5 shocking things you'll discover if you're German in the U.S.

TransferWise content team
3 minute read

Thinking of moving to America? You’re not alone. In fact, there are more than 590,000 Germans currently living in the U.S.(https://transferwise.com/us/blog/how-to-adjust-to-life-as-a-german-in-the-us)

But that doesn’t mean that making the transition is easy, as there are a lot of cultural differences between America and Germany.

TransferWise customers who’ve already made the move shared five valuable lessons that you’ll learn when you move to the U.S.

1. They pay less tax


Sounds exciting, right? More shopping, more nights out, more gifts - none of the guilt.

Germans who move to America will enjoy paying less sales tax (about 10%) than they do back home (about 19%.)

However, cost of living and other contributions, such as healthcare can add up. Unlike in Germany, where regular contributions are higher but one-off costs are lower, in the U.S. it’s different. It’s common to have an employer sponsored healthcare scheme, which still requires financial contributions and fees for doctor visits, on top of any costs for medicine.

2. Credit cards, debit cards, plastic cards…everywhere


It might seem like a lot of Americans have multiple credit cards that they use to purchase things now and pay off later.

Cash is increasingly falling out of favour in the U.S. You can still get by if you want to use cash, but ATM fees are costly, and people are increasingly lured into spending money on credit cards in order to accrue points.

Anna, a German living in the U.S explains:

“Back home, people rarely use a credit card. If I don’t have cash on me, I use my debit credit card. But in America, my friends are always paying with their visas. Sometimes, it’s to earn points and other times it’s to buy things they can’t afford!”

3. They shop on Sundays


In America, there are fewer restrictions on when stores can open, and Sundays are a popular shopping day.

It’s a far cry from Ruhetag (rest days)in Germany, when very few shops or offices are open. Berlin, for example, only allows for eight days of Sunday shopping per year.

4. Their higher education comes with a much higher price tag


Germans who live in America might be shocked to find out that many of their friends and colleagues pay steep fees to go to college and end up with vast sums of debt.

Moritz, an emigrant from Munich, filled us in.

“The education system in Germany seems to work. It allows students to focus on their studies instead of their debt and it allows them to choose a career out of genuine interest and not desperation. America may have some of the greatest schools in the world, but you sure do pay a price for them.”

5. Fahren-what?


If your American friend says it's 30 degrees out, you might want to think twice before grabbing your favorite pair of sunglasses and shorts.

While almost everyone else abides by the metric system, America’s one of three countries in the world that doesn’t.

They use feet, yards, miles, pounds and Fahrenheit instead of meters, kilometers, kilograms, tonnes and Celsius. This can make for a lot of confusion communicating things like the temperature, the distance between two points or how much something weighs.

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