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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to the United States
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10 Things to Know Before Moving to the United States

By Joshua Wood, LPC

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Summary: If you're planning a move to the United States, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to the United States.

Are you considering a move to the United States? The land of opportunity is a diverse and exciting place to live, but there are a few things you should know before you pack your bags. Here are the top 10 things to know before moving to the United States.

1. Understanding the American Healthcare System

The American healthcare system is largely private, which means it can be quite expensive. Unlike many other countries, the U.S. does not have universal healthcare. Instead, most people get health insurance through their employers, though there are also government programs for certain groups like the elderly and low-income individuals. It's important to factor in the cost of healthcare when considering a move to the U.S.

2. The Importance of Credit History

In the U.S., your credit history is incredibly important. It affects everything from your ability to rent an apartment to your car insurance rates. When you first move to the U.S., you may not have any credit history, which can make things more difficult. It's a good idea to start building your credit as soon as possible, perhaps by getting a secured credit card or a loan with a co-signer.

3. The Diversity of American Culture

One of the most exciting things about the U.S. is its cultural diversity. From the bustling cities of the East Coast to the laid-back beach towns of the West Coast, there's a place for everyone. Each region has its own unique culture, food, and traditions. It's a good idea to research the area you're planning to move to and get a feel for the local culture.

4. The American Education System

The American education system can be quite different from those in other countries. Children typically start school at age five and continue until they're 18. After that, many go on to college or university. The quality of schools can vary greatly depending on the area, so if you have children, it's important to research schools in your prospective neighborhood.

5. The Cost of Living Varies Greatly

The cost of living in the U.S. can vary greatly depending on where you live. Cities like New York and San Francisco are notoriously expensive, while other areas like the Midwest are much more affordable. It's important to research the cost of living in your prospective city and budget accordingly.

6. Understanding U.S. Immigration Laws

U.S. immigration laws can be complex and confusing. It's important to understand the requirements for your specific visa type and to stay in compliance with these requirements. Overstaying a visa or working without authorization can have serious consequences, including deportation.

7. The Importance of a Driver's License

In many parts of the U.S., having a car is essential. Public transportation is not always reliable or extensive, especially in more rural areas. A driver's license is not just for driving, it's also a common form of identification. It's a good idea to get a U.S. driver's license as soon as you can.

8. The American Work Culture

American work culture can be quite different from other countries. Americans tend to work long hours and there's often an expectation of being available outside of normal work hours. On the other hand, the U.S. is known for its entrepreneurial spirit and opportunities for advancement.

9. The U.S. Tax System

The U.S. tax system is complex and can be quite different from those in other countries. It's important to understand your tax obligations, as failure to comply can result in penalties. It may be a good idea to consult with a tax professional, especially in your first year of living in the U.S.

10. The American Lifestyle

The American lifestyle can be fast-paced and busy, but there's also a strong emphasis on leisure and recreation. Americans love their sports, whether it's watching a football game on TV or playing a round of golf. There's also a wide variety of entertainment options, from music and theater to theme parks and outdoor activities.

Moving to a new country is always a big step, but with the right preparation, it can be an exciting adventure. By understanding these aspects of life in the U.S., you'll be well-prepared for your move to the land of opportunity.

Expats talk about Moving to United States

"Check on commuting times via train and car if need to travel to NYC. Ask about transience of population. Discover the variety of family/children's activities available in your town of choice. Towns have recreation web sites. See free magazines for details," said one expat living in Morristown.

"If you are a young person in his/her 20s I would not recommend it. We do have a club scene yes, but it dies around 12am. That and most clubs/bars can be dangerous at times due to gangs coming in and starting trouble. Sacramento is perfect for someone in their later adult years to live and work. However, if you are planning on moving here bring plenty money with you, and try to find a place before coming, which isn't difficult, apartment complexes are always renting," said one expat living in Sacramento.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


Allianz Care
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Allianz Care
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Austin, Texas

SJB Global
SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB GlobalSJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
Learn More

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