3 U.S. Expenses that are Foreign to Some Foreigners

It’s exciting to get swept up in the journey of traveling or moving somewhere new, whether it involves trying new foods, learning more about a city, studying a beautiful language, or seeing some of the famous landmarks that you’d only previously heard about through books and TV. One major difference you may notice in a new locale is how people spend their money, as well as the financial customs that dictate what is normal or even legal.

People who are new to the United States may come across a number of expenses that surprise them, while people who are used to life in America would consider them the daily norm. What are some of the financial requirements in the U.S. that may seem brand new to foreigners?

Tipping Servers and Drivers

You’re finishing up a delicious meal with your friends or family when the server brings over the check. Wait a minute, what’s that blank line doing there after the total? It’s time to leave a tip, of course!

Generally speaking, you should tip at least 15 percent, though up to 20 percent, and even 25 for exceptional service, is not unusual. American bars and restaurants usually pay their staff well below minimum wage, so tips are a crucial component of how servers make ends meet. Without the help of your server, you never would have experienced that delicious basket of fries, learned more about the specials of the week, or quenched your thirst with three glasses of ice-cold water. Anything below 15 percent for a dining experience that included tableside service is considered rude, so diners should mentally factor in the tip as a normal part of the overall bill so it doesn’t come as a shock at the end.

The same principle applies when you reach your destination by cab, or pick up the phone to order pizza. It’s considered polite and fair to tip your driver, delivery person, or server every time, whether you include it on your card or set aside cash to cover tips.

Health Insurance

It’s important to take care of your mind and body, and it’s equally important to note that your healthcare rates are probably going to be higher in the U.S. than in many countries around the world. In fact, according to Consumer Reports, healthcare costs approximately twice as much in the U.S. than in other developed countries, person per person. Researching and finding the best insurance plan for your lifestyle and needs is a good place to start. According to a 2016 Forbes interview, it’s critical to consider deductibles, which hospitals and specialists are included in a potential plan, and shop around even after you’ve gotten the first round of answers. Your body will surely thank you when it’s time to visit the doctor.

Car Insurance

There are many locations in the U.S. where having a reliable vehicle is absolutely crucial, whether you face a daily commute to work, want to visit friends, or intend to embark on a good old-fashioned road trip. Buying a car, truck, SUV, or van is the first step, but drivers also need to make sure that they’re covered in case of an unforeseen event. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 6.3 million police-reported crashes in 2015, a 3.8 percent annual increase over the previous year.

How does the United States compare to other countries in terms of auto insurance? Some countries, like South Africa, where up 65 percent of South African drivers are uninsured, simply don’t require auto insurance. This puts a lot of risk on everyone who uses the roads, and drives up transportation costs for everyone. In the United Kingdom, car insurance is mandatory but drivers generally pay less. In 2013, drivers in the U.K. paid the equivalent of $546 annually, whereas some drivers in the United States paid over $2,000 that year.

Auto insurance requirements vary around the globe, but one thing is clear: having a solid insurance policy behind you can absolutely be a life—or bank account—saver when you’re on the road in the U.S. There is a spectrum of coverage types, ranging from comprehensive collision to minimum liability, and rules vary by state. Drivers who diligently compare car insurance quotes can make sure they incorporate insurance into their budget without sacrificing in other areas.


Now you know more about some of the quirky monetary customs that U.S. citizens are used to that may cause some foreigners to freak out at first. In case anyone is starting to imagine their bank statements inching up thanks to insurance and tipping, just remember that at the very least, it’s very uncommon to encounter a pay toilet in the United States.