Most foreign individuals moving to the USA already have a set of ideas about American culture. Media, politics, or history may leave individuals excited about the potential for the future, yet simultaneously nervous about the new people and places they will discover. If you’re preparing to buy residential property in the USA, here are some facts you’ll need to know, and advice for some things to do early on to ease the transition into a new culture.
How the US is Unique
There are several practical ways the United States differs from many other nations. For instance, in the US, expect to see measurements in pounds, inches, and ounces, as the United States notoriously doesn’t use the metric system. Items like eggs and milk, typically kept on dry-goods shelves in other nations, will be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Even the dates and times will look different to many foreign nationals moving to the US. Dates in America are written MM/DD/YY as opposed to the DD/MM/YY format most nations adhere to. Similarly, American clocks default to dividing the day into two 12-hour segments, rather than a 24-hour clock. This means that in the United States, 13:00 is 1pm, unless you change the clock to what Americans call “military time.”
Cultural and Social Norms
Beyond these surface-level differences, there are many deeper cultural differences between the US and other countries. For instance, American families are far more likely to have a single parent, or to be blended families where two individuals have divorced past spouses and remarry each other. While these non-traditional family types are becoming more common in other countries, to some, they may still be unfamiliar.
Small talk between strangers in America is very common. Most cashiers or individuals in customer service positions will try to engage every person in a casual conversation about the weather, how their day is going, current events, or other topics. This is considered polite and friendly by Americans, not rude. Conversely, in the US it is considered rude to be late to a meeting or other appointment, while in many other cultures lateness is permitted or even expected.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution provides for the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which contributes to a very open and free society. In contrast, the Second Amendment makes it a right of every American to purchase, own, and even carry a gun, provided they meet certain eligibility requirements both Federally and in their state. This will be more noticeable in cities like Dallas, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri, than in metropolitan cities like Manhattan and Miami.
Basic Preparation Before Arrival
All these differences, large and small, may already be on your mind. Or, maybe we just made you nervous! Either way, before traveling to view available residential properties in Manhattan or Miami, or going to your new home itself, do some basic research about the area and its amenities. First and foremost, your residential broker should be able to help you anticipate any visas or other documents you’ll need to enter and/or leave the United States. It’s also advisable to get a map of the city and familiarize yourself with the names of major streets and neighborhoods or suburbs, especially those close to where you will be staying, or airports. This will keep you from feeling totally adrift when getting into a cab or listening to someone give directions.
Explore Your New Backyard
All this advice is important, but the best way to adapt to life in the US is to explore your new community and make meaningful connections. In established cultural centers like metropolitan Manhattan and Miami, international influences have played major roles for centuries. This means new residents from any nation are almost guaranteed to find restaurants, grocery stores, and cultural events that will help offset feelings of homesickness, including other ex-patriates who came to the United States in search of everything the country has to offer. And while there is certainly a very vocal group of anti-foreign Americans, the truth is many Americans are interested in foreign nations and still see their country as the land of immigrants with equal opportunity for all.
Adapting to some elements of American culture will be easy, while others will take time. Those specific elements will differ for each individual and will be challenging enough. That’s why, at Manhattan Miami, we believe in making the home buying process itself as easy and transparent as possible for foreign buyers.
Still have questions about the foreign buyer's process? Feel free to contact us and check out our resources: