another. Due to frequent cases of less-than-pleasant current or past international relations, that might annoy or even infuriate them if the mistake places their origin in a country neighboring their own, or Russia.
  • Gwyneth Paltrow came to fame in the mid-1990s playing British characters in Emma, Sliding Doors, and Shakespeare in Love, leading to many to initially believe she was British; Paltrow was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her ability to put on a convincing English accent (something many American actors have failed at) is perhaps the source of this.
  • Eva Green is presumed to be British since she usually plays English characters. Eva is actually a Frenchwoman of Sephardic Jewish, Breton and Swedish descent (the daughter of actress Marlčne Jobert). She perfected her British accent thanks to attending an English-speaking school and working in Hollywood.
  • White South Africans often get mistaken for Australians (or New Zealanders) based on their accents. Mistaking an Afrikaner for Dutch because of similarities of language and a certain shared cultural heritage can be a Berserk Button (their relationship was similar to that of Britons vs. Americans in the colonial era).
  • Barbara Bach was born in Queens, New York. When she auditioned for the role of Tiffany Welles in Charlie's Angels, she was rejected because the producers wouldn't believe she was American, likely because of her many Italian roles and for playing the Russian Anya Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me.
  • It isn't uncommon for Filipinos to refer to persons of European descent as "Amerikano" or the epithet "Kano" regardless of actual nationality. This has perhaps more to do with the States being the Philippines' former colonial master, and Americans mostly make up the foreign population ever since they occupied the country in the early 20th century.