American culture

Tips for International Students Moving to the USA

January 31, 2020
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Are you moving to the USA? You probably have a lot of questions about how to prepare. We have more than two decades of experience helping international students learn English and attend university, so we consider ourselves professionals. We have compiled some useful tips for how international students can prepare for (and adjust to) their new life in the USA. Welcome!

Tips for International Students Moving to the USA

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.

Some tips:

  • 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.)
what you should know before moving to the usa


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.

what you should know before moving to the usa

Sales tax

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. Check out the sales tax in your city to know how much more you should add. It will vary in each state and city.

what you should know before moving to the usa

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. This fun article will help you understand these strange measurements!

Good news: if you take science classes, you’ll use the metric system. All science-related measurements follow this standard system.

what you should know before moving to the usa

It’s OK to take things “to go”

The portions 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.

what you should know before moving to the usa

What other tips do you have? Share them with us!

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