As I was preparing to leave the Pacific Northwest in 2013, I noticed the beauty of the landscape with an acute sense of appreciation I often feel during good-bye’s. I pledged to try to arrive in each new place with a tenacious ability to value the beauty from the beginning rather than the end.
I kept my promise, and as we traveled through Europe in 2013 and 2014, I wrote about all the beautiful moments I wanted to carry with me always. I also started a different kind of list I have been keeping to myself. I wasn’t sure when or if I would share it as it was part of my personal discovery about what it means to be American. I started writing down all the things people the world over, in many languages, told us they loved about America.
It has been an interesting time in history to be the only Americans in some of the places we have lived. We often talk to our children about how just one meaningful interaction can combat a lifetime of misconceptions and fears fueled by the media.
As Americans, we do our best to represent our country with the grace and humility it deserves, regardless of the stories making international news, because it is one way to give back to a country that has given us so much.
We thought perhaps, for Americans living in America, this Independence Day may be a good time to tell you what the world loves about you. Because we have traveled to nearly 30 countries, in honor of America’s birthday, we thought we would share 30 things the world loves about the USA. The things on this list have been personally gathered by our family from people we have met, shared meals, holidays, endings and new beginnings with, spanning 4 continents (so far). Some of these memories are very specific experiences foreigners have had on American soil, but the hope is the beauty of the USA as others see it, will wash over you and shower you with appreciation …
- The first time I saw the Statue of Liberty I burst into tears. Lady in Sweden
- The moment I landed in NYC, I remember feeling like I could have anything I wanted, anytime I wanted it. I haven’t felt that anywhere else in the world. Man in Monaco
- We immigrated from Italy to Iowa for my father to work in the mines and I remember him telling me, there was hope in that soil. Neighbor in Southern Italy
- Portugal is roughly the same size as Maine and that is just one state. Our country is the size of one U.S. state and you have so many to choose from. Neighbor in Portugal
- I loved the Coca-cola with ice cubes. I had never seen ice cubes before my trip to America. Friend in Indonesia
- I learned how to speak English watching American television shows. Because my English is so good, I never have to worry about finding meaningful work. I never paid attention in class – it drove my mother crazy. Friend in Denmark
- It is possible to get food and drinks “to go” in America. I was with a friend the first time we ordered coffee to go and I didn’t know what to do. Do I drink while walking? Do I wait until we sit down? Friend in Val Gardena Italy/Austrian border
- Seeing the stars line the sidewalk in Hollywood made me feel glamorous, like I was one of them for just a moment. Lady in Germany’s Black Forest
- Our apartment in Florida had a clothes dryer. I had never seen one. I kept drying towels, one at a time, because I was afraid it would burn everything I put in! Friend in Southern Spain
- When I stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon I yelled at the top of my lungs, “God Bless America!” I can still feel that moment when I close my eyes. Friend in Belgium
- My cousin worked at Disney and we all went to see her one summer in Los Angeles. I wanted to drink in every inch of California. Friend in New Zealand
- Route 66 in Kansas was my favorite. I remember sitting as a rest stop, eating a sandwich and thinking “this is the best day of my life.” Shop owner in Luxembourg
- The town we stayed in Atlanta had a shop that was open 24/7. I couldn’t believe it, I kept asking the cashier, in my best attempt at English, if those hours were real. Taxi driver in Malta
- When I stepped out of the taxi on the Vegas Strip I remember thinking how do you build something out of nothing? Teacher in Australia
- In my country, most people are of one religion. I remember that every church I saw in Seattle was of a different faith and that very observation made me feel more spiritual. Priest in Italy
- My aunt sent me a Norman Rockwell Christmas card when she lived in Massachusetts many years ago. I framed it because I don’t know what a cold Christmas feels like but it makes me nostalgic from my corner of the world south of the Equator. Friend in New Zealand
- I kept photographing huge pick-up trucks, you know, like Americans take picture of vespas when they are in my country. Friend in Tuscany, Italy
- When I went to the Rockies to visit relatives, all I would watch for years when I returned to my country, were Old Western Movies. I wore my cowboy boots every day. American boys go through that stage as kids, I was 26! Restaurant owner in France
- I learned about the First Amendment when I was young and we lived in America for a short time. I kept asking the teacher if she was sure that everyone was guaranteed these freedoms. When we moved back to our country, I knew I was leaving those freedoms behind and I wept. Friend in the Czech Republic
- Americans kept asking me to talk because they loved my accent and I kept thinking of how much I wanted to just listen. Friend in Ireland
- I remember driving on the Haines Highway in Alaska and seeing a bald eagle. I have that majestic memory with me every day. Friend in Switzerland
- Even after going to the Hawaiian Islands, I am still not sure they are real. Friend in New Zealand
- I love the food in my country, but in America you can taste food from so many different cultures all in one city. Friend in Portugal
- When I saw my friends’ house in Texas I thought it was an apartment building but it was only for one family. Everything seemed so big and expansive to me that I felt like twirling and running through every building. Our daughter’s friend in Indonesia
- I love American Baseball even though I don’t understand it, I want to be at the stadium, on a sunny afternoon, just to be there cheering for something. Landlord in Singapore
- I loved Washington DC and I hated it at the same time. It brought out every emotion I have ever felt in my life. It was unforgettable. Editor in Thailand
- America has a generous spirit. I love how they show up on the world stage to help in times of crisis. Many people in our country look up to America for that reason. Tour Guide in Vatican City
- I used to sit at the bus stop in Chicago and just watch people. I loved the different styles and confidence of the people wearing the clothes. I think American style runs deeper than clothes. Friend in UK
- Americans have extremely reliable utilities. Hot showers and reliable electricity were gifts to me and they were the norm in America. It is hard to imagine always having those things but many Americans have those things every day. Monk in Bali, Indonesia
- I will never forget the anticipation I felt waiting for Old Faithful at Yellowstone. It is still alive in me. Anytime I feel down, I think of that place and I feel more alive. Friend in Australian Outback
This holiday is about declaring independence. What are our ideals, values, wildest dreams, views on equality, and understanding of citizenship? Only when we know for ourselves can we hope for our nation.