The 4th of July

I remember when I was back in middle School one of my teachers gave us a list of riddles. One of them was “Do they have the 4th of July in China?” I would naturally say “No.” But that was wrong. July 4th is on everyone’s calendar even though they won’t call it Independence Day. I haven’t been to China (yet), but I know that the statement is true for Korea.

I know it isn’t currently Independence day, but I thought I should write down a few of my feelings on the matter. I always felt as though Independence Day was a pretty forgettable holiday, signaled like most others with a day off optional food and usually an event of some kind. But you never really stop and get a chance to appreciate something quite like you do when it’s gone.

America, understandably, gets a pretty bad rap overseas. There have been many times in which I begin talking to people who automatically assume that I’m Canadian and start to bash America, George Bush, Sara Palin, the War in Iraq etc. And sometimes I’m a little too embarrassed to correct them.

There are a few places I’ve been to with my friends that have signs hanging on their door that specifically request, by order of the Korean Police force, that American Soldiers do not enter. Just the other week I was getting a lesson plan together for my adult class and I wanted to show the differences between a typical American Meal and a Typical Korean Meal.

This is was what I found after I typed in “Usual Korean Meal.”

This is pretty standard Korean fare. It’s Sam Gip Sal cooked over coals with a few of the customary side dishes and kimchi. I can walk into any mom and pop restaurant right now and I would get this. I have been invited to several Korean’s house holds and they have fixed this for me.

But when I typed in “Usual American Meal” I got this.

Now…don’t get me wrong I like Hot Dogs,  Cheeseburgers, baked beans and potato salad as much as the next person but the only time I’ll really eat them together in a genuine meal is at a cook out. (Usually ones on the 4th of July Ironically.) Making burgers is a bit of an art form and getting the grill out is a hassle so we save it for special occasions, so unless we’re letting George Forman do the work with some left over ground beef I would say all this stuff is practically festive food. Maybe it’s not as traditional as turkey but it’s got something attached to it.

Now I should also tell you that not far after that last picture I found this one.

And immediately after that I found this one.


I will admit I did eventually find this one.

But even then a Soda a fist full of fries, a pretty pathetic looking pile of sliced carrots and a Steak isn’t exactly what I would call a typical American meal.

I had to look long and hard before I found what I recall being the typical dinner at my house, baked chicken with broccoli and wild rice. (Thanks Mom and Dad for that by the way.)

It took me a while to realize what I was really seeing was America through other people’s eyes. No we’re not absolutely liked the world over, and we have our fair share of American stereotypes, but I suppose its more so ignorance than hate. I’ve met a lot of people who have images in their mind of the usual Korean meal being either cat or dog. And while they’re not entirely wrong about Korean people eating Dogs, (look up 웹문서 – Kegogi), they couldn’t be farther from the truth. The vast majority of American don’t eats fast food every day, just like I don’t think Scottish people eat Haggis every day. (Although I do have to draw the line there because Irish people do eat Potatoes everday and Korean people do eat Rice and Kimchi everyday.)

I remember talking to my Co-worker and hearing him swell with pride on St. Patricks day. I remember seeing a facebook post of one of my Canadian friends celebrating Canada day. I talked with South Africans who prefaced every comment about the atrocities and corrupt government with “I love my country.”

And I love my country too. We have a wonderful history, values that have been imitated the world over and a melting pot of cultures and ideas that have changed the world as we know it. While we have some people who do consciously put their worst foot forward, and leaders who constantly step on the toes of the global community we are a beautiful people. I truly am proud to be American.

While there are many American military bases in Korea, there were no fireworks in my 4th of July. I didn’t get the day off. I didn’t get to eat a Cheeseburger, with a hotdog, baked beans and potato salad. I stayed with some of my American friends and we played poker and ate pizza with corn on it, and I did this about 11 hours before it was even July 4th in America. But I was proud enough knowing that it was a day for me and my people. It was a day to shrug off all the stereotypes and misconceptions and to take unapologetic pride in who I am and where I came from.


God Bless America.


Side Note:

…I would really kill for an apple pie. They don’t make them in Korea. 😦


2 Responses to The 4th of July

  1. Deloris says:

    I red this one a little late. Interesting subject. Your meals at home were well balanced and not full of empty calories. Don’t you remember? And hot dogs and hamburgers are only served at outdoors cookouts for convenience, but there was always coleslaw, vegetable salad and fruit salads. Our celebration foods served indoors at the dining table were special and well balanced. Korea people are not seeing the full picture. I guess it is important to learn what other countries think of Americans. Don”t be afraid to tell them your experience to try to enlighten them with out offending. Love your blog

  2. marty says:

    how did i miss this post

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