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Weirdly Specific Parts Of American Pop Culture That Are Insanely Popular In Foreign Countries

Updated February 21, 2019 5.1k votes 1.2k voters 58.4k views12 items

List RulesVote up the pieces of pop culture you didn't expect to have an international fanbase.

There are some strangely specific parts of American culture that are super popular in foreign countries. It's understandable why some pieces of American culture are popular overseas, like the Ukrainian people's love for Ukrainian-American David Duchovny, but other trends are just plain baffling.

Few Americans would expect an ancient Donald Duck cartoon to be an integral part of Swedish Christmas, or that Japan would dig Little House on the Prairie so much that the series inspired a craft quilting industry.

Whether it's due to a cultural lag, or a difference in aesthetic sensibilities, all of these has-been artifacts of American culture still have a devout following overseas. Just remember, with enough sound reasoning, absolutely anything can be considered high art. 

  • North Korea isn't known for its enjoyment of American anything. Rather, they're known for thinking that America is the epitome of evil, and that the country should be wiped off the map. Apparently, that doesn't mean that some North Korean citizens don't enjoy American pop culture. On the contrary, they're particularly fond of Desperate Housewives and Sex in the City

    The popularity of such shows is actually entirely intentional. Kang Chol-hwan, the force behind the North Korea Strategy Center, is one of several groups who smuggle American media into North Korea. He told Wired

    “When North Koreans watch Desperate Housewives, they see that Americans aren’t all war-loving imperialists. They’re just people having affairs or whatever. They see the leisure, the freedom. They realize that this isn’t the enemy; it’s what they want for themselves. It cancels out everything they’ve been told. And when that happens, it starts a revolution in their mind."

    Will Desperate Housewives be enough to set the North Korean people free? Only time will tell.

    Did the popularity of this surprise you?

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  • Few people might have guessed that a children's book series about life on the American prairie would resonate with foreigners. Nevertheless, Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House On The Prairie series is a smash hit in Japan. 

    The books first appeared in the late 1940s when one volume in the series, The Long Winter, was one of 100 American books translated from English to Japanese. The story proved quite popular, and became a beloved classic. In the 1970s, a live-action TV show was made in America, and Japanese audiences loved it as well. Japan even made its own adaptation, an anime called Laura The Prairie Girl.

    The series's popularity has also sparked a passion for quilting as a niche hobby in Japan.

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  • Video: YouTube

    You've probably heard of Brian de Palma — the American filmmaker most famous for directing Carrie — but unless you're from Winnipeg, you might not have heard of Phantom of the Paradise, a disco version of Phantom of the Opera that premiered in 1974. The movie flopped pretty much everywhere in North America, but one frigid Canadian city could not get enough of it. In Winnipeg, not only did it stay in theaters for over four months, but the city jettisoned the soundtrack to gold status by buying 20,000 copies.

    No one knows for certain why the film was so popular in Winnipeg, but it might be because it served as a coming of age experience for Winnipegger youths. Though the movie was aimed at adults, the majority of its fans were pre-teens; old enough to seek out media on their own, but young enough to be impressed by a movie that adult audiences rolled their eyes at.

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  • Photo: Fox

    In America, The Simpsons had its heyday in the mid '90s. Most millennials feel a sense of nostalgia for Springfield and its denizens, but few follow later seasons of the show with rapt attention. In Spain, things are different. The country loves The Simpsons, and their devotion is evidenced in a variety of ways. 

    In Spain, you can visit not one, but two Simpsons-themed restaurants. There's Homer's Home, a donut shop with character-themed creations. Additionally, Krasty Burger is a copyright skirting fast food joint that's decorated with Simpsons paraphernalia.

    Spanish soccer fans once staged a Simpsons-themed protest in response to unfavorable kickoff times, complete with full-body costumes and signs displaying memorable quotes. 

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