21 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to the US
So, you’ve decided to take the leap and move to America? Well, the good news is that you’ve narrowed your destination down to one country. The bad news is that you now have to decide between 50 different states, whether you’d like to be in a city or in the countryside, how you’re going to move there, and most importantly, whether you can handle the food portions.
Thanks to us, you won’t need to worry about these – read on for our top 21 things to know about the States!
New York skyline looking beautiful with the sunset
1. Moving to the US doesn't need to be complicated
Let’s start off with the essential point – something which might sound like the most stressful part, but can actually be done in a few simple steps. Moving to a different country can be quite costly and confusing, but to help make this step easier, we’ve calculated the average international shipping rates for some of our most popular journeys.
These rates are sourced from WorldFreightRates.com, and are based on the port-to-port transportation of a 20ft container of used furniture worth £40,000 – the typical value of the contents of a three-bedroom house (according to Admiral Insurance).
|London, UK||Los Angeles, USA||£1,502 - £1,660|
|Sydney, AUS||Los Angeles, USA||£1,379 - £1,525|
|Montreal, CAN||Los Angeles, USA||£2,356 - £2,604|
Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking, and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.
2. Healthcare should be your top priority
Okay, so the most obvious point about American healthcare is that there is no NHS. This can seem quite daunting, but there are some programmes that you should look into before you start to panic. Thankfully, some of these programmes have become more affordable over time – for example, while around 15.7% of Americans were uninsured in 2010, this figure dropped to 9.1% in 2017 after the introduction of the Obamacare legislation. There is hope!
There are also a number of different health care programmes that you can join under certain requirements, such as Medicare, which is a federal health care plan that is available in the US. It covers a range of different hospital bill issues, but is only available for people aged 65 or older, people under 65 with certain disabilities, and people of any age with end-stage renal disease.
If none of these options apply to you, fear not – medical care benefits were available to 69% of private industry workers and 89% of state and local government workers in March 2018, according to the US Bureau. So it’s likely that your company will provide you with the support you need.
If you're still looking for medical cover, we've partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in US. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.
Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.
3. Restricted maternity leave
The laws surrounding maternity leave in the US have caused a lot of controversy. Technically, the US offers no paid leave to support families with their newborns. Twenty years ago, Bill Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to ensure that workers are eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The aim was to remove the worry of not having a job to come back to after having a child.
Although this sounds very helpful, it’s probably important to note that America remains the only country in the developed world that does not have to offer paid leave for new mothers and fathers. So if you’re thinking about starting a family, a lot of people in the US tend to save up their holiday days and contribute more overtime to make this feasible.
4. Annual leave is limited
The US has 10 public holidays that run throughout the year. This means you get to look forward to 10 lovely long weekends off, without any stress from work. However, in the US, employers are technically not obligated to give you any paid annual leave. In fact, only about 74% of American workers have access to paid leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On top of this, America is renowned for being one of the most intense places to work, meaning not only will you have limited holidays, but often the working week will have longer hours too.
5. Forget about your passport
Well, you can forget about it once you’ve arrived. When you do get around to having some time off work, make the most of your surroundings!
If you’re moving to America, we’re guessing you’ve seen how big it is. With 50 states at your doorstep, all ranging in climate and culture, you can join the other 58% of Americans and forget about needing your passport to go on holiday anymore.
America is home to some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes: think The Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and Yellowstone National Park. Each place has its own picturesque views, its own culture, and its own fascinating population of animals – as the only country in the world that can boast the climates of both Alaska and Texas within its borders, what more could you ask for?
6. No more English rain
When moving to the US, you’ll need to be prepared to climatise to your new home. Depending on which state you’re moving to, this will determine whether you’ll need to either stock up on sun cream or ram your suitcase full of winter coats.
Here’s a list of the hottest and coldest states in America, along with each state’s record-breaking temperature (in Celsius!):
|Hottest states in the US||Coldest states in the US|
|California (highest temperature of 56.6°C)||Alaska (lowest temperature of -62.1°C)|
|Arizona (highest temperature of 53.3°C)||North Dakota (lowest temperature of -51.1°C)|
|Nevada (highest temperature of 51.6°C)||Minnesota (lowest temperature of -51.1°C)|
|Texas (highest temperature of 48.8°C)||South Dakota (lowest temperature of -41.1°C)|
Dry, desolate, Death Valley, with the sun beaming down
7. You need to go BIG for the seasonal holidays
Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Valentine’s Day – the list goes on! We all love celebrating holidays, but America seems to go that one step further. If you find yourself being a bit of a Scrooge, you might be appalled to know that, on average, people in the US estimate their collection of holiday decorations is worth a massive $358. If you compare this to us Brits, our average annual spend on Christmas decorations amounts to a miserly £155.42. Happy Holidays indeed!
You may not believe us, but Christmas is just the tip of the iceberg. In England, you might associate Halloween with measly excuses for costumes, and perhaps the odd bit of trick or treating (if you’re lucky). In America, on the other hand, you can expect roving herds of trick or treaters, pumpkin carving, haunted houses, parties, festivals, carnivals, and even theme parks dedicated to this spooky season.
8. You need to go BIG on baby showers
Ah yes, the most famously American tradition of them all. Brits, and other nationalities, have recently taken it upon themselves to adopt this tradition, so you might already be familiar with this one.
Unlike most countries, America likes to celebrate the arrival of a baby before the big due date. Traditionally, this involves a room full of loved ones handing presents to the parents to be. Over time, this has somehow evolved into extravagant parties with decadent cakes, decorations, party gifts, and social media events. And who knows, you might even get to experience a very 21st century gender reveal!
9. Above all, you need to go BIG on the food!
We’re taking the phrase ‘Go big or go home’ to another level here. It’s no secret that Americans love their super-sized portions: according to Vox, fast food in America has grown roughly 4 times in scale since 1950. When you compare this to the likes of Japan’s portion sizes, it’s almost double! It might be a bit of a shock to the system, but prepare yourself to feast on towering burgers, heaps of fries, and buckets of soda.
10. Free refills
It’s not just the large portions that makes America’s food policies renowned worldwide – their ‘free refill’ policy is also one that people in the US are fond of. Although it’s not a requirement for all restaurants in the US to have a free refill policy, it actually helps businesses if they do. People are more likely to buy a drink if they get a free refill, so the cost benefits balance out. Bottoms up!
11. Americans love to dine out
Americans also love to eat out at restaurants and indulge in takeaways. Now, we’re all partial to a Deliveroo or a nice meal out, but yet again, the US take it one step further. In 2015, it was recorded that Americans spent more money eating away from home than they did on groceries. To put this into context, currently more than half of all dollars spent on food are now being spent on restaurants and convenient on-the-go meals.
12. Tip, tip, and tip some more
Tipping in America is not a legal requirement, but is very much an unwritten rule. The minimum wage in America is currently $7.25, but employees that may be entitled to tips (like waitresses, bar staff and taxi drivers) are likely to only get $2-3 an hour – so your generosity will go a long way. But how much do we actually have to tip? Well, that’s all up for debate. Typically, it’s expected for customers to tip roughly 15-20% of the bill, but some states also decide how much to tip by doubling the tax on the bill.
13. Sales tax
If you’re planning on moving to America, your first trip to the supermarket is likely to give you flashbacks to maths class all those years ago. In Europe, once you get to the tills, you know how much everything is going to come to. Across the pond however, you need to be able to add the tax to the price of your groceries – and to make things even more challenging, the tax prices vary from state to state.
The states with the lowest combined sales tax are Delaware (0%), Montana (0%), New Hampshire (0%) and Oregon (0%). Meanwhile, the states with the highest combined sales tax are Louisiana (10%), Tennessee (9.5%), Arkansas (9.4%), Washington (9.2%), and finally, not-so-sweet home Alabama (9.1%).
So, it’s either time to start polishing up your maths skills, or just chuck it all onto the till and hope for the best.
Each country has its own popular sport, with the majority of countries nominating football (or soccer) as their favourite. The US, however, is the rebellious teenager trying to buck the trend. The top three most popular sports in America are American Football, Baseball, and Basketball – making the US the only country in the world to have these sports in its top three.
America even deviates from the worldwide soccer trend, as the popularity of women’s football dominates that of men’s football – a total contradiction to the rest of the world.
15. English language vs Americanisms
While English and American people may technically speak the same language, in reality, our languages (and the meanings that come along with them) have so many differences:
|Words with entirely different meanings||Courgette|
It’s time to scrub up on your Americanisms, before you face accusations of sounding like a Harry Potter character.
16. College: More competitive, but more impressive
If you’re thinking about moving to the US for either yourself or your children to study, it’s best to start scouting out colleges now. The US has some of the most competitive and well respected universities in the world, which vary from state to state. Currently, the top 10 universities in the world are dominated by American institutes – except for Oxford (1st), Cambridge (2nd), and London Imperial College (10th), the rest of the top ten are all universities in the US. So, if you’re looking for a selection of the very best education facilities, America is the place to be!
Harvard college graduates raising their caps in celebration
17. They have some laws that are a bit… extravagant
We all know that America has some laws that differ from the UK – the drinking age is 21, not 18, while jaywalking is also illegal (although this law is not typically followed by many). While a lot of people are familiar with these more obvious rules, there are a handful of laws that many will never have heard of – including people in the US.
Our favourite wonderfully weird laws are:
- California – “A frog that dies during a frog-jumping contest cannot be eaten, and must be ‘destroyed’ as soon as possible.”
- Mississippi – “Profanity in public could land a person in jail for up to 30 days. It's illegal for anyone to use vulgar or obscene language in the presence of two or more people.”
- Nevada – “Anybody using an X-ray machine to determine a person's shoe size will be found guilty of a misdemeanour.
- Wyoming – “It's reportedly illegal to ‘cut, sever, detach, or mutilate’ more than one-half of a sheep's ear. Violations are felony offences, punishable by up to five years in prison.” – Less than one half is fine, though.
Hopefully, these aren’t laws that will apply to you, but it’s always good to know.
18. Their traditions can also be quite extravagant
As well as weird and wonderful laws, the US also has some weird and wonderful traditions. Here are some of our favourites:
- Presidential Turkey Pardoning – Since the 1940s, it has been a tradition for US presidents to be presented with a Thanksgiving turkey to pardon, thus sparing its life.
- Groundhog Day – Groundhogs and their burrows across America are said to be able to predict seasonal change, and so on 2nd February every year, they are put under intense scrutiny by the American people.
- Ostrich racing – This event is a bit like a horse race, with the extra thrill of having even less control over the animal.
- Roadkill cook-off – Every September, citizens of Marlington, West Virginia take part in a Roadkill Cook-off, where you can experience a range of road-side delights.
- Pumpkin chucking – This autumnal event is held annually in the state of Delaware. Contestants use various contraptions to make their pumpkins fly the furthest. The record so far was hit in 2013 and is a remarkable 4,694 feet (1.4km). The contestant used a monstrous $200,000 machine to catapult his pumpkin.
19. The Subway vs The Tube
Like all of us, the Subway in New York has its strengths and its weaknesses. In comparison to the Tube in London, the Subway has a very similar atmosphere, with just a pinch more chaos. This chaos is mainly because the Subway has more train lines than the Tube, and many of them are ambiguously named with extremely similar colours.
Although London’s Tube network covers a much larger area in the city, New York’s Subway has many more stations to offer across the Big Apple. To give you a rough scale of the differences, according to Insider, the Tube has 11 different subway lines and 270 subway stops for an estimated 1.37 billion people a year – compare this with New York City's subway system, which has has 36 lines, 472 stations, and 1.76 billion annual riders.
If you’re used to planning your night out around London’s recently introduced Night Tube, you’ll be pleased to hear that the subway runs 24 hours a day. What’s more, New York’s Subway has bigger cars, which are actually air-conditioned!
20. The rise of the mighty Starbucks
You may be picturing your life in America to be similar to the series Friends – sat on a comfy orange couch in a cosy coffee shop, chatting with your pals about your new city life.
Whilst this could very much be a reality, you may have to dodge endless Starbucks on the way to your cosy little coffee shop. The rise of Starbucks has continued for decades across the globe, and America is at the centre of it all. According to the Telegraph, the US came second in a global comparison about the amount of Starbucks shops per head of population (behind Monaco). You can look forward to seeing roughly 42 of the chain coffee shops within an area of roughly 1 million people
21. Chocolate troubles
If you’re anything like us, this may be the deciding factor in whether or not you want to move to the US. The harsh reality is that chocolate in the US is totally different to chocolate in the UK – and unfortunately, not in a good way.
According to the BBC, this is all down to measurement laws. Milk chocolate in the EU must contain at least 30% cocoa, whereas in the US, it only needs to contain 10%. Ultimately, the main reason why British chocolate tastes much better than US chocolate is due to its higher fat content. So if you’re used to rich European chocolate, then your weekly shop in America might make you a little homesick.
It will take you a lifetime to feel like you know the US inside and out, but hopefully you feel a little more familiar with it now. To receive free quotes for shipping from the UK to the US, simply fill in this short form and our professional suppliers will be in touch. If our final point hasn’t put you off your big move, and you’d like to know more information about shipping, head over to our international shipping page to get a quote!