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Anyone who tells you that the cost of living in the U.S. is much lower than back home is sadly mistaken. If you’re coming to America, prepare to feel the pinch.
Prepare to hand over some serious wonga when you buy a cell. Contracts cost double what they do in the UK. Plus, you’ll be charged – or have free minutes deducted – for receiving calls and texts. The people who’ll sell mobiles are experts at concealing the bizarre hidden charges that will show up on your bill every month.
2. Shower Gel and hand-wash
Cleaning your body is an expensive business in America, unless you’re prepared to switch to dermis-drying cheap soap. A regular sized bottle of shower gel by one of the leading manufacturers will cost you anything up to eight bucks.
3. Corn oil
This one I simply can’t fathom. America grows this sacred, hugely subsidized crop on every available surface, but a small bottle of its oil costs about four times what it would back home. Yet, strangely, there’s no noticeable mark up on imported olive oil.
4. Cable and the Internet
Thanks to area monopolies, cable companies charge what they like – usually two to three times what customers pay in the UK. And don’t expect to receive faultless service just because you’re paying exorbitant fees. Most days, my high-speed connection is no better than dial-up.
The aerated cake that passes for bread in this country is so unpleasant that you’ll probably end up relying on alternative starch sources, like pasta, rice and potatoes. But if you do stick with supermarket loaves, expect to pay around $4.99.
American cereal isn’t necessarily expensive, but it’s crammed with sugar. Even their muesli – or granola as it’s more often called here – is dripping with high fructose corn syrup. Very occasionally, I’ll locate a dusty box of proper unsweetened muesli and it’s always upwards of eight dollars.
Curdled milk hasn’t really taken off here yet, so we pay a premium. I regularly fork out nearly four dollars for a medium-sized tub. Crème fraiche and mascarpone are similarly pricey.
8. Flour and sugar
If you want to bake then you’ll have to swallow the added cost of these basic ingredients. Here, a bag of no frills sugar or flour costs at least double what it does in Sainsbury’s.
9. Flights and rail travel
As much as we all like to moan about budget airlines and trains back home, there are still genuine bargains to be had. But in the U.S. a plane or train ticket – even to a nearby domestic destination – will set you back several hundred dollars. Expats on a budget should learn to love Greyhounds.
If you’re planning to raise kids in the U.S., you’ll probably need to sell a few organs and heirlooms to make a dent in their university fees. Think tuition charges back home are heinous? In the U.S., it’s normal for twenty-somethings to leave higher education with a six-figure debt.
What are must-have products but their price tag makes you cringe?
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.