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Expat celebrations abroad

I’ve witnessed a strange phenomenon amongst Americans abroad. It started as something I observed in others before realizing that I myself mirrored this behavior.

Americans abroad — or at least in France — tend to become extra patriotic around holidays like the 4th of July and Thanksgiving. I say extra when what I mean is that they become even slightly patriotic at all. Suddenly this group of people (myself included) that had no problem leaving behind the U.S. of A. to live in a country where they preferred the health care system, the infrastructure, the politics, and general culture turned nostalgic from ‘Merica.

I’ve taken part in Independence Day celebrations in Paris where there was heavy emphasis on eating hot dogs in a real hot dog bun (what the French would call brioche) instead of in a baguette (yes, the French put hot dogs inside a baguette because of course they do). Red Solo cups were ordered online to drink American beer out of. Wine and cheese were forbidden. There was a lot of hoopla over games to play, from corn hole to beer pong and all other games that involved throwing something into something else. Before the night would end, we’d find ourselves painted red, white, and blue, lighting up sparklers that the French usually reserve for birthday cake toppers (true story), and talking to our Parisian guests about Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in a drunken stupor.

I’ve also been out on the 4th of July in Paris. Once to a Bruce Springsteen concert jam-packed with Americans ready to party with The Boss, one of the more memorable Independence Day celebrations I’ve ever had. But more often than not, I’ve been out to a bar or terrasse, enjoying a drink with a friend, and watched as a member or two from the large American population in Paris passed by, suddenly desperate to celebrate at Harry’s New York Bar or sneak into some sort of festivity at the Embassy.

Like many expats, I’ve been tempted to turn up my nose and dig my heels into feeling more French than American at certain points in my life. But as the years passed, I’d find myself homesick and wanting to join in more and more historically American holidays (Thanksgiving in particular). I think it took me a while to recognize something that is still being debated, but that is becoming more and more accepted: you don’t have to choose between one set of cultural norms or another. And: it’s okay to accept who you are and where you’re from.

For all of the Americans in Paris and around France that stock-piling hot dog buns somewhere in their kitchen right now for this coming weekend, I say, go for it. For the French population in America that is going to teach their friends the words to La Marseillaise on July 14th, right on. And for everyone else in between that wants or doesn’t want to celebrate, we at the The French Collective say one more time, but with emphasis: You do you. Faites comme vous voulez !

Happy Fourth/Fourteenth, everyone!

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