Trading Fireworks for Sunsets – Celebrating the 4th of July in New Zealand

Happy 4th of July, America!

Even though this post is being published on 5 July here in New Zealand, thanks to the time difference, millions of Americans are currently lighting up their grills for some bbq goodness in honor of America’s Independence Day.

My friends know I love a good fireworks display but this year I wasn’t planning to do anything to celebrate the holiday. For starters, it felt a bit odd celebrating breaking away from the English monarchy while living in a country with the Queen’s face on the currency. Also, I don’t know any other Americans in Christchurch so to most of my friends and co-workers, today was just another workday.

With a business trip on the calendar, I knew my schedule was packed with a whirlwind of meetings and events and I seriously doubted my ability to give a flying $%$# after a 15-hour workday.

My alarm went off at 4:00am and I was on a flight from Christchurch to Invercargill by 6:20am. The sun hadn’t even risen when I was off to my first of two back to back meetings. On a tight schedule, we hopped into the car as soon as the second meeting finished for a two-hour drive to Queenstown where we were hosting an event.


On the way, my colleague made us stop at a little cafe in the middle of nowhere that serves the most delicious cheese rolls. For those of you unfamiliar with this delicacy, cheese rolls consist of single slices of bread slathered with cheese mixed with onions, soup powder, and evaporated milk. Once assembled, they are rolled up and baked in an oven until toasted. It’s universally accepted that the best cheese rolls can be found in Southland and though not the traditional Independence day fare of hotdogs and hamburgers, these did not disappoint.


The views from the road weren’t half bad either and I was sad not to have more time in Queenstown. I’m hoping to come back in the summer with Pete so let me know if you’ve got any Airbnb recommendations!

Flying out of Queenstown became an adventure in its own right. The airline mistakenly put me on standby to accommodate passengers originally booked on an earlier flight that had been canceled. Thankfully, we got it sorted and I was able to get home to Pete and the pup, but for a moment there, I thought I’d be spending the night at the airport!

The views from the plane were out of this world but none of my photos do it justice. The sky was a mix of soft pinks, purples, and oranges as the sun set over the snowy mountain tops. Not a bad trade-off for fireworks in my humble opinion.


By the time I landed back in Christchurch I was zonked. To my surprise, Pete had decided that we needed to celebrate the 4th of July properly, so we drove to the supermarket and picked up the essentials: hamburgers, Budweiser beer, Heinz “American” mustard, and Red Vines.

Despite being a born and raised Kiwi, I love that Pete made sure we celebrated the 4th – even if it meant buying a 12 pack of Budweiser just to drink one each and accepting that the remaining 10 bottles have a strong likelihood of sitting in our fridge until next year’s festivities.

Even though I may have missed the fireworks this year, it was so much fun creating our own 4th of July traditions and figuring out small ways to incorporate some American-ness into our lives here in Christchurch. While I haven’t experienced much homesickness since the move, it’s still nice to acknowledge the holidays I grew up celebrating. Maybe next year we’ll even host a proper BBQ for our friends.

After five years living in the States, Pete even admitted, “It’s my holiday, too.”

If you’re an American expat, I’d love to know how you celebrate the fourth of July. Leave a note in the comments below!

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