Expats guide: Staying Safe in the US
We’ve seen the Hollywood films, dreamed of walking the streets of New York City and even shaken hands with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. But what is it like living in America?
Moving to the USA in some ways feels strangely familiar. The culture and language are similar overall, but of course there are those difference that catch you unawares. One of those is safety and security, the USA has its own laws and regulations, its own challenges and, of course, a vast outdoors that can be rather more dangerous than that of the UK.
So, you want to live in the USA? It is a great country where they speak the same language, have many of the same customs and, according to the 2018 InterNations Expat Insider survey, 63 per cent of expats feel at home there with 43 per cent saying they could see themselves staying in the USA forever.
However, even in a relatively safe country like the USA, there are always safety concerns to be aware of. Here is a look at what you should keep in mind when considering immigration and how to live in the USA.
A great first port of call is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which posts the latest information on safety and security to the gov.uk website. It is a great introduction to everything you should take into account, such as:
Safety and Security
The US is, overall a very safe country but in any country with around 300 million people, crime does occur. According to the FBI’s 2018 Crime Report, most major crimes were down, including violent crime, murder, robbery, aggravated assault, property crime, burglary, larceny-
theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The only major crime that saw an increase was rape. This is something for women moving to the US to keep in mind.
Gun violence is something you see associated with America on the news seemingly all the time. While gun deaths are not as prevalent as it sometimes seems, it is a much bigger issue than in the UK. Gun ownership, use, and violence varies by location and each state makes its own laws in regards to guns. Wherever you are moving, get to know the local laws to get a better understanding of what the local gun culture is like.
Finally, the US is a major terrorism target and can be a concern for the people who live there. In the past, it was mostly contained to major cities and government locations, but that has changed in recent years. The Department of Homeland Security is the government agency that handles this and is a good resource for more information. Travelling from the UK, we are perhaps more accustomed to the terrorism threat than expats from other countries.
The US is vast. It is the fourth largest country in the world, in fact, so you can expect points of interest and destinations to be quite spread out. It is perhaps for this reason that it is a very car-dependent culture in most places, outside of a few big cities like New York, Boston, and Chicago which have large, reliable public transportation systems.
Of course, there are internal flights that hop from one place to another like buses in the air. Flights are on the whole very safe, but they do come with long security lines at airports so make sure you leave yourself enough time. The Transportation Security Administration can provide the latest information about what is and is not allowed on US planes in 2019.
There are trains as well, but the network is not well integrated, meaning it is often easier to drive. When behind the wheel, keep in mind that each state has its own speed limits and local traffic laws so as you cross state lines make sure you are following the local regulations.
Also, while it used to be prevalent in the 1960s and 70s, hitchhiking, picking up random passengers and doing things like sleeping in your car is no longer done and can be dangerous.
Just like the UK, it is a very heated and divisive political climate in the US, with immigration and visas among the most contested topics of the day. There is a focus on immigrants crossing the border from Mexico to enter the country, but the focus is unlikely to moving to the US from the UK. You will of course have to secure your USA work visa in order to work legally in the country and can visit the Department of State website for more information about visas in America.
One last note about the political climate: 2020 is a presidential election year so the debate will be even more prevalent and fierce than it is now. It is generally best to stay away from political topics in the presence of strangers in these times, particularly as an outsider. Listening and learning will give you an even better insight into the culture of your host country.
Police & Emergency Services
Just like in the movies, you can reach the police, fire and ambulance services by dialling 911. As a federation of states, in the US laws vary from state to state and you must abide by the laws of the state you are in, even if only visiting. You must also always carry ID with you to prove you can legally be in the country.
It is also worth keeping in mind that prison sentences and fines can be much more severe than in the UK, particularly for things such as drugs offences.
The USA is a country of spectacular national parks and every type of geographic wonder you can imagine, from canyons to glaciers, mountains to deserts and beaches.
Of course, when you are travelling, keep in mind a healthy respect for the natural environment you are exploring. This advice can range from ensuring your car is prepared for snow and freezing temperatures to packing everything you need for a wild camping experience and being aware of how to react if you see a bear.
There are also hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes in the US, depending very much on the state you live in. Where these natural disasters occur frequently there will be a well-established warning systems and practices to ensure you can stay safe. It is worth visiting the Federal Emergency Management page for details on earthquake preparation, the National Hurricane Center and the US National Weather Service.
They say everything in bigger in the US, and that is something you can certainly say with respect to safety. We may have storm, but the US has hurricanes, we jump on trains, they have to cross the country by air, we have unarmed police, they have armed police.
But all in all, the US isn’t too dissimilar form the UK culturally. It pays to read up on local laws and make sure you are ready for natural disasters as well as checking the good and bad neighbourhoods where you live with a local, but there is no reason why you can’t enjoy a wonderful lifestyle in the good old US of A.
Feeling safe now? 1st Move International can help you move to the United States.