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A guide to independence day in the USA

Independence Day Explained for Non-Americans — A Quick Guide

What is Independence Day in the United States of America All About?

Many non-Americans are pretty familiar with the country’s Independence Day holiday: it’s about patriotism, independence from Great Britain, and defeating an invading army of enormous slimy aliens (that actually happened, right?).

Of the United States’ 10 public holidays, the Fourth of July stands out as easily the most well known to non-Americans around the world and probably the most significant for Americans themselves.

As I’ve written before, I think it’s an important part of an expat’s experience in their adopted country to try to understand and to mark important public holidays in their host country. With that in mind, what is Independence Day all about, and how should a non-American mark it? Here’s Independence Day explained.

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Why are British and American English different?

Why to Succeed in the USA You Must First Learn to Speak “American”

When doing business in today’s globalized world, all of the expert advice suggests learning to speak a little of your host’s language. If you’re British (or have learned British English) then you might think you have a head start in the USA. In fact, the differences between British and American English are substantial.

The approaching Fourth of July holiday (or should that be July Fourth?) is a reminder that American and British English share a common ancestry. Yet, despite the modern day United States having it’s roots in British colonialism, the two main branches of the English language have diverged quite markedly over the past 250 years.

Having a firm knowledge of the differences and deploying American English correctly is, as I am discovering as a British expat living and working in San Francisco, crucial to business success in the United States.

What, then, are the key differences, how should you handle them and why are British and American English so different?

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Eight hours in San Francisco's mission district

Eight Hours in San Francisco’s Mission District

Guide / Things to Do in San Francisco’s Mission District

Concerned by gentrification in San Francisco’s downtown Mission District, the city’s government debated an emergency 45-day moratorium on new construction earlier this month. The reason? To give breathing space to decide how to rescue this historic Latino enclave from being engulfed by latte-sipping, tech-working hipsters.

There’s nothing unique about the Mission — from Brooklyn to Brixton gentrification debates are being waged across the world. There is also nothing new about it; the New York Times was writing about “new people, people who have money… moving in [and] altering life for everyone” way back in 1999.

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How many expats are there worldwide?

How Many Expats Are There Worldwide?

Are More People On The Move Than Ever Before?

Twenty-five years ago, there were more than 154 million international migrants who – for one reason or another – packed up their homes in their native countries and moved to become expatriates in another part of the world.

Now that figure stands at over 232 million (3.2% of the world’s total population) – the highest number of international migrants ever recorded by the UN’s surveys.

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What is the friendliest country for expats?

The World’s Friendliest Countries for Expats

Which Countries Rank Highest for Social Life, Making Friends and Feeling Welcome?

Living overseas doesn’t have to mean loneliness, homesickness and being made to feel unwelcome by the locals. At least that’s true if you’re living in Russia (yes, you read that right), Bahrain or Mexico.

These are the three friendliest countries for expats, where they can most easily make friends, integrate into the community, enjoy an active social life and be made to feel welcome at work, according to the most recent HSBC Expat Explorer Survey.

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Books new expats must read

Five Books New Expats Must Read (plus some recommendations from the Twittersphere)

What Are the Best Books for New Expats to Read?

There are numerous “how to” guide books for expats out there. They detail the finer points of moving overseas, from arranging international shipping to getting your taxes in order. While these texts have their moments — mostly explaining the minutiae of the endless visa forms an expat must complete — they don’t provide much practical assistance  and inspiration to expats in their new lives.

Here, then, are my top five books new expats must read.

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Guide to tipping in the USA

A Guide to Tipping in the United States: When to Give and How Much

America’s Tipping Culture Explained

America’s tipping culture is out of control.

Every time you eat in a restaurant, every time you buy a drink at a bar, every time you grab a coffee, get a haircut, ride a taxi, buy groceries… someone expects to be tipped.

It means that, almost entirely irrespective of quality, you must assume that all services are going to cost at least 15%, 20% and sometimes even more than the ticket price.

It is the obligatory nature of tipping in the United States that non-Americans, and particularly Europeans, find so hard to comprehend. Sure, my waiter took 20 minutes to take my order, forgot the water I asked for, gave me lukewarm food and dropped a knife into my lap when clearing my plate — but I still have to pay them extra? WHAT?

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Buy british groceries online

Where to Buy British Food and Groceries Online

What can you do if you’re craving British food in America?

With an estimated 5.5 million British citizens living abroad and more than 300,000 people joining them every year it is hardly surprising that demand for British food and groceries overseas is booming.

Of course, part of the joy of living in another country is the opportunity to experience a new and exciting food culture. I am very fortunate that my current home, California, has some of the best cuisine in the United States – influenced by waves of immigration from Latin America, Japan, China, South East Asia and Eastern Europe.

To walk down the main shopping street in my district in the west of San Francisco is to pass through, within the space of around a mile, microcosms of Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Russia, Poland and Mexico. I could eat pho for breakfast, sushi for lunch and have burritos for dinner every day if I wished.

But, sometimes I crave certain British foods and groceries: proper tea, Jaffa cakes, HP sauce, baked beans, a warm British ale! These things are much harder to find even here in San Francisco and, if you’re currently further afield, probably almost impossible to come across.

So, where are the best places to buy your favorite British food and groceries online?

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How big is the UK compared to California?

How Big Is the UK Compared to California? (And Nine Similarly Important Questions)

One thing that expats to the United States, especially from densely populated Europe, find difficult to comprehend is the sheer scale of the place.

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, the United States is enormous. In fact, the USA is so big that the entire European Union (all 28 member countries) could fit inside it, twice.

My new home state, California, is (by population at least) the largest state in the union. But how does it compare to my native United Kingdom?

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Memorial day explained

Memorial Day Explained for Non-Americans – A Quick Guide

What is Memorial Day — the US Public Holiday taking place on May 25 — all about?

For expats a country’s national holidays — and how people mark them — can be a huge insight into your new home’s culture and way of life. Understanding the background to the public holidays celebrated your new country, and how you can mark them, can be an important part of your integration.

With that in mind, it is currently “Memorial Day Weekend” here in the United States – a holiday unique to the USA, and therefore an opportunity for me to try to better understand my new home. If the reaction of people on Twitter is anything to go by the holiday is predominantly about barbecues and parties:

Clearly there is much more to Memorial Day than this. So what is it all about?

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