This is a special day in the United States. November 23 is Thanksgiving, the most observed holiday in the US. Its origins trace back to America's original British settlers, giving thanks for their first successful harvest in the newly established colonies.

Today, Thanksgiving is a holiday where we simply give thanks, expressing our gratitude for what we have. We celebrate this day at home with family and also with friends. It is very special and uniquely American. Nowhere else in the world is the expression of gratitude so broadly reflected upon as a national holiday.

In this year, like all others, there will be many Americans living as expatriates overseas. There are many here in New Zealand. The US is consistently one of New Zealand's top immigration populations, ranking with the UK, South Africa and India.

We do not create enclaves; we simply blend in and live as everyone else does. These immigration patterns have largely been consistent over many decades. Americans have reputable jobs and own companies in New Zealand and employ many Kiwis. I have also met many born Kiwi whose parents emigrated from the US.


New Zealand exports many of its fine products to the United States, deriving great economic benefit. New Zealand and the United States share a common strategic arrangement, keeping the Pacific secure. Both countries have common, British origins.

These immigration patterns and broad economic relationships emerged largely as an outgrowth of World War II. While the UK pulled out of the South Pacific and left its Commonwealth members to fend for themselves against the Japanese, the US came in and stabilised the Pacific.

Upwards of 100,000 US sailors and Marines spent time in New Zealand and also helped protect New Zealand (and Australia).

We donated infrastructure to New Zealand. Middlemore hospital was originally a US military hospital.

This period in history is particularly poignant for me, because one of my great uncles was a US Marine and served in the South Pacific. He was one of the many who landed on Iwo Jima. This was a bitterly fought parcel that was strategically critical to the success against the Japanese Empire.

Since the war, New Zealand and the US has enjoyed enduring, good relations. Many Kiwis have live in the US as well.

We also know the US, like many other countries, is going through a particularly difficult period. This is no secret. There are many domestic issues that Americans need to internally sort out, and is our responsibility to do so. This will occur, but will take time.

There has been an increasing trend in recent years, making it fashionable to be disparaging about and towards Americans. This behaviour preceded recent US domestic events. It is also unfortunate. The disparaging behaviour also is noticeable in the form of non-verbals.

For instance, I have introduced myself to many Kiwis only to be reciprocated with a hostile glare. I recall riding the bus to the All Blacks-South Africa match and overheard a group of younger Kiwis talking at length about what idiots Americans are.

They did not know I was overhearing their entire conversation, which they were not terribly discrete about. So I am sure there were other American expats or second generation Kiwi-Americans who overheard them as well.

Despite the abundance of Americans in New Zealand, I am often asked if I am Canadian. This is usually met with a snicker and obviously intended to get a rise out of and upset me. Such words and the intentions underlying them do not cast those of you that make such statements in a favourable light.

By the way, Canadians also enjoy strong security and economic relationships with America. So no, Americans do not hate Canadians. But I must confess, many of us are a little confused about that whole curling thing. And why would you want to intentionally irritate someone you just met?

I have also learned that many Kiwis have a curious belief about American travel patterns. I have been greeted many times with declarative statements on the order of, "So this is the first country you've visited?" or, "So this is your first time overseas?" Did you know that in addition to New Zealand, Americans also live in abundance in Germany, Mexico and France?

In my travels around the globe, I have met fellow Americans at every corner. Yet, I have met many New Zealanders that have never even been to the South Island of their very own country.

I do confess, though, that we Americans are not all that good at rugby. But I dare you to find an American expat here that is not an All Blacks fan. And we do give each other a good run for the money in sailing. Congratulations, again by the way.

So on this Thanksgiving, like all Thanksgivings, I will take a break, reflect on all the opportunities that have been afforded to me, express my gratitude.

I come from a wonderful country that has benefited many worldwide. I enjoy a good life here in New Zealand. I have many friends across the globe and live a rich and fulfilling life. Likewise, I will also say to New Zealanders, you're welcome.

• Robert Borotkanics from Baltimore is a research fellow in the faculty of health and environmental sciences at AUT.