There is no "city center"

Just moved to America, or about to? Despite your exposure to international living, you may find quite a few surprises. Some will be nothing short of breathtaking; others, not so much. If you’re planning on relocation as a trailing spouse, we hope this weekly guide from our Culture Expert anticipates some of your expectations. If you already live here, we hope it inspires you to leave a comment with some fresh insights.

#1 There is no “city center”

No matter where you’re from, your frame of reference – to meet, shop, and especially to socialize – is probably the “city center”. It’s how you get organized and understand your psychological place in the community. That’s not the case in the United States. Unless you plan on living in a major “walkable city” like New York or San Francisco, you’re going to need “wheels” (slang for “car”). As the world’s number one car culture, some say Americans practically invented mobility with an efficient Interstate Highway System stretching from Maine to California and Texas to Wisconsin. However, that trend is reversing as Millennial’s increase their time living online and overall buying power is in steep decline. At its worst, the USA is a tremendous expanse of suburbs characterized by cookie cutter housing developments that can leave newcomers feeling disconnected. At its best, the American car equals Freedom to venture out on to that great expanse; to take the road less travelled and make your own destiny. Does it get any better than that?

Insider Savvy: Every state is different, so check with your local department of motor vehicles about obtaining a valid driver’s license, registering your car, auto insurance requirements, and driving rules about using your non-U.S. driver’s license. Get an International Driving Permit (IDP), which translates your driver’s license into almost one of 10 major languages.

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