How to adjust as an Italian living in the US

TransferWise content team
3 minute read

Making the hop from Italy to the US is a popular move

Italy has a long and rich history of immigration to America. Some 17 million claim Italian ancestry and there are 356,831 Italians currently living in the US.

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

From healthcare to coffee culture, here are some obstacles you’ll meet as an Italian making a new life in the US:



The US healthcare system is based on the principle that the more you know, the less you understand it. There are many confusing terms (you’ll have to get used to phrases like deductible, copay and coinsurance) and insurance costs can vary hugely. Fortunately most employers contribute, but average annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage were $17,545 in 2015, with workers on average paying $4,955.

Lite beer, and where's the wine?


Craft brewing is becoming more popular in the US than it used to be, but most likely you’ll still encounter ‘lite’ beer at bars, restaurants and parties.

Wine drinking is less widespread than in Italy. Italy has a 43.2 litres per person consumption each year on average, compared to just over 10 litres in the US.

However, maybe this difference is less pronounced than it used to be: wine consumption is down 8% in Italy in recent years; beer consumption is on the rise as millenials acquire a taste for it; and the US is now the leading importer of Italian wine (but be prepared for a mark-up on that Chianti - import costs are high).

Italian-American Pizza


One of the most common ways that pizzas are served in the US is by the slice. Don’t be surprised that they’re not made fresh to order, but are served straight from a counter (perhaps blessed with a 30-second blast in the oven). Pizza pies are absurdly big and certainly not for one.

Oh and the pizza itself? It really is a different thing. Of course there are many variations across Italy’s different regions, but on the whole you’ll likely find American pizza has more cheese with a thicker crust, and most often ordered with Pepperoni (note - this is not peperoni, it’s more like salami).

Coffee culture


People rushing down the sidewalk with scalding hot coffees in 16oz paper cups? Yep - get used to that sight.

The caffe concept has not been embraced in the US. People take their coffee to-go, the espresso shots are normally diluted with hot water, and rather than knocking back a shot of coffee at the bar people are more likely to sit in Starbucks with their laptops and ferociously loud background music.

Bank Fees

Credit cards are commonly used in the US but if you are paying with cash be prepared to pay $1.50-$3.50 every time you try to withdraw money. There are lots of other ways your bank account will end up costing you money, such as overdraft fees and the $25 (or more) for a check book...

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.

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