How is life in America

Living in the USA - Everyday life

Even if the USA is relatively similar to Germany economically and culturally (both countries are western industrial nations and thus they are closer to each other than completely different, at least in comparison with many other countries), life in the USA is significantly different than in Germany.

At first glance, it is the little things, such as the wider lanes, the larger parking spaces and the larger packs in the supermarket, that convey a feeling for the otherness of the country. But the system is also different, health insurance and social security work differently in the USA than in Germany and the entire work environment is different to that in Germany.

Anyone who is thinking of emigrating to the USA must be clear about what that means and should at least have spent a vacation in the USA in order to get to know and assess the country, people and culture. Otherwise there is a risk of nasty surprises and there is a possibility that you will not like your former dream destination in reality. It is particularly important to be informed about the various aspects such as jobs and the labor market, pensions and the cost of living before a possible emigration.

Work in the USA

In order to have a chance as an emigrant in the USA, a university degree or training to become a specialist is an advantage. Academics and skilled workers are most urgently wanted in the USA, and those who already have a job when they move have a much easier time getting a visa than job seekers.

Many emigrants perceive working in the USA to be much more independent than in Germany and see more career opportunities there. Frequent job changes are seen as less of a shortcoming there than in Germany, and older workers still have a chance of finding a job. Anyone who comes to the USA with assertiveness and a clear goal in mind still has a very good chance of making it far in the USA. In the USA, advancement is possible faster than in Germany, it is not for nothing that the USA is also considered the country of unlimited possibilities. However, the many opportunities and greater personal responsibility are offset by poorer social security that you have to be prepared to accept. In this way, the steep ascent can also be followed by a very deep fall.

What about unemployment benefits and welfare in the US?

In the US there is only unemployment benefit if you have lost your job through no fault of your own. Anyone who quits himself or who has provoked a resignation through misconduct will not receive any support. Even people who are self-employed or who work part-time or under temporary employment contracts do not receive unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefit is usually paid for six months, but the rules vary from state to state.

A regulation like the German unemployment benefit 2 for long-term unemployed (also known as Hartz 4), i.e. theoretically lifelong financial support, does not exist in the USA. The United States believes that a healthy person can find some form of work, whether or not it matches their qualifications. Social assistance is therefore limited to five years in life; it is usually not paid out for more than two years in a row. Only people whose income is below the poverty line receive social assistance. Other measures for the financially disadvantaged are food vouchers, social housing and health care for children. So anyone who becomes unemployed in the USA and does not manage to find a new job within two years must expect to end up on the street.

This is how retirement provision is regulated in the USA

In the area of ​​old-age provision, too, the regulations in the USA are different from those in Germany. In the USA, as in Germany, there is a statutory pension scheme and in order to receive these benefits you have to work for at least 10 years. All income and all taxes are recorded by the Social Security Administrations, which issues the Social Security Card to citizens.

How high the benefits you get in old age depends on how much has been paid into the fund, i.e. how long you have worked and how much money has been earned. The state pension is usually barely enough to survive in the USA, private provision is an important point. In Germany, this point is also becoming increasingly important for future generations.

Paid vacation days? A foreign word for many Americans

Every employment relationship in Germany provides for at least 24 days of paid vacation per year as a legal minimum (for a full-time position). In many companies, employees even have up to 30 days of vacation. In the US, paid vacation is still a foreign concept in many companies and employees often have to take unpaid vacation. There are also companies with paid leave, but this is usually staggered according to length of service and often does not extend beyond two to three paid, free weeks even after ten years or more in the same company. For four weeks of paid vacation a year, most companies in the US have to have been employed for at least 20 years or more.

There is no uniform regulation like in Germany with a legal minimum in the USA and emigrants have to be aware of that too. The USA is the only industrial nation in the world in which there is no entitlement to paid vacation and accordingly many Americans take little time off. Working in the US often means working longer, working harder and working more than in Germany, but theoretically more is possible. In addition, the climate in many American offices is a little less formal than in Germany. People speak to each other by their first name and ask about the well-being of their colleagues, but the dress code is a bit more formal than in Germany and suits are the order of the day in many offices.

The cost of living in the United States varies greatly depending on the region

The cost of living in the United States varies greatly depending on the region. While rents in Manhattan are almost unaffordable, rural homes in the Midwest are relatively cheap. Furnished houses or apartments in particular are popular with foreigners coming to the United States for rent. Flat-rate rental prices are difficult to name because it depends a lot on the region. While a furnished 2-room apartment in New York City with ancillary costs can easily cost over 4,000 euros, the average rental price in Los Angeles for a property of the same size is around 1,500 euros. Miami averages 1,700 euros for a furnished 2-room apartment and in Chicago the same is available for around 2,300 euros. The rental costs in the big cities are high, living in the country is much cheaper.

Eating out is more expensive in the USA than in Germany, at least when it is not fast food but real restaurants. The cost of groceries in the supermarket is also slightly higher than in Germany, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Other everyday foods such as milk, cheese and bread are also a bit more expensive. Here it also depends on which city or region you are in and how high the respective tax is there. This is namely determined by the individual states and, in some cases, the regions themselves and thus helps to determine how expensive the products are.

Because wages in the USA are on average higher than in Germany, the somewhat more expensive price level is compensated for. In 2016, the average monthly income in Germany was 3,451 euros, in the USA it was 4,205 euros.

Meet people in the US

Anyone who emigrates to the USA leaves their social environment at home and is initially quite alone in the new country. Finding a connection with Americans as a newcomer from another culture is not that easy. Although leisure activities in the USA do not look much different than in Germany (going to bars and cafés, eating out, doing sports, going to sporting events, going to the cinema, having a barbecue with friends, etc.), you have to get into that first american life. There are various ways to get to know people and there are some important requirements such as openness, initiative and the abandonment of prejudices.

Openness:Openness is the most important prerequisite for getting to know people and making new friends. Prejudices have lost nothing and it is also important to accept that Americans have a different cultural background than Germans. This means that communication can be different. It is part of American culture to make small talk and to say, out of politeness, “Let's do something together”. This is not always meant seriously, but can also be a polite phrase, just like the question "How are you?", Which is part of the American welcoming culture, does not directly relieve all worries should be talked about. It is difficult for Europeans to distinguish the subtleties here, especially at the beginning.

Actively approaching others:If there is a particularly nice person in the office or in the sports group, with whom you have already exchanged a few words, you can just go over and ask if they are new to the area and ask if they are interested in meeting you shared coffee or something similar. Only those who consciously go out, speak to people and also look for surroundings in which they have the opportunity to get to know new people really have a chance to meet new people.

Making friends takes time:Even if you get to know someone and get along well, that is by no means friendship. Building good friendship with someone you trust and go through ups and downs takes time and requires understanding and regular meetings. Another great way to meet new people who may be in the same situation as you is on the Internet. Groups of expats, immigrants and people who are all looking for new friends can be found there and if you don't have so many opportunities outside of work to look for new friends, there are many options on the net.

Before emigrating, go on vacation to the USA

It cannot be emphasized enough that it is extremely important to take a vacation to the United States before moving there permanently. Even if it appears to many as the absolute dreamland, it also has its downsides and especially those who go to work in the USA have to be clear about the negative sides with regard to unpaid and little vacation, as well as the hardly existing state coverage, if one loses his job. To fly naively is not a good idea, but both the country and the special region you are drawn to should be well known beforehand. Americans are different from Germans and the cultural differences manifest themselves in many small and large things in everyday life. Knowing and liking them is an important prerequisite for feeling comfortable in the USA and making new connections there.