July 3, 2024

An Englishman’s Guide to Celebrating Independence Day in the US

Ah, Independence Day in the United States—when the air is thick with the scent of barbecued meats, fireworks light up the sky, and patriotism is on full display. As an Englishman living in the US for over 20 years, I find myself in a rather unique position. It’s like being the only sober person at a wild party—simultaneously amused, bewildered, and thoroughly entertained. So, grab a cup of tea (or a cold beer if you’re more Americanized) and let me walk you through the delightful spectacle of the Fourth of July.

The BBQ: Where Meat Is King

First things first, let’s talk about the food. Independence Day in America is synonymous with barbecues. Now, in England, a barbecue often means standing in the garden with a disposable grill, hoping the drizzle holds off long enough to cook a sausage. In the US, however, it’s a whole different ball game. Americans don’t just barbecue—they BBQ. The grills are enormous, the meat plentiful, and the enthusiasm boundless. I’ve seen ribs, brisket, hot dogs, burgers, and even whole chickens thrown on the grill with reckless abandon. It’s a carnivore’s paradise.

As an Englishman, I approached my first American BBQ with caution, much like one might approach a bull in a china shop. I soon learned that the key to survival is to pace yourself. Start with a burger, nibble on some coleslaw, and for heaven’s sake, save room for dessert. The array of pies, cakes, and patriotic jello concoctions is a sight to behold.

Happy Independence day flag

Fireworks: The Bigger, the Better

Next up, fireworks. Americans love their fireworks, and on the Fourth of July, they go all out. In England, Bonfire Night on the 5th of November is our big fireworks event, and it’s usually over by 8 PM so we can all get back inside and warm up. But in the US, the fireworks start at dusk and continue well into the night.

The first time I experienced an American Independence Day fireworks display, I thought I had wandered into a war zone. The sheer volume and intensity of the explosions were enough to make me dive for cover behind the nearest picnic table. But once I got over the initial shock, I was mesmerized by the colorful display lighting up the night sky. Just be prepared for your dog to hide under the bed for the duration.

Patriotism in Full Display

Now, let’s talk about patriotism. Americans are unabashedly patriotic, and the Fourth of July is their day to shine. Flags are everywhere—on houses, cars, clothing, you name it. As an Englishman, I was initially taken aback by the sheer volume of red, white, and blue. In England, we’re a bit more reserved. We wave our Union Jacks during royal weddings and sporting events, but that’s about it.

One year, my American friends decided I needed a crash course in patriotism and presented me with a T-shirt emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes, a pair of American flag sunglasses, and a sparkler. I looked like a cross between Elton John and Uncle Sam, but I have to admit, it was fun. There’s something infectious about the American spirit on Independence Day. It’s impossible not to get swept up in the excitement.

The Inevitable History Lesson

Of course, as an Englishman, I can’t escape the occasional history lesson. Every year, without fail, someone will sidle up to me at a BBQ and ask, “So, what’s it like to celebrate the day your country lost?” It’s all in good fun, and I’ve learned to respond with a smile and a witty retort. “Well,” I say, “we may have lost the colonies, but we did get to keep the recipe for scones.”


Celebrating Independence Day as an Englishman in the US is a delightful blend of culture shock and camaraderie. It’s a day when I can embrace my adopted country’s traditions, enjoy some fantastic food, and share a laugh with friends old and new. So, whether you’re grilling up a storm, watching the fireworks, or donning your most patriotic attire, remember to have fun and savor the moment. After all, it’s not every day you get to celebrate the birth of a nation—with a dash of British humor on the side.

Happy Fourth of July!

From the Turner Group and the stiff Englishman.