London is an incredible place, and I feel lucky to live here. The beautiful buildings, the culture, the accents are all incredible. But when you’re an international student, bouts of homesickness go with the territory. And for me, homesickness hit hard around American Independence Day.
My family is big on tradition, and the 4th of July is a great example. Our whole extended family gets together at my grandparents’ farm and watches the small-town parade, eats brisket, and sets off fireworks. Obviously, London didn’t have any of these things. So I had to make do.
I think the most important thing when you’re homesick is not to wallow in it. Instead, you have to get out there and embrace the life you’re actually living instead. So after calling to wish my family a happy Independence Day, I met up with my American friends (and my British and Welsh friends, entertainingly enough – you should here a Welshman imitate a Texan drawl), and headed off in search of an American experience.
We found an American bar overflowing with expats in various versions of Old Glory. The bar was blasting American hits (with no apparent logic, might I add; ‘Ice, Ice Baby’ was played alongside country hits and ‘Hey Ya’) while their TVs showed American films (Pulp Fiction, etc) with closed captioning. If you’re going to be here over Independence Day, though, I’m warning you now: book ahead. We didn’t, and therefore wound up eating at a very British pub. However, even here I found a taste of home, with a burger, chips that were nearly thin enough to be considered fries, and Tennessee Whiskey. We then found a club doing an American tribute night, and went back to my friend’s kitchen to play with sparklers (warning: never use pyrotechnics after drinking, and always pick a flame retardant area for sparklers).
So despite my worries, it wound up being a pretty traditional 4th of July. I was surrounded by people I cared about, ate American food, enjoyed American pop culture, and even got my “fireworks.” It was a 4th of July to remember, and memories are what this is all about.
ps – I highly recommend attending Canada Day (1 July) celebrations in Trafalgar Square. They go all out, with free outdoor concerts, maple leaf hats, poutine, and loads of people in red. We had an incredible time.