On behalf of the entire tBBC family, I would like to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July. This is my third straight 4th that I have spent outside of the United States and my views on the holiday have definitely changed over that time. Growing up I always enjoyed the 4th, it was a fun holiday that meant spending time outdoors, bbqs, watching a Capital Fourth and fireworks, and when I got older, having a few beers with Dad. While all of this was enjoyable, I wouldn’t really say that the holiday had a lot of special meaning to me. I loved America but the 4th of July always seemed more about having a day off work and enjoying yourself than anything.
I think some of the reason that the 4th of July didn’t have a special meaning to me was that I was sort of spoiled and took living in the USA for granted. When one is always living in a place, it is easy to overlook what makes it great, especially when you don’t have a lot of experiences to compare to. Living in Australia for just over two years now has been an eye opening experience for me in many ways as it has made me see myself and the US in a different light. I definitely see America’s faults more clearly now; yes, we have them and more of them than we would like to admit but I’m not going to get into those as that is way off topic for this blog and beside the point. However, despite all of its faults, I also see what makes America great far more clearly than I ever did before. A few months ago I was talking with some people at work about how much of a pain it is that American citizens living abroad still have to file US taxes even if they aren’t earning any money in the US or living there, something that citizens of most other countries don’t have to deal with, and how the various US tax laws restrict my ability to travel back to the US unless I want to get taxed by two different countries on my Australian income. One of the postdocs that I was talking to pointed out that I could get out of that by becoming a citizen of another country and giving up my US citizenship; he then asked if I would do that if I got a permanent job in Australia and became a citizen here. I was rather surprised by the question as the thought had never crossed my mind but I didn’t hesitate in saying no, I wouldn’t give up my American citizenship. The other postdoc was rather surprised by this, he is Canadian and said that if he was in my situation, he would give up his citizenship in order to avoid the annoying tax issues. The Australians that were with us all agreed with him and despite my attempts to explain my reasoning, I couldn’t really get any of them to understand why being an American was so important to me. Its not that these people weren’t proud of their country but there was just something different about how I felt about the US.