I’m British. Here Are 5 Things That Surprised Me About Moving to the U.S.

published May 22, 2023
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Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

As a Brit who recently moved to the United States, there were quite a few things that surprised me when planning my transition across the pond. Sure, we speak the same language, and I was clued up on some of the differences, thanks to my time writing for Apartment Therapy, but some of the cultural differences still shocked me. Here are five of the most surprising differences.

Needing to Earn 40 Times the Cost of Rent

I live in New York City, where the majority of landlords require tenants to earn at least 40 times the monthly rent. There are ways to get around it, like paying an extra security deposit or using a third-party surety bond service, but the simplest way to secure your dream apartment is by showing that you meet the income requirements. Now, in a city where the rent is already extremely high, chances are that some people won’t meet the earnings threshold, which adds to the stress of trying to find a decent place to live in a city that sees hundreds-long open house lines for a teeny-tiny studio apartment.

The Price of Toiletries

To someone who has lived in the U.S. their entire life, Target might not be a big deal. But as someone whose previous Target runs have been limited to stocking up on M&Ms at the end of a vacation, I am so excited to live in a city where the store is on my doorstep.

Now, imagine my shock when I browsed Target’s website to replenish my toiletries and found that it is almost $8 for a stick of Dove deodorant. In the U.K., you’ll find the same brand for around £2 (~$2.49). My mission for this summer? Switch to cheaper brands.

Product Availability in Grocery Stores

My go-to grocery store is Trader Joe’s, and I am amazed at the differences between the produce available in the U.S. versus the UK.

Starting off in the to-go section, U.K. supermarket giants offer lunchtime meal deals — something that has become so iconic within British culture, there are several Facebook Groups where people rate each other’s picks. While I’ve not seen a similar offering in U.S. grocery stores, the incredible range of frozen meals certainly make up for it. Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken has my heart.

Another huge difference between U.S. and UK grocery stores is the alcohol availability. In the U.K., you’ll find aisles-upon-aisles of wines and spirits, but the offering is much more limited in American grocery stores.

The Many Streaming Options

Hulu, Peacock, HBO, Starz, Pluto … chances are, a British person has never heard of half of the streaming platforms that are available in the U.S.

The viewing options in the States are much more plentiful, and while the U.K. has begun introducing more Americanized streaming networks, the country is still so far behind with television availability. Even shows on HGTV vary, which makes me sad that my family in England can’t experience up-to-date episodes of “Celebrity IOU” and “Fixer Upper.”

Credit: Natalie Board/Shutterstock

Lacking In-Unit Laundry

One of the biggest things that shocked me about NYC apartments is the lack of in-unit laundry facilities. In the U.K., pretty much every apartment has a washing machine, but they are lacking in the Big Apple (other than in newer, more expensive buildings).

I’ve come to realize that not having an in-unit washing machine is not a big deal, as there are so many laundromats around the city. You’re never more than a couple of blocks away from a washing machine and dryer.

One thing that does seem to be more common in the U.S., however, are dishwashers. When speaking with subletters and landlords during my hunt for accommodation, many were quick to mention the dishwasher availability. I’ve never owned a dishwasher, so any space that has one is certainly a luxury to me.