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Cultural quirks: Five things the expat needs to know about the United States of America

Written by Robinsons Relo
Storage Specialist

If you’re planning to cross the Atlantic and settle down on American shores, we realise you’re probably under a lot of pressure. The last thing you need to be worrying about upon arrival are some of the cultural changes you’ll have to acclimatise to. Don’t worry though, we’ve put together this handy list, to make sure you’re in the know before you even arrive in the States.

Tax on shopping

Be careful when you begin to look at prices in the supermarket, especially if you’re trying to budget. Whilst in the UK, it’s easy to know exactly how much an item will cost you, but this isn’t quite the case on the other side of the Atlantic. With most products, the price you see an item listed at on the shelf will be a pre-tax total. If a bar of chocolate is listed as 1.99, don’t expect to be paying with two dollar bills. It can be tough to remember at first, and you may be shocked when you get to the checkout and your total has rocketed, but eventually it’ll become second nature to compensate for the additional tax when pricing up products. The amount of tax you’ll pay depends on your state, but it can be anything up to around 10% in the most expensive states, like California.


It might sound odd, but one of the first problems you’ll encounter is the locals struggling with your accent. You might be asked to repeat yourself a few times if you have a strong local UK twang, such as Yorkshire, Scouse or Geordie, but eventually you’ll learn to slow down your dialect when speaking to someone new for the first time. Even though the locals will know you have a strange accent from a distant land, they may struggle to pinpoint your nationality; from experience you’ll be asked plenty of times if you’re an Aussie or Scot.


Don’t be expecting to expat in the US and eat all your favourite foods from home. In many places, you’ll struggle to get even the simplest of British foods, and something as simple as a gravy stock can be impossible to find. If you’re wanting to produce a traditional Sunday dinner, you’ll probably need to begin planning it weeks in advance to source all the different ingredients. If you love a simple portion of beans on toast to start your day, you’ll have to spend a while looking for a classic tin of baked beans in a rich tomato sauce. Even though US supermarkets stock baked beans, they come in a variety of weird and wonderful sauces like barbeque and maple syrup. If you’re missing your British comfort foods, head to your nearest World Market or Pier 1, you’ll find all your UK favourites, but you’ll be expected to pay top dollar for them.


Through most of America, you’ll be looked upon as crazy for walking. In areas of large tourism, such as New York City or coastal areas of California, you’ll see holiday makers strolling from attraction to attraction. However, once you leave tourism sites, don’t expect to see many people travelling on foot. Many main roads and even side streets will not even have paved sidewalks, making it virtually impossible to get from A to B on foot. If you want to take the chance and walk, be careful and plan your route safely.


If you’re a lover of the beautiful game, spend your summer months glued to the cricket or you can’t manage without Friday night Super League, then you’re in for a shock when you cross the pond. Sport plays a huge part in American culture, however the country is extremely enclosed when it comes to sporting diversity. TV stations dedicate huge portions of time to sporting events, however if you’re wanting to watch anything other than the NFL, NBA or MLB you’ll have a tough time finding dedicated coverage. Before heading out to the States, check out the TV options available to you if you need to keep tabs on your local team.

If you are thinking of making that bold move to the states make sure you get in touch with our USA Removals Team.


Photo Credit: Unsplash