Are you moving to the USA? You probably have a lot of questions about how to prepare. After 20 years of helping international students learn English and attend university, we have compiled some useful tips for how to prepare for (and adjust to) your new life.
What You Should Know Before Moving to the US
The local laws
Laws vary by state and by county, so even if you learn the local laws, you might have to learn new laws if you move. (For example, you can have open containers of alcohol on the streets in Las Vegas; you cannot do this in California.) Make sure that you know these laws and follow them.
- Don’t try to buy alcohol if you are underage, and never use a fake ID. This can get you in serious trouble: you could even lose your visa and have to return home.
- Don’t litter. Littering is throwing trash on the ground. This can result in a huge fine.
- Smoking is not allowed in most public spaces. And throwing cigarette butts on the ground can result in a big fine.
Tipping in the U.S. is very confusing. Make sure you tip 15-20% for meals and $1 per alcoholic drink. This is standard. You should also give a coffee barista your change and tip your hairdresser. For a complete guide to tipping in the USA, read this useful article.
Sales tax is added to the price when you buy something. (This is confusing, we know!) Remember that the price on the tag is not the real price you will pay.
The Imperial system
Miles, inches, pounds, feet, Fahrenheit . . . what are these strange measurements? Welcome to America, where everything is measured differently than in the rest of the world. It’s a good idea to review how to convert commonly used units before coming to the USA.
Good news: if you take science classes, you’ll use the metric system. All science-related measurements follow this standard system.
It’s OK to take things “to go”
The portions of food in restaurants are large: you do NOT have to eat it all. In fact, many Americans eat half of their food and then save the rest for another meal. Don’t be afraid to ask for a “to-go box” and enjoy your leftovers the next day for lunch.