10 Practical Items Every UK Expat Needs in America

Adapting to the States: no need to toss your old electronics.

Want to make the transition from U.K. resident to U.S. dweller a little easier? Buy everything on our handy list.

A travel guide
You may not be in the U.S. on holiday but some of your expat needs are the same as a tourist’s. I guarantee you’ll want to eat, drink and amuse yourself senseless after days spent flat hunting or queuing at the DMV. An up-to-date guide with restaurant, bar and entertainment recommendations will be invaluable.

A U.S. cell phone
Making local calls from your British mobile is not a wallet-friendly way to communicate, so get yourself a US cell. Unfortunately, contracts are expensive — two to three times the cost of one back home.

A Skype account
You’ll quickly discover that calling the U.K. from your cell — British or American — is financially foolish. Get Skype or Google Voice to avoid phone bills that make you want to take a mallet to your mobile. And don’t think you can avoid charges by having your friends and family ring you: over here, providers also deduct minutes from your plan when you receive calls.

Climate-appropriate clothing
Unless you’re moving to a year-round temperate spot like L.A., prepare for extreme weather. Buying a winter coat somewhere like New York is a serious business and best done before the cold hits. But be warned: serious jackets aren’t cheap, pretty or vegetarian. You’ll look like the Michelin Man and ooze goose feathers but it’ll be worth it.

Pharmaceuticals
Choosing over-the-counter drugs back home is easy, even if you’re hallucinating with the flu. You know what’s what just by glancing at the packaging. Here, not so easy. Set aside an hour, when you’re in good health, to familiarize yourself with U.S. brands and put together a medical starter kit. Alternatively, enjoy explaining to your new doctor why you took laxatives for a sore throat.

A good pair of walking shoes
If you’re moving to a city where people use their feet more than their cars, your trotters may suffer. Everything from finding a place to live to exploring parks and getting lost on your way to dinner will savage your soles. Very soon, your blisters will have blisters. Being appropriately shod can make all the difference.

At least five adapters
One or two will not do. Believe me, you’ll arrive in the U.S. brandishing enough British electronics to open your own branch of Dixons. Moving to a country with incompatible plug sockets shouldn’t mean having to throw everything away and start again. But you will need to buy an American hairdryer. Your British model won’t work properly because of the difference in voltage.

Measuring cups
Europeans are considered highly eccentric for measuring our recipe ingredients by weight. Here, pounds and ounces (though, strangely, not stone) are reserved for bodies. Ingredients are measured in cups, and not just any old cup. You’re looking for a set of standardized measuring cups, available in most supermarkets and 99 Cents stores.

A television
TV sets aren’t expensive and having one is useful if you’re trying to learn a new culture and make friends at the water-cooler. A warning, though: cable companies tend to have area monopolies. The lack of competition means providers are free to levy extortionate fees so you could find yourself paying up to three times what you did back home.

An air conditioner
Moved to a region where the summers are scorching? If your apartment doesn’t have built-in air-con, you’ll need to buy your own. Alas, good units cost big bucks and weigh more than you do. Once acquired, you simply dangle the larger part out of an open window and squish it in place by closing the window. In reality, this process takes at least three hours and is roughly as fun as undergoing bowel surgery. (Please note: you can use screws to secure your A/C to the window frame, but your landlord might take issue with you boring holes in his property.)

Think we missed something? Tell us your best relocation purchase.

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis