Before I went travelling I never thought of myself as particularly patriotic, it just never crossed my mind. Although it didn’t take me long to discover this new side of my personality, especially when faced with the outrageously patriotic American culture (seriously it’s worse than on TV). There is something about leaving a place that makes you strangely proud and defensive of it.
I went to uni in London when I was 18. I moved there on my own, almost exactly 150 miles from the green fields and cider farms of Somerset where I grew up. At the time it seemed like a million miles away, (right now I would die to be just 150 miles from home) and it was scary. Now when I lived in my small home town in Somerset I kind of hated it, and when I say kind of I mean I thought it was the the most boring place on the planet. However, when I got to London and people started to notice the twang of my West Country accent I became it’s ambassador! Regional pride set in and whenever anyone asked I couldn’t speak more highly of my heritage (ok maybe not my home town in specific but the West Country in general for sure).
The same thing happened to me in America.
I was definitely thrown in at the deep end when it came to patriotism in the USA. Imagine an American summer camp from a movie (ie Parent Trap) I’m talking the full works: raising and lowering the flag ceremonies every morning and night; reciting the pledge of allegiance daily; chanting U S A at every single meal; spontaneously and repeatedly erupting into the national anthem; the bombardment of conversation about the “greatest country on earth”; and of course the need to slap an American flag on everything – and I mean everything. No one forced me to partake in any of this and everyone was very respectful when I chose not to stand during the national anthem etc, but they are quite eccentric when it comes to loving their country. I mean I met people with no passport and no desire to ever leave the country because in their words “nothing could ever compare to it” – in my opinion that is over the top. Maybe that’s just the difference in temperament between a British person and an American person? Maybe it’s in their nature to be more enthusiastic and in ours to be more measured, that certainly would correlate with the stereotype society has placed on us. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I actually think it’s a great thing, I’m just saying that it shocked me (I was in America for Independence Day and that was a whole new level).During my time there I became an ambassador for Britain, and I learned a lot about patriotism from the Americans. I fell in love with Britain in a way I never even knew I could, and I’ve never appreciated my home country more. It just gave me a new perspective and I realised just how lucky I am to be British, and I celebrated that, and the Americans appreciated that too (they have a thing for British accents).
Ironically as I write this I am in Australia and it’s Australia Day! The day in which they celebrate being Australian! I should be joining the festivities by drinking beers on the beach and cooking a barbecue, but instead I find myself thinking about my newly found sense of national pride. I can’t wait to get back to London, but I’m thankful to America for helping me rediscover how amazing it is to be British.
I love being British! A little patriotism goes a long way.
More posts to come on the incredible and surprising lessons I learnt whilst living and working at a summer camp in Vermont USA.