5. If you’re in New York, try “Speed Roommating”
Matt Hutchinson of SpareRoom shared the following tip for finding a roommate: “If you’re moving to New York then Speed Roommating (www.speedroommating.com) is a great place to start looking for roommates. It gives you the chance to meet lots of people in one evening in a relaxed, social setting and the events regularly attract a mix of people new to the U.S., as well as locals. We also hear from plenty of people who’ve come to the events and made friends as an added bonus.” SpareRoom also offers a mobile app that lets users see what rooms are available in different neighborhoods throughout New York City.
6. Learn how to sublet
If you’re going out of town for a substantial period of time and want to lease your room, you may need to enter into a sublease. A “sublease” is a legal arrangement that allows a renter, or tenant, to rent space out to a tenant of their own. The agreement is between the original tenant and the new tenant, but be careful–many times the consent of the landlord (or property owner) is required for a tenant to enter into a sublease. Before signing anything, make sure to read and understand the terms of the sublease, as well as the terms of your original lease with your landlord.
7. Airbnb is another great option
If you’re looking for short-term lodging and don’t want to stay at a hotel, AirBnB may be a good option for you. It allows you to rent an apartment or home for a short period of time at a rate specified by the owner. It’s a great way to travel and also a potential source of income while you’re away. Make sure before renting out your apartment that AirBnB is permitted by your landlord.
8. Or buy a home!
Purchasing your own home is part of the “American Dream.” Indeed, rates of homeownership are very high in the U.S. Mortgage loans allow many people to finance 80% or more of a home’s purchase price. The U.S. federal tax code also provides for tax benefits associated with owning a home–so make sure to ask your accountant or tax advisor about potential benefits that may become available to you. Access to mortgage loans is another reason why credit scores in the U.S. are so important!
9. Mobile homes are also an affordable choice in rural areas
Mobile homes are popular in the South and other rural parts of the U.S. They provide another affordable option for home ownership. Usually owners rent a place to park the mobile home although some people own the land where their mobile home sits.
10. Check out used furniture to save money
New furniture is expensive. Luckily, there are great options for purchasing furniture second-hand. Buying from an authorized furniture dealer is one way to guarantee quality. Services such as Craigslistalso make buying and selling used furniture easy. Just be sure to inspect the furniture before purchasing. Other services like Krrb Classifieds provide a more community-focused approach. George, the founder of Krrb, shared with us a recent story of helping a woman move from Milan to Washington, D.C. When planning her move, she gave the customer service team at Krrb a list of furniture she wanted and the team was able to source most of her furnishings before she even arrived in the U.S.!
82. Valentine’s Day is a day for lovers (and friends)!
Valentine’s Day is a romantic holiday in the U.S, which falls on February 14 each year. It’s primarily enjoyed by couples, but groups of friends also celebrate with festive meals and parties. If you have a significant other, don’t forget about it! It’s customary to express your affection by giving your sweetheart flowers and heart-shaped candy.
83. Be prepared for the Thanksgiving feast
Thanksgiving is another popular American holiday. It dates back to the arrival of Pilgrim immigrants from England, when Native Americans and Pilgrims celebrated a good harvest with a magnificent meal. People usually enjoy a large traditional meal with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and pumpkin pie.
84. Smoking indoors is not allowed
In the U.S. there are significant restrictions on where you can smoke. Smoking is almost always prohibited indoors, and other public places (e.g., recreation areas) ban smoking as well. It is always illegal to smoke on an airplane.
85. Most people do not have house servants
Standards of living in the U.S. are high, but few people have hired help in their homes for household chores like laundry or cleaning. Instead, on-demand services such as Handy.com continue to grow in popularity. Since its launch in 2012, Handy has become the fastest-growing on-demand home cleaning and DIY services provider in the U.S., giving users the ability to instantly book trusted, fully-vetted cleaners or handymen via the website or mobile app.
86. Lots of people own guns, but they don’t usually carry them in public
The U.S. constitution guarantees that citizens have the right to bear arms, and many Americans exercise this right. Nevertheless, most people do not carry guns in public, and special permits are often required to do so.
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87. The rules of American football are complicated
Football is the most popular sport in the U.S. The rules are complex, but the basic premise is simple. Each team wants to score points by carrying the ball across the field into the opposing end-zone. Teams switch off between offense and defense. The offense tries to advance the ball towards the opposing end-zone, and the defense tries to stop the offense or take the ball away. The ball can be thrown or carried, but it can’t be dropped!
62. Prices usually don’t include sales tax
Unlike many other countries, prices labelled on goods do not include sales tax. Instead, the tax is typically added as a percentage of the sales price when you check out at the cashier. Remember to budget a small amount for this markup and don’t be surprised when your bill comes out higher than what was advertised.
63. Try on your clothes
Unlike some countries, apparel and shoe sizes are not regulated by the government and, as a result, can vary considerably across brands. It’s important to try on clothing prior to purchasing. With online purchases, you can usually return clothing that doesn’t fit, though return policies may vary.
64. Don’t bother bartering
Haggling over prices for consumer goods is not common in the U.S. Most prices are standardized, and sales people usually don’t have authority to change the price. Large purchases, such as a house or car, are exceptions where negotiation is expected.
67. Most Americans own a car
It can be hard to get around the U.S. without a car, with the exception of densely populated urban areas that have reliable public transportation. Most Americans own a car to commute and travel conveniently. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to lease or buy a car.
68. The highways are great
The interstate highway system in the U.S. is the second longest highway system in the world. The speed limit is usually 70 miles per hour (roughly 112 km/h), so you can really move fast across the country! A number of smaller highway systems also exist, including smaller federal and state highways.
69. Trains and buses are great too, if they’re available
As noted earlier, public transportation in the U.S. is not as developed as in some other countries. However, the trains that do exist are high-quality, such as the Amtrak system on the Eastern Seaboard. Buses can be a great way to travel on a budget in the U.S. They are cheaper than flights and trains, but typically much slower. Still, a bus can usually take you to where you need to go at a low cost. Bus transportation is more common than rail, and is available in most cities.
70. Domestic flights are cheap, but not as cheap as in some countries
The airplane was invented in the U.S., so it makes sense that America has great air travel options. The U.S. has a modern and developed system of routine domestic flights, which can be booked online or through a travel agent. There are also international airports throughout the country with flights to most countries in the world. If booked in advance, flights can be affordable, but not quite as cheap as some places in Europe.
71. We invented Uber–it’s great! Lyft is fantastic too
Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are incredibly popular. They provide a transportation alternative, particularly in cities without a developed public transportation system or taxi network. Download the apps on your phone and get moving!
72. Big cities like New York have the best taxis in the world
Many cities lack heavily-developed taxi systems. But a few places, such as New York City, have the best taxis in the world, including the yellow cab system depicted frequently in movies and television.
73. Google Maps is a convenient way to get your bearings
Google Maps is very reliable in the U.S. and is a fantastic way to navigate. It’s particularly useful for driving directions and searching for nearby places, like a local drug store or restaurant.
74. Walk on the right on the sidewalk
Although a formerly British colony, the U.S. aligns with most of the non-British world in driving on the right side of the road. This might feel strange to people from the U.K., Japan or South Africa. The same rules apply to walking on sidewalks and stairs too.
75. Americans need their personal space
Different cultures have different definitions of personal space. Americans strongly prefer a large “personal bubble” in interpersonal communication. Even on the street or in public transportation, it’s generally considered unacceptable to touch or bump a stranger. In conversation, Americans tend to speak loudly. When you’re new to the U.S., it may take some adjustment.
76. The mail is different in the U.S.
Mail in the U.S. is different than in many other countries. The U.S. has a government postal service that delivers mail all across the country. When you want to mail something, you need to put a stamp (which you can buy at a local post office) on the top-right corner of an envelope. Then, you should write the intended recipient’s address in the front-center of the envelope and your address in the top-left corner. Employees at your local post office can help.
77. Bathrooms are free
For the most part. But beware that many businesses reserve their bathrooms for paying customers. Bathrooms in gas stations, fast food restaurants, public parks or buildings such as libraries, however, are usually available to the public.
78. Coins aren’t worth much
Paper money is required for most purchases in the U.S.. You should still hold onto your coins, but you’ll need a lot of them to make most purchases.
79. You’ll probably need to learn a new system of measurement
Unlike more of the world, Americans do not use the metric system. Instead, Americans use the “customary” system: miles instead of kilometers, inches instead of centimeters, pints instead of liters, and fahrenheit instead of celsius. This may take some getting used to, but conversion calculators are available online and in the App store (check out this one by Cider Software).
80. Know when to tip
As we mentioned above, 15-20% of your meal is customary to tip a restaurant waiter. Other service providers expect tips as well. If you receive above-average service, additional tips are always appreciated. Here are some helpful rules of thumb for standard service from CNN.com:
81. Learn English
It’s unfortunate, but Americans have a bad record of learning foreign languages. As a result, it’s helpful for new arrivals to learn English in order to interact in American society. There are English classes offered throughout the country. If you are in New York City, Manhattan Language has been providing English training programs for over fifteen years for all levels of proficiency. Also, there is no need to wait until you arrive! Duolingo is the most popular way to learn foreign languages online and it’s 100% free (and a lot of fun). Check out the Duolingo website or mobile app (Android or iPhone) to find out more.
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29. Send money back home
If you will be sending or receiving money from overseas, be smart about the service you use and avoid unnecessary fees. For regular transfers, TransferWise offers transparent fees and exchange rates, and is often ten times cheaper than sending money through a bank–it’s also easy to use, with an exchange rate calculator on the homepage . To transfer larger amounts of money, World First is a leading international payments company that helps to move money safely and quickly across borders.
30. Be careful about what you sign and agree to
Financial agreements in the U.S. can be complicated, so it’s important to be diligent when signing anything. According to Zina Kumok of Debt Free After Three, you should be particularly careful when co-signing for loans, as it can expose your credit history to the consequences of someone else’s bad behavior. More generally, when applying for credit, she cautions, “[t]here are so many confusing credit terms that it’s easy to get mixed up. Read through things carefully, double check what you’re signing up for and ask as many questions as you need to.”
2. Save up for a rental deposit
If you want to rent an apartment, most landlords will require that you post a security deposit. This amount is typically equal to one month’s rent. However, without a U.S. credit score, some landlords will ask for a much larger deposit or a guarantor. The deposit should be returned after the end of the lease unless you’ve damaged the property.
35. Find a job
In the U.S., there are informal and formal means of finding work. There are job placement services and government programs to assist job-seekers. Indeed.com offers job seekers millions of job listings in the U.S., as well as insights into where employers are hiring both by sector and location. LinkedIn can be a helpful tool as well. Upwardly offers job placement services specifically focused on immigrants and foreign nationals. Of course, meeting people in your desired industry is also important. Alumni associations, industry groups and local meet-ups all provide ways to get out there and expand your professional network in person. In any event, make sure that working is permitted under your visa status. International students are generally permitted to do part-time work on campus.
36. Some jobs are easier to find than others
The U.S. labor market is dynamic, but a few industries are hiring more aggressively than others, such as technology and healthcare. Both are growing faster than the broader U.S. economy. Indeed.comoffers a great tool that allows you to search for geographic areas in the U.S. that currently have the most job listings
37. There is a minimum wage
The U.S. has a federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Some states impose a higher minimum wage, such as New York at $9 per hour. When working more than 40 hours in a week, workers usually receive 1.5x their normal wage for every hour of “overtime”. It’s important to note that some jobs, particularly in the service industry (e.g., bartenders), pay less because compensation is supplemented by tips. Make sure you know the law where you live.
38. The government withholds money from your paycheck
If you are a full-time employee, your employer should be withholding money from your paycheck for your federal income tax obligations. Employers are required to send W-2 tax forms detailing money withheld no later than January 31 of the following calendar year. It’s an essential form for filling out your taxes, so hang on to it! As noted earlier, most people have to file their federal tax return by mid-April of each year.
39. Working from home or remotely is growing more popular
Most jobs still require that employees work from an office, but working from home is growing in popularity. In particular, workers with young children can benefit from such programs, and many jobs actively promote working remotely as a benefit when hiring.
65. Sign up for rewards programs
Retailers and other providers in the U.S. commonly set up rewards programs to encourage repeat purchases. Frequent flyer programs are a great example. Make sure to take advantage of the rewards programs offered by stores where you frequently shop.
66. America is filled with many cultures
While Americans have many things in common, the U.S. is a hodgepodge of regional cultures, each with unique history, traditions and personality. The North-South divide is historically and culturally important dating back to the time of independence from Britain and the U.S. Civil War. There are smaller distinctions too: New York and New England are very different, and California is quite different from neighboring Arizona and Nevada. This makes exploring the country all the more interesting!
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I-94 recipients, certain T-visa holders, and others. The Metropolitan Education Commission also lists a number of great resources for financial aid for non-citizens. Beyond direct financial aid, many state universities offer in-state tuition to non-citizens. Finally, private grants and scholarships may be available as well to qualifying applicants.
You are about to move to the US? You are about to study abroad and want to to get ready for the new life in the USA and wonder what you need? We, experienced US citizens, will help you get ready to succeed right when you first step in America.
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59. Watch out for the supersize
There’s a good chance that portion sizes in America will be larger than you’re used to. That’s the way Americans like it, and you’ll quickly find that you can get a ton of food for your money. But beware the supersize lest ye become super size!
60. Tip your waiter
Tipping is nearly universal in U.S. restaurants where you are served by a waiter. Rule of thumb: 15% for standard service, 20% for excellent service. Don’t go below 15%, or above 20%, unless the circumstances are exceptional. Tipping conventions differ for other service providers like cab drivers and delivery people.
61. Shopping is big in the U.S.
Americans love buying in bulk. At Wal-Mart, you can buy toilet paper, eyeglasses, beer, a suit and tie, deli meat, makeup. . . even small boats! Other stores like Target offer a similarly wide selection. Costcois a bulk retailer known for selling large quantities of items for very low prices. Need 64 cans of beans? Costo is the place for you! Note that shopping at Costco requires purchasing an annual membership. If you don’t feel like traveling to the store, Amazon.com sells nearly everything you need online with fast delivery. With a subscription to Amazon Prime ($99 per year), you also get free two-day shipping, access to Prime Video and other benefits.
16. Try online communication
Calling home from a U.S. cell phone can get expensive fast. You’re probably better off using services like Skype for video calls and WhatsApp for chat/text. You can download each from the Apple App Store or Google Play. Skype offers free Skype-to-Skype video and voice calls, file sharing, video messaging, group calls and instant messages, making it easy to stay in touch even internationally. Google Voice can also be used for making wifi calls overseas.
17. Don’t enter the country illegally
Entering the U.S. without a valid immigration status can lead to a host of problems. You’ll have trouble interacting with public institutions, getting a job and obtaining a driver’s license, among other things. What’s worse, entering illegally makes it very difficult to re-enter the U.S. or to later receive an updated visa status.
18. And don’t overstay your status
Overstaying your visa in the U.S. is treated the same as entering illegally. If your visa is expiring, you may still have a number of options, including applying for an extension or a brand new visa. You should consult with an immigration attorney to weigh all of your options.
19. Enter the Diversity Visa Program or “Green Card Lottery”
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.. These visas are made available by way of random selection, or lottery, each year among all qualified entries. The Green Card Lottery is suitable for people who are seeking permanent status in the U.S. and who meet a number ofeligibility requirements. If the lottery is right for you, it’s free to enter and you are permitted to enter each year. More information can be found here.
20. Find legal advice if you need, and beware scammers!
According to Greg Siskind of Siskind Susser Immigration Lawyers, immigration fraud or incomplete immigration advice can pose a serious problem for immigrants to the U.S. When seeking legal advice, “always make sure the person from whom you are seeking assistance is a licensed attorney in a US state and that the attorney solely devotes his or her practice to immigration law. It is also wise to contact your state’s board of professional responsibility – the agency that disciplines lawyers for ethical violations – to find out if complaints have been made. Finally, it’s wise to educate yourself before talking to an immigration lawyer. That will help you determine if you’re getting questionable advice and you’ll actually be helping your lawyer do a better job when you’re more fully aware of what they’re filing on your behalf.”
21. Open a U.S. bank account
Foreign bank accounts don’t always work well in the U.S., so it’s important to open a domestic account. To open an account, you’ll need some documentation, which may include a taxpayer ID, government ID, passport, proof of address and/or secondary form of identification. The typical requirements are further described here. Consider opening both a checking account (for withdrawals, check writing, day-to-day expenses) and a savings account (which may provide a higher interest rate for saving). Community banks and credit unions often offer introductory deals with no minimum balance or ATM withdrawal fees.
22. Save aggressively
Low taxes and a strong economy make it possible to build wealth quickly in the U.S. “The states have unique opportunities to build wealth, such as our retirement system,” says David Ning of MoneyNing. When you are working, you should be sure to take advantage of retirement savings accounts and, if available to you, save into a 401k account.
23. Understand your credit score
A little known fact to foreigners is that your ability to borrow money in the U.S. is determined by your “credit score.” Your credit score is based on your history of borrowing and repaying debts in the U.S. and reflects years of personal information. One rule of thumb: if you borrow money, pay it back on time! The longer your history of paying debts on time, the better your credit score should be. If your payments are late, on the other hand, your score will likely suffer. We’ve put together a handy guide to credit scores in the U.S. available here.
24. Check your credit score
Under U.S. law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com or 1-877-322-8228. You may access these credit reports all at one time, or each separately. Check out this handy guide from the CFPB for more information. Many banks and credit card companies now also provide credit reports to their customers at no charge. Otherwise, you can purchase your score at AnnualCreditReport.com, myFICO.com or the website of each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Beware of offers for “free” credit scores. Many such offers enroll you in a monthly fee-based credit monitoring service.
25. Start with a secured card
Building a credit history takes time in the U.S., but secured credit cards are a good onramp to accessing normal types of credit. “New arrivals should start out with a secured card, which uses a deposit as collateral. Making on-time payments using a secured card can help build your credit from scratch, so that you’ll have something to show” later when you apply for credit, says Melanie Lockert of DearDebt.
26. Use credit responsibly
Americans are known for their use of credit. Once you’ve built up a good credit score, you will likely have many credit card offers to choose from. Our friends at Diversified Finances note, “Many immigrants do not know that some lenders are open to lending on people with visas if they have a decent credit history.” There are benefits to credit cards (rewards, fraud protection, avoiding cash shortfalls), but drawbacks as well if you use credit to live beyond your means. Make sure to use credit responsibly and only purchase what you can afford. Visa and Mastercard are the most common card types. You can find a comparison of credit card deals on NerdWallet.com. If you have trouble getting approved for a credit card, other options are available here.
27. Make the most of credit card perks
Credit cards come with all sorts of benefits–from cash back on purchases, to frequent flier miles, to product warranties, to insurance when you rent a car. Make sure you understand the perks associated with your credit card. Scott Grimmer, an expert on credit card rewards from MileValue.com, tell us that collecting the right miles can give you the ability to fly internationally for next to nothing! For information on maximizing the value of credit card rewards, check out MileValue.com.
28. Avoid payday lenders and high-interest debt
Kurt Fisher of My Money Counselor warns that it’s easy in the U.S. to let debt spiral out of control. Credit cards carry very high interest rates if you fail to repay your debts at the end of the month. Other services, such as payday lenders, are notorious for extremely high interest rates and unfriendly terms. While debt has its benefits, borrowing irresponsibly can have disastrous consequences and make life difficult for years.
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Whether you’re moving to America, or considering the possibility, there’s a lot you should know about life in the U.S. While there is immense opportunity in America, there are barriers that make a move from abroad difficult: complex immigration policies, different public transportation systems, limited foreign language fluency and complicated banking regulations, to name a few. But never fear–with some advanced planning, you can be ready for many of the challenges of moving to the U.S. from abroad.
We’ve consulted experts (and expats) from around the country to come up with 101 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to America. If you’re moving today or may be moving sometime in the future, or even if you arrived months ago, these tips will have you ready to hit the ground running!
40. Public school is free
The U.S. government provides free public education for children from Kindergarten through 12th grade (the prerequisites for college). Schools are assigned based on location, so pay attention to which school district your home is in. Even though pre-college public education is free in the U.S., you still need to register your children prior to the school year or, if you move during the school year, whenever you move. Check with your local school board to learn more. The school year starts in the fall each year, but exact start dates vary.
32. How much you owe may vary
The U.S. has a progressive tax system, which means that, generally speaking, the more you make, the higher your tax rate. In 2016, the lowest tax bracket begins at 10% and the highest bracket is 39.6%. At lower levels of income, people may end up paying no tax and may receive a tax refund from deductions and credits.
33. Sign up for Venmo
More and more Americans are using mobile phones to transfer money and make purchases. Venmo is free and convenient way to transfer money to friends and family. It’s hugely beneficial for splitting costs in the U.S.–from rent payment to restaurant bills.
34. Americans are hard workers
Americans are an industrious people. The traditional work day is 9 AM to 5 PM, but many Americans work much more. You may hear the expression: “work hard, play hard.” And while the U.S. is a lot of fun over the weekend, come Monday morning everyone gets down to business.
42. Study hard for standardized tests
Standardized tests are important in the U.S. and are used as a means of assessing intelligence and knowledge. They play a substantial role in college and graduate school admissions. The SAT is the standard exam for college admissions. Companies such as Kaplan and Princeton Review offer tutoring and other programs to help prepare for the SAT. And you don’t have to wait until you arrive! Princeton Review offers international test preparation services to prepare you for U.S. exams. Whatever your strategy, make sure to study hard–exams can have a big impact on your education and future career.
43. There are thousands of colleges to choose from
There are thousands of colleges throughout the U.S., ranging from large public institutions to small private and specialty schools. Each is different and has its own strengths and weaknesses. U.S. News & World Report publishes countless tips, rankings and other information to help students compare colleges. U.S. News also offers information specifically for foreign students seeking to study in the U.S.
44. And programs are available to help pay for college
If you can’t afford to pay for college out-of-pocket, there are resources that may help. “Eligible non-citizens” qualify for financial assistance from the government under certain circumstances. According to the Department of Education, this category includes permanent residents with a green card, certain
88. The Super Bowl is a big deal
The Super Bowl occurs each year in February and is the most watched sporting event in the U.S. It’s the final playoff game of the National Football League (NFL), and the winner is crowned the national champion. Americans often host parties to watch the big game with friends and eat snacks like nachos and chicken wings.
89. But baseball is America’s pastime
Baseball is a game with a lot of history and is affectionately known as the “nation’s pastime.” It resembles cricket and consists of swinging a bat at a ball and running around a diamond-shaped field in order to score points. The game is split up into nine “innings.”
90. Many Americans belong to a gym
The typical American gym offers fitness classes, treadmills and other cardio machines, exercise machines and weights for Olympic-style weightlifting. Gym membership is common in the U.S., and physical fitness is an interest of many people. Weightlifting, running, cycling and swimming are all common American fitness activities.
91. Americans love TV and movies
You’re probably familiar with Hollywood movies. Film and television continue to be pillars of American culture. Americans love going to the movie theater to watch new movies, while drinking soda and eating popcorn. In recent years, television shows have come to more closely resemble the movies–with increased budgets and more popular actors–as many viewers have moved to paid subscription services like Netflix and HBO GO.
92. Get out in the wilderness
For over a hundred years, the U.S. has protected its most precious natural treasures by designating them as national parks. These areas are open to the public to explore and enjoy. Camping and hiking are wonderful ways to explore the great American wilderness.
93. Don’t do drugs
Drug laws in the U.S. are quite strict. Don’t do drugs!
94. Marijuana law is a grey area
The treatment of marijuana has changed rapidly in recent years. Certain states, notably California and Colorado, have legalized some possession of the plant, particularly for medical reasons. Nonetheless, possession of marijuana is still technically criminalized by federal law.
95. Wait until 21 to drink
Unlike many other countries, it’s illegal to drink alcohol in the U.S. before you’re 21 years of age, and most bars and restaurants ask for identification before you can purchase an alcoholic beverage. Violating this law can get you arrested.
96. A “cover charge” is common at bars and nightclubs
Some bars and clubs charge a fee to enter called a “cover charge.” Cover charges range widely in amount, but are more common when a venue is featuring a live performance or has an exclusive vibe. Neighborhood bars and pubs, on the other hand, are often free to enter without charge
97. Americans drink a lot of alcohol
Alcohol is very popular in the U.S. Americans drink a variety of alcoholic beverages, ranging from beer to wine to liquor. You’ll find a wide assortment of drinks (both domestic and imported) at most bars and clubs.
98. Whether you like wine. . .
Northern California is king of American wine production, world-renowned for big, bold wines (especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay). There are other wine producing regions as well on both the east and west coasts. Imported wine from all over the world is readily available at liquor stores.
99. . . . or beer
Beer has been popular in the U.S. for centuries. There are thousands of types produced throughout the country. Smaller, often independent, “micro-breweries” have become popular in recent years. The Midwest has traditionally been the epicenter of beer production, with Milwaukee, Wisconsin in particular reigning as the beer capital of the country. Many other cities throughout the U.S. produce unique beers with various local flavors.
100. . . .or liquor
America also produces some of the finest liquors in the world. Bourbon is perhaps the most distinctively American liquor. Kentucky is famous for its production of the strongly-flavored whiskey. Jack Daniels is one of America’s most renowned brands and a great example of bourbon
101. Never drink and drive!
Punishments for driving under the influence vary from state to state, but it is a serious offense anywhere in the U.S that carries harsh penalties. With the availability of public transportation, taxi cabs and ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, there is no excuse to drink and drive. If you’re unable to drive home, a restaurant or bar can typically call you a car service to get you home safely.
America is often called a “melting pot” of cultures from around the world. And while there are many influences and ideas that America has imported, the melting pot is not a copy of other places but a diverse and eclectic mix that’s distinctively American. Whether you’re moving to America for school, for work, to be with family or for a fresh start, there is much to love about this country, and there are many ways to fit in. We wish you the best of luck on your journey and hope that these tips are helpful in making the transition. If we’ve missed a topic or you have other questions about moving to America, let us know.
1. Find a house or apartment to rent
Finding an apartment in the past was more difficult than it is today. Online services such as Zillow andStreeteasy (for the New York City area) make finding a rental property easy. In addition, sources likeCraigslist can help you find apartments and put you directly in touch with the broker or person offering to rent. Beware Craigslist scammers however !
41. Private school is an option too (at a cost)
In addition to the free public school provided by the government, there are many private options, some of which have religious affiliations or alternative teaching styles. The cost of private school can vary substantially. If you’re unhappy with the public schooling options in your area, make sure to do your research into the private options, as well as the admissions standards and costs involved.
31. File your annual tax return
There’s a saying in the U.S. that only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. Non-citizens in the U.S. are subject to taxes just as citizens are on both a federal and state level. Both non-citizens and citizens alike must report their salary, interest income, dividends, and other forms of income each year in mid-April (April 18th in 2016). The tax preparation process is notoriously confusing, but low-cost accounting services like H&R Block and do-it-yourself software like TurboTax make things easier. There are also software packages designed specifically to help foreign citizens residing in the U.S., such asGlacier Tax. When in doubt, it’s best to consult with a tax professional.
Immigration & Paperwork
11. Obtain a tax identification number
A tax identification number is necessary in the U.S. to pay taxes, open a bank account and apply for a job. If you’re authorized to work in the U.S., you’ll qualify for a Social Security Number (SSN), and if not, you’ll qualify for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). You can apply for an SSN hereand an ITIN here. Once you have an SSN, you must discontinue use of your ITIN for tax purposes and notify the IRS of your SSN. For more information, see the IRS’s website.
12. Get ID
Carrying identification is important in the U.S., but most people do not carry around their passport. Many use a driver’s license as their primary form of ID. If you won’t be driving, you may still be able to obtain an ID card from a local government agency. These are helpful for opening bank accounts, renting an apartment, even getting into the movies!
13. You’ll probably need a driver’s license
You need a driver’s license to drive in the U.S as a long-term resident. The process for obtaining a driver’s license is different in each state. The Department of Motor Vehicles (or DMV) in the state where you’ll be living can tell you more about the specific requirements. Typically, you’ll have to take a written test on driving laws and a road test to confirm that you have the basic driving skills to be a safe driver. Once you pass, you’ll be issued a license for a small fee. For short-term visitors, international driving permits can be obtained in some countries before traveling to the U.S. More information about driving in the U.S. is available here.
14. If you don’t need a car every day, try Zipcar!
Zipcar is a convenient service that allows you to rent a car on-demand by the hour or the day–gas and insurance included. Zipcars can be found throughout the country and are common around college campuses.
15. Set up a U.S. cell phone plan
The major carriers in the U.S. are AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. You can sign up for a plan at retail stores or online. But watch out–many cell phone carriers will require that you have a U.S. credit scoreto sign up for a new account, or else they may force you to put money into a security deposit. A co-signer might be beneficial to you in signing up for a plan without a credit score. Prepaid cell phone plans are also available from most major cellphone carriers and don’t require any sort of security deposit. Specialty prepaid phone providers, such as Cricket Wireless, are also available. Cricket offers unlimited calls and messaging in the U.S. as well as high speed data with no credit checks for new accounts and low prices. More information about how to obtain a cell phone without U.S. credit is available here.
Health & Medical
45. Medical care is expensive
While the U.S. has some of the most advanced medical technology in the word, the cost of medical care can be high. Make sure you understand your health insurance policy (more on that below) and try to use medical services that are covered by your plan. A healthy lifestyle and preventative care, like regular checkups with your physician, can go a long way in controlling healthcare costs.
46. You need health insurance
Everyone in the U.S. is required by law to have health insurance. If you don’t have it, you may owe a penalty of more than $300. Often, health insurance is offered through your full-time employer. More information about obtaining health insurance for you and your family is available on healthcare.gov. New health insurance providers like Oscar have user-friendly programs that are great for new arrivals to the U.S. Greg Siskind of Siskind Susser Immigration Lawyers warns that many new immigrants are “ineligible for Medicare and coverage under the Affordable Care Act based on factors such as their specific immigration status, how many years they’ve held it and their age.” Make sure you understand how to obtain health insurance for you and your family and the associated costs.
47. Find a doctor
Once you obtain insurance, it’s important that you see a doctor that accepts your insurance plan. Zocdoc offers a convenient online service that can help you find local doctors that accept your insurance, schedule appointments and fill out paperwork–it even allows you to search for doctors that are bilingual! Most cities have free medical clinics that can see you on a walk-in basis. In an emergency, go to the hospital! Hospitals in the U.S. are required to treat you if you are in urgent medical distress.
48. There are specialists for everything
Doctors in the U.S. often specialize to provide a higher standard of care. When going to a hospital or doctor’s office, you typically start with a general practitioner who refers you to the appropriate specialist, such as a cardiologist if you have a heart issue.
49. Tap water in the U.S. is almost always safe to drink
Recent issues with water safety in the U.S. are the exception, not the rule. Americans typically assume that tap water is safe and you should too–unless you have reason to believe otherwise.
50. The U.S. government has a complicated structure
The U.S. Federal Government is composed of three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The Executive branch is headed by the President, who is the head of state and the military and has the authority to approve or veto bills passed by Congress. The Legislative branch is composed of two houses of Congress: the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both must pass a bill for it to go to the President to become a law. The Judicial Branch interprets laws and can rule on what is illegal and unconstitutional. All fifty states in the U.S. have their own state governments. Certain functions, like schooling and policing, are left to the states. Local governments at the county level also play an important role in the U.S.
51. Politicians are elected
Voting is a civil right in the U.S. All citizens over the age of 18 are allowed to vote, unless they have committed certain crimes. Elections for Congress occur every two years, and the Presidential election occurs every four years. There is no requirement that people vote, but citizens are always encouraged to participate.
52. The U.S. Constitution guarantees that Americans can speak their minds
Americans are constitutionally entitled to speak their mind without any undue restriction from the government. There are limited exceptions, such as when speech directly threatens the welfare of those around you. As you’ll find out, Americans are often outspoken about their political views, but do note that it is not considered polite to discuss politics with strangers.
53. And practice their religions
America was founded on an ideal of religious tolerance and freedom. There is no official religion in the U.S., and the government cannot constrain religious behavior or endorse one religion above another. Thus, Americans are permitted to be as religious or non-religious as they want. Christianity is the largest religion, but there are also significant numbers of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and others. Everyone is free to worship as they please, or not at all.
54. You also have certain rights when dealing with the police
When dealing with the police, you have certain rights. The first is the right to remain silent, which means you have no obligation to speak with the police or answer their questions. You also have a right to an attorney when detained by the police. If you are unsure why you are being questioned or detained by the police, it’s smart to politely ask to speak with an attorney prior to answering any questions. It’s your constitutional right to do so!
55. Run for office (but not for president if you’re not U.S. born)
All citizens are allowed to run for office in the U.S. with a few exceptions. Notably, you must be a “natural born U.S. citizen,” aged 35 or over to run for President. Other positions have no such requirements. There are also thousands of community groups and civic organizations that are involved in politics and public life. If you are interested, go out and get involved!
56. There are many ways to get involved
Even if you don’t run for office, you can be politically engaged and participate in the political process. Civic participation is one of the most important forces in our democracy!
57. America has all kinds of food
The U.S. is a melting pot of cultures from around the world, with food from just about everywhere! Urban areas like New York City and Los Angeles are known for diverse cuisine from around the globe. America has its own regional cuisines and specialties as well. Try clam chowder in the Northeast, barbecue in the Southeast, deep-dish pizza in Chicago, and corn-beef deli sandwiches in New York City!
58. But try a cheeseburger first!
The hamburger is the king of American food, particularly when served with a slice of cheese. Hamburgers and cheeseburgers are available across the nation, particularly at fast food joints. A variety of toppings are available too: lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, bacon, mustard, ketchup, hot sauce–you name it! The possibilities are endless.
3. Or, find an alternative method to satisfy a landlord
There are other methods to avoid paying a large upfront rental deposit. In contrast to to professional landlords, private individuals who rent their properties often will not ask for as much money in advance. A sublet or AirBnB apartment might also work in this way. In some cases, your school or employer may offer housing that does not require a large deposit. Having a co-signer or business guaranty your rental payments is another way to ease landlords concerns. Insurent provides such a lease guarantor service for new arrivals to the U.S.
4. Find a roommate to lower your costs
Many people in the U.S. live with roommates to share the costs of renting. Some people live with friends, but many others find roommates that are strangers. Rany Burstein, CEO and Co-Founder of Diggz, an online roommate marketplace for New York City, points out that “[m]ost landlords would require good credit in order to rent you an apartment, or otherwise ask for a very sizable deposit upfront. One way to avoid this is to find a roommate who already has an existing apartment and is looking to fill up a room or more.” Diggz allows users to search for prospective roommates based on similar lifestyle attributes and criteria, and its also 100% free. RoomieMatch, SpareRoom, Roommates.com and Roomster also provide roommate matching services that can help you find the right people to bunk up with. Robin Owsley, a co-owner atRoomieMatch, adds that “[m]oving anywhere rather far from where you live currently is obviously stressful, so moving in with someone with a place already, some home furnishings at least in common areas, the electricity and internet already on, etc., makes moving a lot easier than trying to establish a home from scratch from far away.”