It’s hard to believe that July 4th is right around the corner. We are pretty excited about it here at XONEX Relocation. We tend to be a patriotic bunch, which makes it all the more fun.
But, as I start to make my own plans for next week, I can’t help but think about all of the families who are on international assignments right now. Wholly-American holidays such as July 4th, or Thanksgiving, can be difficult to celebrate in foreign countries – and that can make expatriates feel disconnected and homesick. As such, we do get ask about how to celebrate July 4th abroad, so I thought I’d share some common questions and answers:
Is it appropriate to celebrate July 4th in a foreign country?
Yes, it is perfectly fine to celebrate July 4th in a foreign country. In fact, some countries may even host celebrations for their expat communities. The key is to use discretion and to always be respectful of the country you are in. International assignees who are located in regions that have not warmed to Americans may want to celebrate in their own homes, or at an American Embassy. It’s also important to remember that July 4th is an American holiday and some foreigners may not fully understand, or have as much reverence, for its significance. This is nothing to be offended about.
Is it rude to celebrate July 4th in Britain?
This one makes me chuckle, but it is a reasonable question. Britons will not be offended if expats celebrate July 4th. In fact, they have Independence Day events happening all throughout London this year. The Britons do, however, refer to the holiday as American Independence Day so, for communication purposes, the term “July 4th” may go over a few heads. Have fun and always remember to be respectful.
Where can I go to celebrate July 4th abroad?
There are lots of ways to celebrate July 4th in other counties. Expats are often surprised to learn that many U.S. Embassies will host celebrations for expats. Sometimes, even locals who are curious about American culture are invited to attend. To find out if the local U.S. Embassy is hosting an event, expats can go to www.state.gov for a directory of embassy websites.
The American Chamber of Commerce has also been known to host July 4th events, either on their own or in conjunction with an embassy. Expats can visit http://www.uschamber.com/international to find a nearby AmCham. Shanghai, for example, has a robust expatriate community and throws a big Stars and Stripes party every year.
What are some other suggestions for celebrating abroad?
This one is always hard to answer because everyone has their own traditions. We suggest doing whatever is most comfortable for the family. If you are into a big celebration, find a local event! If you prefer to observe July 4th on a smaller scale, throw a house party or BBQ.
As Michelle Garrett, author of The American Resident blog, says, “The Fourth of July, (Independence Day) is too imbedded in culture to be easily celebrated outside of that culture.” Some expats are less likely to go all out for July 4th simply because it just doesn’t feel the same abroad.
Michelle then goes on to share how she did introduce her British friends to the all-American treat, S’mores, on July 4th. I love this idea. Even if it doesn’t feel the same to celebrate outside of the U.S., doing something small to pay homage to the holiday is sometimes all it takes. There may not be fireworks and parades, but you can still have some fun. Personally, I think this is a great opportunity to share a slice of American culture with local friends.
Happy Fourth of July to all of our fellow Americans at home and abroad!
P.S. Here is a great article for transferees in the U.S. who are looking to celebrate July 4th after moving to a new town.