Tanya's Tips: How to Adult in America

We all know "adulting" is the worst, especially in a new country. Believe me, I've been there! Here are 7 ways you might have to 'adult' in America, and my tips to make your life easier.

Getting Around

Getting Around

In major cities like New York, Boston or San Francisco, like most Americans, you will rely on public transportation (~ $2 - $3 for a subway ride). Driving in these cities can be very stressful and free parking spots are hard to find. Outside of major cities, Americans drive or bike.

Tanya

Always wear a bike helmet and check out this safety poster before you head out for your first ride!

Buying Groceries Shopping Cart Icon

Buying Groceries Shopping Cart Icon

Americans like options so don’t be surprised when you see 20 or more varieties of the same thing at your local supermarket. Items can also be labeled as ‘local’ (this means they didn’t have to travel a long distance to get to the store),‘organic’ or ‘natural’.

Tanya

When in doubt, go for basic store brand items, which are almost always cheaper.

Dining Out

Dining Out

You can find all types of restaurants in America: Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Russian, Turkish, etc. If you’re looking for some burgers and fries and a traditional set-up, you can experience it all at your local diner.

Tanya

Did you have a sit-down meal? Remember to tip your server. Americans usually tip 15% -20%.

Doing Laundry

Doing Laundry

If you don’t have a washer and dryer in your home, use a public laundromat to keep your clothes clean (~ $3.00 for a wash cycle).

Tanya

Grab something great to read (or watch!) while you’re waiting.

Going Out

Going Out

You need to be at least 21 to order alcoholic drinks in the U.S. Many bars will not even let you enter if you're not 21. Bring ID that shows your age. Also, NEVER drink and drive or get in the car of someone who has been drinking. Have Uber or Lyft on your phone just in case.

Tanya

Some places may not recognize your home country ID. Use your international driver’s license or a passport to get in.

Budget Eating

Budget Eating

Having potluck dinners with friends is a great way to eat tasty foods and save money. A potluck means that everyone makes a dish to share with a group.

Tanya

PB&J is a go-to sandwich of American college students. Try and make one for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. All you need is bread, peanut butter, and jelly.

Banking

Banking

Banks in the U.S. are mostly regional and you won’t find the same bank everywhere in the country. Open your checking account at a bank that is the most popular in your state (just ask your American friends or host).

Tanya

Some banks may charge a fee if you have an account and don’t use it. Remember to close your account before you leave or check how you can close it after you return back home.

Masking

Masking

Masking requirements in the U.S. depend on the state you're in. Use the COVID-19 county check for the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 community levels and prevention steps in your area.

Tanya

It's very common for establishments to post signs on their front door explaining their masking requirements. Keep an eye for the sign and have your mask handy!

Vaccination Status

Vaccination Status

You may be required to show your COVID-19 vaccination record when attending public events in the U.S.

Tanya

In case you get questions about your COVID-19 vaccine card, practice patience and explain that you are an international visitor in the U.S. and have a vaccine card from your home country.

Tanya Burovtseva By

An international exchange alumna originally from Ukraine, Tanya started her career at InterExchange in 2011. Tanya is passionate about travel and cultural exchange and enjoys meeting J-1 exchange participants at InterExchange events.