This year we decided to have a belated 4th of July party at our place on Saturday (the 7th), since, obviously, we didn't have the day off. The weather was crappy again, but it was fun to be surrounded by amazing people and laughing a lot (a nice change from the norm.)
I must say, though, it was a bit strange to be celebrating our independence from England, while living in England. Especially as someone who, on both sides of my family, has numerous ancestors who were signers of the Declaration of Independence. It felt a bit like it was a betrayal. Fortunately, these days, the wars between America and England are long over and a bunch of good-humored expats from all over the world indulged a few Americans in celebrating the 4th. As it happens, the party wound up being a bit of the United Nations as well, which was really quite fun.
The guest nationalities were as follows:
1 dual Canadian/American
1 dual English/Australian
1 dual Swedish/Portuguese (Madeiran Portuguese that is...)
2 South Africans
I had this vision when I moved here that I would acquire all of these English friends and I would meld seamlessly into the culture...but, that is not the case. I used to feel frustrated that I couldn't find English friends (I have two -- both of whom were introduced to me by other people -- i.e. friends of friends) but I've learned to just find my friends where I can.
It was funny too, because I wound up having a conversation with a Londoner (a friend of my sister's...she was in town) about my struggle. He couldn't seem to process what I was saying, when I explained my struggle to find English friends. He kept trying to tell me what I was doing wrong...the conversation went something like this:
T: How long have you lived here?
Me: Right at a year.
T: How are you liking it
Me: Well, like any expat experience there's good and bad...the city and the culture are amazing. I love the UK and the scenery and the small towns. I love being so close to Europe. But, I struggle with finding friendships with the locals and I'd love to do more of that.
T: Well, do you have hobbies? Maybe you can find people in your hobbies?
Me: Yes, well, my hobbies are reading, swimming and yoga...and travel. So, somewhat solitary, which is certainly part of the problem, but I do try and get to groups to meet other people.
T: Well, have you tried x, y, z etc. etc.?
Note: at this point in the conversation I was thinking...here I am, explaining to a good friend of my sister's (this guy stayed with my sister and brother-in-law for 3 weeks, is a published author, wrote a book about his experience in the U.S. -- AND his wife is American!!) and I'm sitting here telling him with all sorts of vulnerability that I'm struggling to find English friends, and he's pointing out what I'm doing wrong....instead of saying "My God, I am so sorry. If I had known you were here, I would have taken you around to meet some of my friends. In fact!! I'm having a party on Friday -- why don't you and your husband come? Here, here's my number, let's have coffee", which is what I would have done -- and almost any reasonable American I know (crazies excluded).
And that, my friends, is the difference. And it's not just America -- my Canadian friends are exactly the same way. The moment I met them they immediately included me in every gathering. And the South African ones. And the Swedish/Portuguese. Pretty much all of them. And that's why my party was so international instead of local. I would LOVE to have more English friends. But when I meet them and talk to them, it appears to be a single instance -- and there are no "let's get together next week for coffee" or "you guys should totally go to this art opening with me and my wife"...except for my two friends whom I met through my good friends. And I feel like maybe it's only because I was vetted first?
Nonetheless, in spite of this horribly cold and wet summer, a large group of expats ate a lot of Tex-Mex and BBQ, and Peach Cobbler and Apple Pie. And it felt a little bit like home.