Sometimes a movie, actor or product appears on the American scene to be greeted with a collective "meh" but then make its way overseas and struggles onshore like Gulliver from Gulliver's Travels. Suddenly it finds itself a celebrated giant in this new land.
They don't usually tie it up first unless they're in Japan or something.
In other words, there are pop culture phenomena that Americans haven't given a second thought to, that have absolutely exploded across the ocean. Like...
#7. Pabst Blue Ribbon in China
A quick refresher in case you're not up to date on the vital subject of What PBR Means To Americans -- Pabst Blue Ribbon is a beer historically associated with fat, blue collar Midwesterners that is now the flagship beer of hipsters, who enjoy it "ironically".
So basically Americans drink PBR because that's what the working class drinks, either because they are actually part of the working class, or because they like to pretend they like what the working class does.
That's why it makes perfect sense to market it in China like champagne.
"Pabst Blue Ribbon 1844" costs $44 - American dollars - a bottle. That is not a Photoshop.
What makes it so great? Well, according to the marketing a Chinese magazine ad:
It's not just Scotch that's put into wooden casks. There's also Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer 1844.
Many world-famous spirits
Are matured in precious wooden casks
Scotch whisky, French brandy, Bordeaux wine...
They all spend long days inside wooden casks.
You can't argue with that logic. Scotch is put in casks. PBR 1844 is put in casks. PBR must be as valuable as Scotch! QED.
In other news, hamsters and lions are pretty much the same thing because they're both found in cages.
A good starter pet for young children.
It turns out it's not as stupid an idea as you'd think. Being rich is sort of a new thing in China, and those that happen to get rich don't have a long history of Rockefeller types or gangsta rappers to show them how to show it off, so they're still sort of figuring it out.
"Now the neighbors know we're classy."
So sell them something expensive that looks expensive, and they'll snap it up.
I mean, it's not like they can use Google to find out what the beer's actual reputation is over here.
#6. Kit-Kats in Japan
Unlike a lot of other things on this list, Kit-Kats aren't exactly unpopular in the U.S., and we have many varieties. Like small and large.
Is there no end to American confectionary creativity?
But Japan takes it to a whole new level (as Japan will do). None of this penny ante futzing around with sizes. Japan currently has over 80 different flavors of Kit-Kat.
And some of them are exactly the kind of flavors you would imagine people coming up with after they have to think of a new flavor when 50 flavors already exist: soybean, grilled corn, lemon vinegar, Earl Grey tea, Camembert cheese, baked potato, cola and lemon squash, cucumber, rose...
...and the mysterious "white".
Mmm, tastes like white.
But why are these so popular? There's a couple of reasons; first, the name sounds very similar to a Japanese phrase, "kitto katsu," a good luck wish, which is why Kit Kats are given to kids as good luck charms before big tests, for example.
The second reason, according to that same story, is that these 80 weird flavors were deliberately created to capitalize on the Japanese tendency to "catch 'em all," like they are compelled to do with Pokemon, or weird fetishes. New "limited edition" flavors are often created and then quickly pulled in order to drive all the completionists out there into a collectors' frenzy.
#5. Spam in Guam
Spam, not the email but the "meat product," is generally considered in the United States to be something that should be eaten in trailer parks by people who only have a hot plate to cook with. In Guam, it's the national past time.
It is somehow considered a part of Guam's traditional native cooking, despite only being invented about 70 years ago, with an average of 16 cans per year consumed by every man, woman, and child on the island.
Hawaii does things like this with Spam and they only consume 6 cans per person.
You'd think there must be a story behind that, and there is. Spam's very cheapness made it an ideal military ration during World War II, where U.S. troops stationed in Guam and other Pacific Islands were sometimes forced to eat it for three meals a day.
War is hell.
The Guamanians snapped up the habit, because they weren't exactly stinking rich during the war either. But once the war was over, the American soldiers went home and probably vowed to never look at another can of Spam again, while the people of Guam didn't really have a native Guam diet to go back to.
This is the native diet.
You see, Guam has been occupied by one colonial power or another continuously over the past 400 years, to the point that no one's completely sure what "authentic Guam culture" even is anymore. Even the most touted "native Guam dishes" are Filipino.
Like red rice, which appears to be the rice version of Spam.
So even if they dumped American-influenced foods like Spam, they don't exactly have any "keepin' it real" food to replace it with.
And Spam is the gift that keeps on giving. The Spam diet, along with other American-influenced food, is at least partially responsible for a high rate of cardiovascular problems in Guam, with 60% of deaths there coming from bad diet and lifestyle.
Even their judo champions are huge.
Next war, maybe we should just get them some socks.
#4. 7-Eleven in Taiwan
Most Americans know 7-Eleven as basically the Kwik-E-Mart from the Simpsons. It's a convenience store with food of dubious quality, staffed by an immigrant, and ritually robbed once a month.
However, 7-Eleven in Taiwan is on a whole, other, weird level. Like Starbucks, they can often be found 3-4 to a block.
Or just two if you're in the boondocks or something.
And Taiwan's 7-Eleven's aren't just places to buy Slurpees and lottery tickets, though. They also let customers pay their utility bills, pay for traffic tickets, develop photos, order a designated driver), and even shop online Amazon-style (and have your things delivered to that 7-Eleven).
And there is plenty of scooter parking, of course.
You can also pick up dinner there.
While you can get the same doubtful hot dogs as in the U.S. (endorsed by LeBron James no less), you can also get Chinese tea eggs, various dim sum items, and fish balls (they're fish meatballs, not fish testicles).
What with their Starbucks-like presence, their Kinkos-like services, their Amazon-like shopping, and their food-like food, 7-Elevens dominate over half the convenience store market in the country with the highest population of convenience stores in the world, where 80% of the population goes to convenience stores at least once a week.