Saturday, July 04, 2015

Celebrating the Fourth of July

Often one of the hardest things for expats to do is retain a sense of connection with their homeland, and national holidays are good example of that. Some expat communities have an easier time with all that than others, particularly if they have large numbers, but for me, it’s a bit different.

How much this is an issue for an expat depends on the person, how connected they feel to their homeland (or how much they want to remain connected), how they're received in their new country, and so on. I’ve been lucky: I’ve been able to make my own celebrations, something that’s become easier as the years have passed.

In my early years in New Zealand, it was difficult to celebrate American holidays in American ways. Thanksgiving is a good example, and I wrote about that way back in 2007, the second year of this blog. The biggest issue for me in New Zealand, though, has been that the seasons here are reversed, which matters for the two quintessentially American holidays, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.

Having a Fourth of July BBQ in the middle of winter isn’t very appealing, and neither is putting on a big roast dinner in the middle of spring. For Americans, it would be like celebrating Independence Day in January and Thanksgiving in May. Sound weird? Exactly.

This year, we decided to have some family and friends (well, they’re family, too, really) around for a BBQ on Friday the 3rd because it was most convenient for everyone. We had to stay inside because it was cold and a winter rainstorm was expected, but on the plus side, we had some pretty good American-style products, and actual American products, as I wrote about recently.

The photo up top is the decorations I put up for where the American snacks were served before dinner (Fritos, Crunchy Cheetos, NZ made potato chips and dip), and later, after dinner, various M&M flavours, and Reese’s Pieces). The pop-up banner thingee was made in China, as was the serving tray. The paper plates (leftovers in wrappers are in the photo) and the little flags were made in the USA.

It’s easier than ever to get American-style products in New Zealand, or ones that are close enough. For example, I bought Hellers American Style Frankfurters, and they tasted like the real deal (they were a little longer and thinner than I had in the USA). I also had Australian-made MasterFoods Mild American Mustard, something I always have on hand. I also got something totally new to me: Sun Harvest Gherkin Relish (which, oddly, doesn’t seem to have a website), the closest to American pickle relish I’ve ever found in NZ. We also had cooked onion, so the fully dressed hot dogs were a triumph.

Here’s something to remind me this is NOT the USA: The hotdogs came six to a packet—and so did the buns! The buns were also called “long bread rolls” and needed to be sliced. Typically, Kiwis slit them across the top, making vertical halves, which I like better than the US-style of slicing them to separate the top from the bottom. The Kiwi way tends to hold everything in better.

We served Al Brown & Co Prime Angus Patties (partly because it better suited Kiwi tastes). Interestingly, one of Al Brown's restaurants, Federal Deli (or The Fed) is Brown's take on a New York delicatessen, I've been there a couple times and I think it's nice, though only inspired by American delis, and not actually very American (which probably suits Kiwis better, to be honest).

I also drank Budweiser, the only American beer the supermarket had. Yes, I know that since it’s made by a London-based, Belgian-Brazilian company, it's technically no longer an American beer brand; but, then, neither was the mustard or the hotdogs, so clearly I’m not a purist.

Cold weather aside, it was a pleasant evening, and it reminded me enough of my homeland to give me the warm fuzzies (or maybe that was the beer…). And now, I’m thinking about maybe doing Thanksgiving this year, too.

We had hotdogs for lunch today, too. Tonight, we had steak done on the BBQ, and I put A1 Steak Sauce on mine (that came from Martha’s Backyard).

I love life in New Zealand, and for a lot of reasons. But I’ve also wanted to retain a sense of connection to my homeland because I think that to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been, and also that it’s important to have a connection with one’s ancestors. I think it helps ground a person.

So, when Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July roll around, I get a little reflective. And, more often than not, I manage to pay homage to my heritage, even if only in small ways. This year, it was a very good celebration. I don't know if my experiences, and the products I found, will be of any use to my fellow Americans in New Zealand, or any other expats, for that matter, but sharing our journeys makes it easier for other expats to find their own way, I think.

Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans, wherever you may live in the world!

Update July 5, 2015: Our niece reminded me today that she also made us all s'mores for dessert—the first time either Nigel or I'd tried them. How on earth could I have left that out of the post?! They were very nice, made with American products from Martha's Backyard. I'm not really a fan of sweets any more, but at some point I'd like to have them again.

Fourth of July (2014)
Are you proud? (2013)
Fourth of July (2011)
Time, distance and home (2009)


rogerogreen said...

You ARE a Yankee Doodle boy!

DaChieftain said...

It's difficult to stay connected with My Home and Native Land -- which celebrates July 1 as Canada Day. The food is probably the most difficult thing of the lot. American food is an excellent approximation, tho', as many Canadians shop across the border anyway, and make the July 1 -- July 4 season into one long party.

Happy Independence Day, Arthur! Cheers!

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

As I often say, you can take the boy out of the USA, but you can't take the USA out of the boy!

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

Thanks! Like I said in the post, I find it easier now there are so many good approximations available, but Martha's Backyard is a good resource, too (and some of the products they sell are sometimes from Canada). Whenever I've been there, I've seen Americans, of course, but also Canadians and many Filipinos, too.