Learning to Say ‘I Love You’ (A Lesson from the USA on July 4th)

Recently two of my friends from LA came to stay with us. After a fun-filled few days we waved them off to Heathrow and as they got in the cab one of them shouted…

‘I love you!’

I was stunned and taken back; this was a declaration that took our friendship to a totally new level.

Through being part of the expat community in Tokyo and living in both LA and Seattle, I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of American friends. And one thing I’ve observed the Americans do really well is expressing warm feelings and gratitude towards friends and family.

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It’s the stuff that makes us Brits roll our eyes and cringe; the endless hugs, the steady line of compliments, the over-zealous ‘I love yous’ during Oscar acceptance speeches.

But you know what? I think it’s really healthy, honest and beautiful to express love more often and more widely, and I’ve come to think they’re right and we’re wrong on this.

Stereotype or not, it is somewhat cultural to be reserved with your feelings and emotions here in the UK. It’s probably the reason we, as a culture, need to get wasted drunk at weddings, Christenings and hey, most Saturday nights!

This is when the tears flow and the ‘I love yous’ come out from wherever they’ve been hiding since the last drunken night out. Because at the end of the day, we’re all still flesh and blood, feeling the same feels as the Americans – but just being absolutely rubbish at admitting it to ourselves and others.

I rarely say those words to my parents and have only heard it a handful of times – once on my wedding day, and it most definitely made my mascara run. Years of unknowingly waiting for those words; I didn’t know how much I craved them until that moment.

Even thinking about expressing the words to anyone other than my husband, sister or BFF makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s as if I’d have to open up my heart and expose my insides, and that admittance of feelings makes me feel really vulnerable.

The story I began this piece with was not the first time I’ve been hit by an awkward US-style love bomb. I’ve had many friends declare LOVE unexpectedly over the years and it sends my British frigidness into overdrive.

But WHY do I feel this way? I do, undoubtedly, love the friend who shouted at me in the street. She’s fantastic and hilarious and kind. I am not in love with her, but I certainly feel what the Greeks defined as Philia – deep friendship. And I think it was really nice of her to express her fondness for our friendship (albeit it loudly and in public – totally un-British) and it made me feel great.


The world needs a whole lot of love right now. With so much pain, so much suffering, so many negative thoughts, words and actions, love is the only anecdote.

There’s also so much good and so many beautiful things and sooooooo many wonderful and brilliant people that make our worlds complete – and I think it would be good if they heard the words I. Love. You. more often. Not just our partners and our spouses but our kids and our parents and our extended family and our friends. Isn’t that all we, really and truly deep down, want? To love and to be loved?

Man, I’m getting soppy in my old age but somehow I don’t mind. I care about a heckuva lot less now I’m a parent. It feels good to soften and let go a little and admit that this one picture of my son asleep on me is the definition of love to me and I tear up every time I see it.

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I’m going to concede to this, America. I’m sorry for all the awkward times I squirmed and avoided replying with those three words plus ‘too’. I’m sorry that I thought you were over-emotional and foolishly sentimental.

The world deserves more I Love Yous and you were right all along. 

I promise I’ll never cringe at the Oscars’ acceptance speeches ever again.

2 thoughts on “Learning to Say ‘I Love You’ (A Lesson from the USA on July 4th)

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