How to adjust to life as a Brit in the United States

TransferWise content team
28.06.16
3 minute read

Making the hop from England to the US is an increasingly popular move.

In fact, it’s estimated that there are almost 680,000 Brits currently residing in the US.It’s not that surprising – we all speak the same language (kinda), have a love for sports - and Brits just love junk food (okay that last one might be a lie).

So, we grabbed some British TransferWise customers and team members for a chat to find out what their biggest surprises were when they moved to the US.

From getting used to the public bathrooms to dealing with the American healthcare system – here are some obstacles you’ll meet as a Brit in the US:

Healthcare

You don’t need healthcare until you need it. But prepare to be terminally confused the moment you do. Like quantum physics, the US healthcare system is based on the principal that the more you know, the less you understand it. Even the customer service people at the insurance companies don’t understand any of it. What’s the difference between a deductible, copay and coinsurance? It is not possible to know.

Drink Sizes

A US pint is smaller than a UK one. At first, you’re frustrated and disappointed, but once you realise that the beer you are drinking could be anything up to 8% alcohol, you soon get over it. And liquor? Spirit to mixer ratio in most drinks is at least 2:1 and if it isn’t, don’t tip.

Tipping

Being a Brit in the US is constantly stressful simply because you’ll have a constant, creeping sensation that you should be tipping someone for something right now, but you don’t know who, how much or what for. Restaurants are OK, just go 20% and don’t argue. Drinks at a bar are $1 per drink (or is it 10%, or 20% on a tab). But what about your super? Or your hairdresser. The good news? You don’t have to tip your Uber driver. Unless maybe you do?

Public Bathrooms

So first off, don’t ask anyone where the “loo” is, that doesn’t work. You probably shouldn’t bother with “toilet” either. In fact, you should ask for the “bathroom,” even though there probably won't be a bath in there, or the “restroom,” although napping is frowned upon. And why, oh why, are you expected to flush a urinal... ?

Bank Fees

Signing up for a bank account in the US is an interesting experience. The agent will sit across from you cheerfully describing ways that the bank will be ripping you off in the near future but using words that make it sound like you’re getting a great deal. Overdraft fee, you say? Debit Card Advance, say I. Be prepared to carry massive sums of cash around with you in order to get better value on an ATM fee basis. Oh, and that check book? $25 please.

Let's not even get into the first time you try to move money back home with your bank. Just to rationalise the 4% exchange rate markup, $40 wire fee and 6 day wait… TransferWise anyone?


Yet to make the move across the pond? Make sure to read our Moving to the US guide.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

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