How to adjust to life when you're French living in the US

TransferWise content team
3 minute read

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

In fact, it’s estimated that there are over 166,000 French people currently residing in the US.

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

Don't forget the sales tax

paying card

The price you see on the shelf isn’t the price you end up paying. It might seem like the least logical thing in the world but you will have to get used to adding the sales tax on to the price you see in a shop or restaurant.

To add to the confusion, the rate varies from state to state and there are local surtaxes within each state that are added too. There are 5 states where the rate is 0% (Oregon, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Alaska), but the total amount can go as high as 13.5% in Cullman County, Alabama.

In total, sales tax typically amounts to between 0.5% to 2% of your income a year, depending on your earnings.

Power lunches

lunch desk

When you make the move to the States, those two-hour, three-course team lunches will very much become a thing of the past. In the US a half hour lunch break is normal, and working at your desk over lunch is no rare thing.

In reality, the long working lunch in France has been on the decline for several years: today working lunches in France only average 22 minutes, compared to an hour-and-a-half 20 years ago.

Just going to the shops... in your pyjamas?!


Yep, honestly, this is not unusual. Don't be surprised if you see fellow shoppers wandering through the aisle in their pyamas.

And no, no-one else will think this is odd.



Tipping is very much the done thing in the US. You can’t depend on there being a service charge added on to the total for you.

A handy guide is to double the first digit of whatever you’re paying and leave that as a gratuity (for example, a $10 bill would equal a $2 tip). Check out our guide on tipping cultures around the world for a full breakdown on how to get it right in all scenarios.

Bank Fees

Bank fees

Be prepared to pay a lot of money on ATM fees over the course of the year. The fees typically range from $1.50 to $3.50. Credit cards are also widely used in the US, so when you’re setting up your account be prepared from the agent to take you through the intricacies of credit card fees. And while checks are common here, like in France, do not think for one second that your check book will be free... $25 and upwards is normal.

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

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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