Meanwhile, in X is an image macro series based on the participial phrase "Meanwhile in…," a literary device that allows an easy segue between two concurrent events in different places. Although it is widely regarded as a narrative cliche, the macro series is used to illustrate ridiculous and absurd situations (usually in medias res) that are easily identified as stereotypical of a certain ethnicity, nationality, occupation or subculture.
Sometime in February 2010, a flipped image of a Holden Commodore (a very common Australian-made sedan) with the caption "Meanwhile in Australia" appeared on 4chan via /b/ board for the first time. An allusion to the age-old joke that everything in Australia is "upside down" (due to its southern hemisphere location), the image quickly became a favorite re-blog material on image board sites, blog networks and aggregator services.
Since then, multiple variations with countries or locations and their stereotypes have been posted.
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
The earliest use of "Meanwhile in X" on record is "Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…", a phrase which dates back to silent film Cowboy Dramas of the early 20th century.
When the story arc of a film would take the action away from what was considered a central location for an extended amount of time, a title placard reading "Meanwhile, back at the ranch" provided a simple, blunt transition back to another set of characters or situation. As Cowboy stories – and the American public – moved from silent movie houses to radio, cinema and finally to television (and now the internets), the phrasal template "Meanwhile back at the X" and all its variants ("Meanwhile at Y" or "Meanwhile in Z") followed with them.
"Meanwhile back at the ranch" can be also used in online conversations as a way to poke fun at someone who had unwittingly embarked on a severe tangent. In similar fashion to tl;dr, "Meanwhile…" signifies complete disregard for the previous statement, as in "…SO, ANYWAYS."