As an American expatriate living abroad, often the interpretation of American holidays and traditions get lost in translation. Independence Day or the 4th of July is more than the red, white and blue themed picnic-ware, BBQ’ing and fireworks. It is heralded as the quintessential American holiday, marking the birth of the United States of America.
It is during national holidays when many expats realize that they are not awarded the luxury of celebrating with their families, or even granted days off. So we got curious: How does an American expat family celebrate the 4th of July in Switzerland?
Meet the Lieber Family
In Canton Thurgau, a beautiful canton best known for their abundant apple orchards reside the Liebers, a family characteristically as American as apple pie.
Matt and Kady, their Swiss born daughters Taylar (5) and Ava (1) and Alaskan malamute, Moose, are a remarkably cultured and well-traveled family. They have lived happily in Switzerland for about eight years, calling Frauenfeld their home.
Both originally from Utah, Matt and Kady met miraculously while separately residing in China; Matt working for the IDFL Laboratory and Institute and Kady in charge of interior design for five-star hotels in Asia. After marriage and spending time in China and the USA, eventually they made the leap to move to Switzerland where Matt works at a satellite IDFL office in Frauenfeld.
Independence Day Nostalgia in Frauenfeld
Relishing in this radiant Saturday, Matt is manning the grill and Kady is preparing the fixings. I am enchanted by the reminiscent scent of sizzling burgers, fresh and brightly saturated summer fruits, children cheerfully frolicking and the faint sound of country music wafting in the background.
Without a doubt, this classic 4th of July party at the Liebers invokes lingering nostalgia of the celebrations back home...
During their time spent in Switzerland, the Liebers have integrated well within the community. Being deemed as the "cool house," Kady is often visited by the neighboring children eager to taste her freshly baked cookies or play on the patio.
Matt coaches a girls basketball team in Frauenfeld and in their spare time, the family travels often, making sure to visit the United States at least 2-3 times per year. I am thoroughly impressed by the superb parenting of Matt and Kady, which further emphasizes that Switzerland is a wonderful, safe and surprisingly diverse place to raise children.
Celebrating with the Liebers and their guests, I was reminded that for many expats leaving their home country behind, the new community abroad develops into an extended family. I believe that the kind of empathy and camaraderie within the international community is unique to the expat experience that one can only experience while living here.
Thanks to the Liebers’ embracing of other cultures - both on their travels as well as in their community - Taylar has effortlessly learned to communicate in several languages. As I look around, surrounded by guests coming from different backgrounds, religions and ethnicities, I come to realize that essentially and universally, we are all partaking in the same experience.
Memories and Food
In celebration of this truly American holiday, I notice several offerings from the American Favorites line by Migros. Not one to shy away from a brownie, I take a generous bite and suddenly, I am transported to simpler times in my youth.
Here is the "flag" cake the Liebers skillfully decorated:
Memories of summer bliss and childish faces nonchalantly stained by chocolate and popsicles. Vividly, I can recollect digging chubby feet into the sand while waving around glittering sparklers patiently waiting for the "real" fireworks show. Perfectly capturing the sparkler element, Kady brilliantly created healthy fruit sparklers using juicy water melon stars and a plump blueberry wand.
Food is the centerpiece of my memories of past celebrations. America represents a melting pot and alongside the 4th of July staples (hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad etc.), many Americans consume ethnically diverse dishes that add to the richness of the growing American cuisine.
Another hit at the Lieber party was a bright and zesty salsa: The Latin inspired American favorite manifests many different and appetizing variations unique to the cook. Kady graciously lent us her tasty interpretation of her Easy Salsa.
Recipe for Kady’s Easy Salsa
In a food processor, pulse the following until finely chopped:
• 1 onion
• 1 pepper
• A handful of cilantro/coriander
• 1 teaspoon or 2 cloves of garlic pressed
• 1/2 teaspoon salt (you can add more or less depending on how salty you like it)
• 3 chilies (add more if you want more spice)
Add 1 large and 1 small can of canned tomatoes. Pulse until mixed. Do not overmix or else it will become runny.
The beauty of observing holidays abroad is the sharing of heritage and culture while creating new traditions. Although there may be no fireworks during this celebration today, I am comforted with the fact that soon, we are all granted the opportunity to celebrate the Swiss National Day on August 1st!
(This story has been supported by our friends at Migros.)