Moving to America, there are obviously cultural differences, behavioral differences, day-to-day differences, business differences, and more, but one thing that you'll notice almost immediately is how many USA flags are flying all over the country. From the gas station to the local high school, flags are everywhere! So are you allowed to fly your national flag too?
Coming from Australia, I can safely say that knew very few (if any) people who owned a flag privately, and only my university carried a flag in addition to government spaces.
It was really a bit of a shock for me when I first arrived. I knew the stereotype of Americans being patriotic and loudly proud of their country but I didn't quite expect to be so visually bombarded by flags as soon as you step off the plane.
I've been asked a lot whether it's ok to fly a flag for your home country in the U.S. and what the rules are to do so (if any), so I thought I'd break it down.
What are the rules for flying the U.S. Flag in America?
First things first, you should know the rules of flying a U.S. flag in America, if you're so inclined to do that. There are a number of guidelines set out in the”flag code”:
The “flag code” is the federal law that sets forth guidelines for the appearance and display of the U.S. flag (“flag”) by private citizens.Congressional Research Office R45945 (October 7, 2019)
But an important thing to note, for those of you who might be worried, is that:
Most of the flag code contains no explicit enforcement mechanisms, and relevant case law would suggest that the provisions without enforcement mechanisms are declaratory and advisory only.Congressional Research Office R45945 (October 7, 2019)
This means that these are simply guidelines and recommendations, and you can't be charged with a crime if you don't abide by most of these rules. Following these rules is recommended if you want to fly a flag though as a sign of respect in the country you're flying it in!
So what are the rules contained in the US Flag Code?
You can find a comprehensive list of all the rules here but I've summed them up into a shorter, more consumable list to make sure you know a general concept here.
- You should display the flag from sunrise to sunset (and if you want to display it at night, it should be lit)
- You can fly your state's flag on the same flagpole as long as it's below the U.S. flag, or you can fly it next to it on its own flagpole, at the same height or lower
- You can't choose to fly the flag at half-mast, only the President and Governor of your state can do that, so don't lower that one without being told to (interesting sidenote: on Memorial Day you should fly it at half-staff until noon, then raise it until sunset!)
- Make sure you're flying the flag the right way up, not upside down, and you should have it attached by the stars end, not the stripes end
- It shouldn't touch the ground (but if it does when you're collecting it, that's ok – the whole burning it if it touches the ground isn't true)
- Don't edit the flag with names or symbols or any other marks
- When storing the flag, it shouldn't be wadded up, it should be folded (into a triangle)
- And if the flag is no longer in a state that looks respectful, you should burn it, privately (making sure of your local and state rules for starting fires)
Basically, in short, be respectful, and take a hot second to think about what you're doing.
What are the rules for flying a foreign flag in America alongside a U.S. Flag?
Again, as above, these are guidelines to show that you are being respectful (and would expect the same respect back):
- You should have only one country's flag per flagpole
- All other country's flags should be flown at the same vertical height
- Technically, you should fly the U.S. flag on the left if you're looking at them
That's basically it. Just make sure you're flying them at equal levels and that shows that you're respecting everyone equally!
What are the rules for flying a foreign flag on its own in the USA?
You are absolutely allowed to do this as well. You don't have to fly the U.S. flag if you want to fly your own country's flag.
There are no specific rules in the Flag Code for flying your own country's flag!
I would recommend basically following the same guidelines though: Be respectful, and you'll be fine!
After all this, should you fly your own country's flag in America?
So now you know that it's legal and you are well within your rights to fly your own flag; should you?
You can do what you want! I'm not here to tell you otherwise, but it's always important to consider those around you and consider your own safety.
You should fly your own flag if that's what you want to do, so do it proudly, respectfully, and follow the guidelines above where appropriate.