How to adjust to life as a Spaniard in the US

TransferWise content team
07.21.16
3 minute read

You've moved from Spain to the US...what now?

You're not alone. There are roughly 103,689 other Spaniards currently residing in the US. And you certainly won’t be lacking for fellow Spanish-speakers: Over 41 million US inhabitants speak Spanish as a first language, and another 11.6 million are bilingual. That means there are actually more Spanish speakers than in Spain!

But there's still a lot to get used to. So we grabbed some Spanish customers for a chat to find out what their biggest surprises were when they moved to the US.

From healthcare to banking, from tipping to finding a decent glass of wine - here's what you need to know.

Healthcare

Healthcare

It’s difficult for many Spaniards to imagine a world where you have to pay to go to the doctor. However, that’s exactly what you’ll come up across in the U.S. Unlike the Spanish system, where high quality, universal free health care is the norm, in the U.S. you’ll have to pay for health insurance.

The good news is that many employers will help you cover at least some of the costs. The average annual insurance cost for a 21 year old in 2016 is $3,026, but if you don’t have insurance the cost of one injury could spiral into the thousands of dollars.

Tipping

Tipping

"Wait, you want me to do maths with my meal?" Tipping is a common cause for confusion. The basic rule? Always leave a tip. While in the US, if you’re at a restaurant leave 20% (no matter the service); while at a bar leave $1 a drink (or 20% if you’ve opened a tab).

Struggling with the math? Quick trick: just double the first number in the bill (so a $100 bill = a $20 tip). Check out our handy guide for a more in-depth breakdown:

Opening times

Late night

From bars to restaurants and even grocery stores, everything closes much earlier than you’re used to in Spain.

While some places never sleep (New York), you'll realise that the night-owl culture of Spain is not the same here.

In fact, one report revealed the average time people go to bed is later than 12.30am, compared to 11.54pm in the U.S.

Lite-beer, and light on wine

Wine

Our Spanish customers seemed a tad confused by the drinking culture in the States, with several complaining that they found the beer weak and good wine hard to find. One study has shown that that, while in Spain over a third of alcohol consumed was wine, in America wine makes up only 16% of alcoholic drinks and almost a third that are bought are spirits.

Bank Fees

bank

Like in Spain, ATMs will charge you for the pleasure of taking your money out - typically $1.50 - $3.50. When you’re setting up your account, 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? Oh, and remember checks are still very much a common form of payment in the U.S. But that check book will still cost you $25 or more...

Let's not even get into the first time you try to move money back home with your bank. It'll charge you a 4% exchange rate markup, $40 wire fee and 6 day wait… TransferWise is up to 8 times cheaper.


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

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

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