For the first time in a long time, I’m out of the country for American Independence Day. I am missing the flying flags and fireworks, the pool parties with family, friends, and neighbors during which we all celebrate over BBQ and potato salad and grilled corn.
Yet, somehow, I feel the reason for the holiday most acutely when I am abroad. At home, it becomes about celebrating American traditions and friendship. Outside of the country, it seems–for me, at least–to be about applauding the country itself and my connection to it.
I am most acutely aware of being American when I am away from the U.S. No matter how much I may link to think of myself as a global citizen, when I’m away from home it is very clear that I’m American. I have an American accent, even when I’m trying to say thank you in Portuguese (obrigada!), that makes folks respond immediately in English.
I do American things. I’ve noticed a tendency to open doors a little wider and that I speak a little louder than your average European (hey, I’m used to shouting over the background of city traffic or suburban lawn mowers). I have a certain gameness when it comes to chatting with strangers that is partially me and partially a part of American culture. We are a nation of small talkers. And I love that.
Not everyone does. I’ve noticed that some folks look at me strangely when I try to engage them about how they feel about the weather or how long they’ve worked for a pineapple farm. Why do you want to know, they seem to wonder. Well, I’m not writing a report, just being friendly Dude!
I also look American. The dark hair, dark eyes, tan skin thing isn’t fooling anyone in Portugal. I’m Jamaican and Irish, with some Indian and British thrown in. Were it not for America’s vibrant history of immigration, my parents would never have met and had me.
And it’s my American passport that is enabling me to travel for a short period of time, after which I am expected to kindly leave the country for my real home. I’m a welcomed visitor. But I’m American. And I need to go home.