April 28, 2017

What is the Fourth of July?

"My American client wished me a happy 4th of July. What does that mean? It's just a date, right?"

As an American, born and raised, this question totally took me off guard! When it was asked, I answered with a stunned silence, trying to get into the person's head who asked me this to think of their context. The person who asked me was an Indian (from India), who does celebrate Independence Day in India, but on August 15, not July 4th. Also, as far as I know, I have never heard Indians say "Happy August 15th" to each other!

So, then it dawned on me why this Indian software developer was asking me this question. Of course July 4th is only a date when you don't know what holiday it is or the name of the holiday. It could be anything - it could be April 2nd or October 15th or February 17th. For him, like what I just did, it's like pulling a date from thin air and then trying to add a context to it when it could actually be anything.

The good news is that the Indian software developer answered to the American client, "You, too." So, since he did not know exactly what he was agreeing to, he was asking me (the closest thing to an American he could ask without asking his client and maybe losing face or feeling inadequate).


I smiled softly and said, "I see why you are confused. For you, this date, July 4th has no context. It could be anything. It could be your client's birthday, or it could be a major holiday, or he could be being sarcastic, who knows?! But, in this case, wishing you a Happy July 4th is another way Americans wish each other a Happy Independence Day!"

"Oh!" signed the software developer, "I get it. Isn't there a movie called Born on the 4th of July!?"

While I nodded yes, I only daydreamed about the time a typical American would have a context to Indian culture like this!

So, he asked me, was it ok for him to have answered, "You, too?" 

Yes, I told him, it was alright to have said that. But, now that he knew what it meant, he could learn to make small talk about it. So, we practiced small talk discussions on how to wish Americans Happy Independence Day as well as how to create conversation about it.


See video on YouTube, click here.


Related Information:
See this post about small talk tips for America's Independence Day
Click through to learn what to wearevents to go to or things to do in the United States on the 4th of July, or about how to prepare to go to the park on Independence Day in the States.

For Indians reading this, if you want to introduce your American or other global team members about India's Independence Day, click here. 

Fourth of July image credit: Claradon: Creative Commons at Flickr.

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