The celebration of the United States’ independence has taken on a new significance for me since becoming an expat. In the past, as a student, it was just another holiday and an excuse to visit friends and family. As I grew older I couldn’t help but get choked up and feel immense pride during spectacular fireworks displays or when the national anthem was played. But it was a feeling that quickly faded and was soon forgotten.
Last year I was flying home and in transit all throughout the day and managed to completely skip the holiday. I didn’t realize how much I missed celebrating it until I no longer could. This year, despite the fact that we didn’t celebrate the day in a huge way, I couldn’t help but pause for a moment and reflect on what it means to be an American.
Although I don’t consider myself a typical American in the way that many people outside of the United States perceive Americans, I am aware of all the privileges I have and am very thankful for them. I’ve never been one to blindly wave any flag or ignore flaws that are all countries possess but, having lived abroad, I’ve seen that things could be so much worse and I consider myself lucky to be an American citizen.
In addition, the ability to know a culture inside and out and feel comfortable navigating it is something not to be taken for granted. I’m sure expats of all nationalities would agree that coming home is a special experience, no matter how flawed that place may be. Being in a place where you know the rules, speak the language and can effortlessly exist is a wonderful reprieve from the sometimes grueling life expats lead.
So to all the other Americans out there, what does the 4th of July mean to you? Has that meaning changed since you became an expat? What aspects of American culture do you appreciate the most?