Happy birthday, America, it’s Fourth of July tomorrow! Let us celebrate with fireworks in the sky, burgers on the grill, and stars and stripes everywhere you turn. Let us sing patriotic songs, watch parades, and talk about our good fortune to be free from Mother England!
That is, unless you are like the two of us—British and living in America. Because then it is just kind of awkward.
Actually, we both love Fourth of July, despite its origins. (I mean, don’t you miss us?!) But from talking about this holiday, we realized that we are regularly awkward or embarrassed by our Britishness here, so of course we had to share these incidents with you. Consider this our birthday present!
1. Sports Games
Amy: I live in fear of being featured on the “kiss cam,” or any of those other bits where they film the audience for the big screen. I also don’t know the rules to any of the games, so I spend the entire time asking questions (and absorbing approximately none of the information). Oh, and the mascots are funny, too. I once went to a Pittsburgh Pirates game, and there were two M&Ms racing around the pitch, which I thought was odd. Well, it turns out they were perogies. Even so, why are there two savory Polish food items running around the pitch? Americans are weird.
Jodie: I do not know the words to the national anthem, and I am always unsure what to do when it’s going on. “God Save The Queen,” while admittedly more maudlin, just doesn’t inspire the same kind of reverence and respect as “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for which people listen intently, cry and salute. I stand there contemplating how weird it is that my last name (Free) is such an important word over here.
2. Historic Sites
Jodie: Everyone looks around at me accusingly when the American Revolution is mentioned, like I might want to jump in and defend my ancestors and/or try to reclaim the country right then and there. This happens to me a lot in the South. That said, I’ve always kind of admired Americans’ pride in their history. I grew up in a Roman city with legit Roman ruins, but my local knowledge is embarrassingly spotty. Because of living in America, I’ve brushed up on things like the population and demographics of where I grew up, because someone here will ask me.
Amy: YES. But also, I always feel a bit smug because American historic sites aren’t as cool as European castles and cathedrals. Yes I went there.
3. The Tea Party
Jodie: Did somebody say “tea party”? Like you want to get together to make pots of Earl Grey and Darjeeling and plates of sandwiches, scones and cakes? Let me get my doilies! Oh wait, you’re actually talking about politics and now I’m just homesick. In the words of Minerva McGonagall, “Have a biscuit, Potter.”
4. Election Day
Amy: The British general election had me on edge for three days straight. Not least because my (conservative Republican) friend was telling me about British politics… without having a single clue what he was talking about.
Jodie: Election Day in the U.S. is awkward at every turn. People ask you if you’re registered to vote, try to sign you up because they don’t understand immigration law (i.e. if I register to vote without true citizenship it will merit a trip to USCIS, please just let me go on my way), and make judgey eyes at you for NOT voting…
I was on a college campus (for grad school) during the last presidential election, and I felt really left out that I couldn’t wear an “I Voted” sticker. However, I absolutely loved it when campaigners came to my door in Mississippi, because, upon finding out I was foreign and unable to vote, I could sense their indecision of whether to quit talking to me or give in to their desire to ask me all about why I was there.
Oh, and sobbing about the British election results when everyone around you is like NBD is kind of awkward too.
Amy: Thanksgiving is the WEIRDEST combination of foods! Roast turkey with mashed potatoes? With mac ‘n cheese? And… pie?! It makes no sense! But it is glorious. Also, where are the Easter eggs? Why are there no giant chocolate Easter eggs? And chocolate advent calendars at Christmas?!
Jodie: I have mixed feelings about actually celebrating Columbus Day vis a vis his rep for chopping off people’s hands… Also, I generally avoid St. Patrick’s Day here because I’m half-Irish and I just cannot with all the stereotypes and claims to Irish heritage while drunkenly mispronouncing places and drinks. I just like to stay home and make tiffin.
I thank America for the absurdly large range of pumpkin stuff, though! I am one of those “my favorite color is October” girls: I adore autumn leaves, Hallowe’en and all things pumpkin so I am in my happy place every fall that I live here. Thanksgiving is special to me because it’s a holiday I only have memories of as an adult, meaning that it is marked by American generosity—in the form of taking me into their homes and feeding me large portions—and it’s always a day that reminds me of how much I love it here.
Jodie: I cannot order water for myself. Really. My fiancé has to do it for me, or else the server and I will spend several minutes locked in an embarrassing back and forth, desperation in our eyes, because my pronunciation (“war-ta”) just doesn’t compute for him or her. If I put on an American accent (“waddurrr”), everyone around me starts laughing.
Amy: Forever forgetting that “I’m just going to go to the loo” will always induce a good few moments at hilarity directed at me. Also, on that note, WHY do American ladies’ rooms always have the cubicles (stalls) with vertical gaps on each side of the door?! YOU CAN SEE PEOPLE PEEING. Either that, or a whole room the size of a small bedroom, with one toilet in it. I don’t understand.
7. Barbecues AKA Cook Outs
Jodie: “Barbecue” is another language and culture entirely here, so I’m going to take a moment to teach some BBQ 101. In England, “barbecue” has several definitions. It is an event, reserved for any day that there is the slightest hint of sunshine; a piece of outdoor cooking equipment that you swear at when it refuses to light properly; and an action describing how you cook your beef burgers, sausages, chicken, salmon, corn-on-the-cob or bananas.
In America, barbecue is the food itself, and the culture that surrounds it. Americans do not have a neighborhood barbecue, they have a cook out. They also do not “barbecue” their food—they grill it. What Brits call grilling is called broiling in the U.S.
On top of figuring out what on earth everyone is talking about, I have to fight to get my meat cooked to my liking—shriveled into a tiny little ball because I’m British and that’s how we do—and to have my beer at room temp, of course.
8. Fourth of July Parties
Amy: I LOVE Fourth of July parties. They’re fabulous. And also slightly hilarious.
Jodie: Fourth of July holds a special place in my heart. I lived here for a couple of years before I got to celebrate it, because I would go home during the summer, so it remained the one enigmatic celebration for me. Independence Day should be mega awkward, and every single party does include 1,000 jokes directed towards me and my country, but I embrace it!
I am all about wearing things with the American flag on—whether that is a dress, bikini, or toenail polish designs—and I tend to sing “Party In The U.S.A.” until someone tells me to shut up. Truthfully, I am more Americana than my American friends and family, and I sort of considered a Fourth of July themed wedding (only axed because PUMPKINS). It’s the most garish and ridiculous holiday of all, and I could not love it more if I tried. You do you, U.S.A.
Happy birthday, America! Darlings, how are you celebrating Fourth of July? Tweet us @LitDarling!