All over the United States, we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, food, parades, and flags, all supplemented by local trends and traditions.
But what about Americans living overseas?
For U.S. embassies, Independence Day can be the biggest holiday of the year. Embassy staff organizes festivities well in advance, making guest lists months ahead of time. In countries with few American citizens, every single one of them might be invited to celebrate! In a place with more expats, the embassy might coordinate with another group, like the Chamber of Commerce, and rent a pavilion or green space to host a concert.
Embassy celebrations of Independence Day are different than those in the states because they have two target audiences. First, they cater to expats who want to feel at home for a day. The celebrations also reach out to citizens of the host country to provide an international experience and to catalyze cultural exchange (President Obama even tried to use the holiday to reach out to Iran, reports Stephen Colbert).
So what does this mean? According to the embassy official interviewed in this video from Estonia, “we barbecue meat and eat it with cabbage, and we drink a lot of beer … it’s very informal, casual, fun.” There are a lot of garden parties: London, Ottawa, Berlin, Nigeria. There are a lot of speeches celebrating shared history and values: Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Iceland. There are even fireworks: Macedonia, Vienna, Jordan.
Outside embassies, many cultural and trade associations celebrate the Fourth:
- In Oslo, the American Coordinating Council of Norway boats the “biggest event of its kind in Europe, celebrating American Independence Day.” What does this mean? Line dancing, ’80s cover bands, BBQ, baseball, and cheerleading.
- AmCham, the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, throws one of the biggest bashes in the world’s biggest city, which is full of American expats. Expect Sesame Street, the NFL, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and a watermelon-eating contest.
- Rebild, Norway, has been celebrating the Fourth since 1912, when American immigrants bought 140 idyllic acres there. Today the celebrations include parties, “business networking,” and “friend-shipping.”
- LAFAYETTE! The Independence Day party in Paris has a red-white-and-blue dress code.
- Sydney Americans claim to annually host the largest Fourth of July celebration in the Southern Hemisphere—with foods from Carolina pulled pork to Brooklyn Boy veggie pizza bagels.
- In London, the Benjamin Franklin House celebrates with “cake and a glass of bubbly”, presumably the day after the rest of the UK celebrates Dependence Day.
- In the Philippines, they celebrate all over. It’s their national holiday, too. Coincidence?
Have any fun experiences celebrating 4th of July abroad? Tell us your stories!