The United States—land of the free, home of the brave, from sea to shining sea. Despite some of its questionable past, this nation has been an icon of freedom and liberty since 1776, when that steadfast committee of 5 men (seen as rebel leaders by the English crown) gathered together and wrote the Declaration of Independence, which was then signed by 51 others. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness has coursed through the veins of Americans, young and old, ever since freedom was won. We often hear today that America has little to offer in the way of an established culture. I’d like to propose a few reasons why we may as well have “typical American” tattooed on our foreheads.
We Americans, despite being a melting pot of other cultures, have developed several habits and ways of life that foreigners find quite amusing. Those born in the U.S. of A. have a knack for creating befuddled looks on the faces of foreigners when they witness some of our cultural habits. These puzzled faces are usually followed with a snicker and a shake of the head in amusement. Having grown up with an immigrant father, I can attest to the funny things Americans do. My dad was quick to point out American peculiarities in comparison to his cultural norms.
I grew up with beans on toast for breakfast, eating pies made with meat and potatoes instead of fruit and sugar, and begging for Turkish Delight as a treat when I behaved (I didn’t get much Turkish Delight. Weird). But while these may seem odd food choices to you, my dad was constantly bewildered by how ‘we Americans’ eat sausages with syrup and pancakes, squirt cheese from a can, and hold our fork in the ‘wrong hand’ (and not even bother holding a knife). As a child, I had my feet in two different worlds—part proper and witty British, and part insanely patriotic American. I have no shame driving down Main Street in July, blaring Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” out of my car speakers with the windows down…and singing along, at the top of my lungs. Man, I love that song! When fireworks are lighting up the sky to the tune of that song, you’ll find a few heartfelt tears in my eyes.
We have plenty to celebrate, and we apparently celebrate well! Talking to a Canadian friend of mine, I couldn’t help but laugh when he said, referring to Americans in general, “You’re absolute maniacs when it comes to fireworks and firearms. Basically anything that explodes is a toy to you guys! And by the way, Will Smith needs to make a good 4th of July movie again.” I concur, sir. I concur.
A friend of mine that moved to the states from England with his family when he was 18, had this to say about the 4th of July:
“I really like the 4th since it’s a holiday for family and friends to celebrate. We don’t have anything like it in England.” He explained that they do have “November 5th, where people brave the cold and burn an effigy [of Guy Fawkes] on a bonfire with fireworks.” He went on to say, “I do get a lot of comments [from my American friends] on how “we kicked your butts,” referring to the revolutionary war. In which I respond, “If it hadn’t been for that darn fog that morning…” From what I can tell, most Americans don’t relate the [4th of July] to their freedom, and if they do, they don’t verbalize it. And if they do verbalize it, it sounds more like the Braveheart version of “Freeedoooom” and is said in jest.”
We are a funny lot, we Americans. But we are a friendly lot, as my Peruvian and Samoan neighbors can both attest to. Americans smile at random people on the streets, and strike up conversations with strangers while waiting in line at the grocery store. We have a way about us that simultaneously ruffles feathers and brightens everyone’s day. My Australian neighbors find it so funny that we have drive-thru everything. Food, coffee, banks, prescriptions. The world waits in anticipation to see what America will come up with next.
We are a funny lot, we Americans.
Though some of the things we do can be easily mocked, all my non-US born friends, family, and neighbors have not only grown to appreciate these things while living here, but have developed a deep love for this country as well.
Still, the list goes on about the funny things we do as Americans. To quote a few:
“Not having dill pickle chips is strange.”
“Ya’ll say ya’ll a heck of a lot. And heck.”
“What’s with the huge food portions at restaurants, and never knowing the actual price of things because there’s always taxes or tips that appear afterward?”
“I’m perplexed why a nation that had its war of independence to free itself from imperialism, still clings tightly to its system of measurement.”
Overall, the one thing that was unmistakeable when asking foreign friends about the funny things we do was this—our undying love for our country. We have our hearts deeply rooted in that phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Flags adorn our walls, and wave majestically outside civil centers and grocery stores alike. The flag is worn as pants, shirts, bikinis, bags, and scarves, and lines the streets as we come together in celebration on the 4th of July. As questionable as parts of our history may be, and as questionable as things may seem even today, its no secret that we are a ragtag group of people that love our country. From east to west, we bleed red, white, and blue. Take it from the daughter of a foreigner, we are mostly admired for our passion for liberty and love of our nation. A love for Queen and Country may stand firm in the hearts of those of my dad’s country, but the exuberance and extreme pride expressed openly by the American people is the foundation of American culture.
So you go and wear that American flag bikini with conviction, my friend. Blast the sound of the Star Spangled Banner while driving down the road. Bust out that red, white and blue tee with the majestic bald eagle sprawled across your chest. Shout out ‘Merica!’ while pumping your fists in the air. You will definitely not be alone. As peculiar as American culture may be to the outside world, that flag “still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away.” (Thank you Lee Greenwood). Our culture stands firmly on our patriotism. Now let’s party like it’s 1776!