Britrock Blog

Just another Brit in New York City

Posts Tagged ‘Independence Day’

To be a Briton in America on July 4th

Posted by Britrock on July 4, 2009

So what does it feel like to be a Briton in America on the day the country is celebrating its severance from my nationality? Despite the one cringingly daft question I seem to get asked every year “Do you celebrate July 4th in England?” Actually that question is surpassed in daftness by a question I hope no Briton is ever asked again “Did you play Quidditch when you were growing up in England?” A dutiful yet polite “No…because I don’t know how to fly” helped settle the score on the latter question.

Nine times I’ve been witness to America’s celebration of its independence from England and every time I’ve realized, although I’m a Briton and happy to remain one, celebrations really are quite good here. Food, weather, the fireworks and the flags. Yes, New Year’s Eve fireworks in London are great, and barbecues and the British summer are also fine occasions but what’s missing is the industrious purpose and preparation of Independence Day. The cleaning, polishing and tidying things up as “Old Glory” looks down leaves everything looking brighter, crisper and shinier than at any other day of the year. In stores people are buying vast quantities of meat, beer, chips and preparing to eat and be merry as if their patronage to the flag was being questioned and by eating ones weight in salty snacks you were able to prove heritage.

That’s the curious part about the years I’ve enjoyed living in America. When asked my nationality I’ll reply British; born in Scotland of a Scottish father and English mother, my formative education and upbringing took place in the counties of Surrey and Hampshire, England makes me a person of Great Britain. Ask the same question of an inhabitant of the UK and the answer would like be English, Scottish, Welsh etc., people tend to give a more direct nationality.

The reciprocal answer to my question in America is often a little more complex. America is a nation of immigrants and almost everyone claims a mixed background. No one is technically “American.” My group of close friends includes an Italian (born in New Jersey of parents from the same state whose grandmother is from Italy), a Dutchman (born in Iowa whose parents were born in Iowa whose relatives may have been from Holland), a Norwegian-Cherokee Indian, Dutch and British mix who’s quite charming.100_0425

The neighborhoods of New York City tell a similar tale. Many of the Puerto Ricans in Spanish Harlem not far from my former neighborhood were technically born in New York City, the Greeks in Queens, and Italians and the Irish, many born on the fair isles of America salute two flags but come July 4th everyone’s American. Its a day of shared national pride. It’s a day to forget where you’re from but remember instead where you are.

George Washington Bridge carries Old Glory

July the fourth – Independence Day is a day I enjoy. Plenty of food, drink and happy people. Every country should celebrate a national holiday like this. Though perhaps the 80s nostalgic Neil Diamond accompaniments to the fireworks displays could be toned down just a touch. Happy birthday America.

George Washington Bridge carries Old Glory

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