It could be easy to dismiss a move between the United States and the United Kingdom as “no big deal.” After all, the two countries share a common root language—and some significant history, since the US was originally an English colony.

However, there are some significant cultural differences between the US and the UK, which encompasses England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Additionally, there are also a few strategies that can make your move between the US and the UK a lot simpler.

Keep reading, and we’ll show you the nine things you need to know.

#1: Culture Shock Is Common

Despite the ties between the two countries, living in the US can feel very different from living in the UK. It’s pretty common to feel some culture shock after any international move, and a US-UK move is no exception.

If you don’t have family or friends in your new “home” country, you might feel the effects even more strongly. Common feelings associated with culture shock include homesickness, disorientation, loneliness, or depression. Give yourself some room to experience your emotions—and recognize that you’re not alone.

Some people find comfort in the familiar, including setting up their home with the furniture, décor, and furnishings they’ve brought with them from their previous residence. If you’re sorting through your belongings and deciding what to bring, select items you love that will give you a warm sense of the familiar, even in a new country.

For example, if you’re hemming and hawing over whether or not to bring your mattress and bed, we’d say: Pack it! Beds between the US and the UK can feel very different, and there’s nothing like the comfort of a good night’s sleep.

And when it comes to importing these household goods duty-free, there are a few things you need to know to avoid costly fees.

#2: Understand the Requirements for Duty-Free Entry

Both the UK and the US have pathways to allow for duty-free import of your household goods. Of course, whether or not you’re eligible will depend on details such as your residency status, visa, length of stay, etc. We’ll get into the details below.

However, if you meet each country’s criteria—and complete the paperwork correctly—you stand to save yourself a significant amount of money.

Tips for the Application for Transfer of Residence Relief (ToR1)

As we’ve guided our customers through the ToR process, we’ve noted a couple of tricky areas that can prompt questions. Below, you’ll find our three tips for navigating the process:

One of the first items you’re required to submit on the ToR1 form is a packing list—the items you intend to bring to the UK. This request can feel overwhelming, especially if your move is still far in the future. Your moving company can help with this. If they’re doing an in-person survey, you can often use the results of their survey as the basis for the packing list you submit in your ToR1 form. This will give you a running start on what can feel like a big task.

The ToR1 form also asks for a proof of address in the UK. Many of the clients we work with don’t know where they’ll be living yet. However, the application now allows you to give the address of temporary accommodations (including hotels, Airbnbs, and corporate apartments) or to provide a statement if you’ll be living with a friend or family until you find permanent accommodations.

Processing your ToR1 form can take a few weeks, so you’ll want to start as early as possible. When you receive confirmation of your initial submission, that email will contain a phone number. If you don’t hear back within two weeks, we recommend following up with a phone call to find out if there’s anything holding up your application. This can give you the opportunity to fix any errors or problems early.

#3: Get Your Chips and Your Crisps Sorted

Although they share a common root language, American English and British English have evolved separately over the last ~250+ years. Besides some differences in spelling (e.g., organize vs. organise / manoeuvre vs. maneuver), there are also a whole host of words with different meanings in the US and the UK.

One that immediately springs to mind is the difference between chips and crisps.

In the UK, chips are what Americans call french fries. Crisps are what Americans call potato chips. (If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of fish and chips—a.k.a. fish and french fries—wonder no longer!) If you’re not one for surprises when it comes to your lunch order, you’ll want to get those terms straight ASAP.

Cultural differences like these are part of what makes living in a different country a delight. However, using the right terms will help you assimilate faster—and avoid a potentially embarrassing mistake.

It would be impossible to list all the terms that differ between the UK and the US. We’ll at least give you a head start below:

A (Brief) US-UK Dictionary

US Term
UK Term

Toilet / loo

Cell phone
US Term
UK Term

Mobile (MO-byel)

US Term
UK Term
US Term
UK Term
US Term
UK Term
US Term
UK Term
Parking lot
US Term
UK Term
Car Park
US Term
UK Term
Take-out (food)
US Term
UK Term
US Term
UK Term
Air conditioning
US Term
UK Term
US Term
UK Term
US Term
UK Term
Us Term
UK Term
Full stop
US Term
UK Term

#4: Packing Yourself May Not Save Money

An overseas move can get expensive quickly. If your employer isn’t helping you with the cost—or you’ve been given a strict budget—you might be looking for ways to save money.

One of the first things you might think of is packing yourself. After helping tens of thousands of individuals relocate all over the world, we’re here to tell you that it’s not worth it—and it probably won’t save you any money. Here’s why:

#5: Pay Attention to Closing Hours

In the US, it’s easy to get used to lengthy opening hours, like 24-hour pharmacies and diners and other stores that simply stay open late (10:00 pm, 11:00 pm, etc.).

However, in the UK, you’ll find that opening hours are not quite as expansive. This is especially true on Sundays, when larger stores in the UK (3,000+ square feet) can only open for a maximum of six hours between the hours of 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. (By the way, this isn’t the case in Scotland, although workers in Scotland can opt out of working Sundays.)

Additionally, although a weekly half-holiday for shop staff is no longer mandated by law in the UK, some stores still close for half a day in the middle of the week.

In other words, if you’re moving to the UK, pay close attention to opening hours and plan your shopping carefully. If you’re moving to the US, you may be pleasantly surprised by what’s available at all hours, especially in urban areas like New York and Los Angeles

#6: Sales Tax Works Differently

If you’ve been living in the UK, you’re used to seeing VAT (value-added tax) incorporated into the price you’ll see in shops. In other words, the price you see on the shelf is the price you’ll pay at the till.

However, if you’ve been living in the US, and your state or city charges a sales tax, you’re used to seeing that tax added on at the register. So while the shelf might say $4.99, you may pay $5.29 to a cashier in Maryland.

For those coming from the UK, the last-minute mental math can be confusing, as can the rules around what gets taxed and what doesn’t. Those coming from the US to the UK may relish the simplicity.

And speaking of add-ons…

#7: Tipping Expectations Can Be Confusing

Even Americans admit to being confused about the tipping expectations in the US. However, as a general rule of thumb, a tip of 15-20% is expected (and appreciated!) to recognize good service by servers at sit-down restaurants, bartenders, hairdressers, taxi/Uber/Lyft drivers, massage therapists, and other workers in the service industry. If someone helps you with your bags at a hotel, you might also give them a few dollars. Additionally, if you’re ordering coffee at a local shop, a tip of a dollar or two is always appreciated.

Again, even in America, the official tipping “rules” are often debated. In general, though, those in the US tip more often than you’ll see in Europe.

In the UK, tipping rules vary as well, although some restaurants may include a service charge on your bill. If so, there’s no need to leave a tip. Otherwise, a 10% tip would be considered normal. At a pub, it’s less common to leave a tip and more common to offer to buy the bartender a beer, which they can just tack on to your bill. For taxi drivers, you might round up to the nearest pound or tack on an extra 10-15% if you received exceptional service.

When it doubt, grab someone and ask. It’s the effort and the interest in getting it right that matter most!

#8: You May Need to BYOClosets

Where you store your clothes can vary significantly between the US and the UK. In the US, the majority of apartments and houses come with built-in closets. In contrast, many UK flats and houses don’t have built-closets, so clothes get stored in wardrobes.

While this is an interesting cultural contrast, it also has a big impact on UK-to-US moves. If you’re moving from the UK, you may initially be inclined to bring your wardrobes with you. However, you likely won’t need them for storing clothes in the US. Additionally, wardrobes can be heavy and bulky, which adds to the cost of a move. Finally, since wardrobes aren’t as common in the US, they may require a special team to assemble them, contributing to an even higher cost for your move.

The bottom line? If you’re moving from the UK to the US, you might want to think about leaving your wardrobe behind in storage—or selling it if you’re anticipating a permanent move. (And if you’re moving from the US to the UK, you may need to invest in a wardrobe when you arrive so you have a place to hang your clothes!)

#9: Make Sure You Get an All-in-One, Complete Quote

If you’re responsible for researching and pricing out your move, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you’re evaluating different moving companies.

Some companies offer an all-in-one quote that includes all additional fees, such as terminal handling charges (THC). These common charges apply to most moves. Some companies include them on their initial quote, while others may add on additional fees like this later down the line.

As you’re comparing quotes, make sure to ask whether there are any additional fees (such as terminal handling charges) that might impact the final cost of your move. This will eliminate any surprises—and help you choose the right mover for your relocation.

Making Your UK>US Move Stress-Free

An overseas move is a significant one, with plenty of moving parts that will keep you busy before, during, and after your relocation. By recognizing that a move between the UK and the US can represent a significant transition, you’ll set realistic expectations for yourself, which can lower your stress levels. This will also free up some energy to focus on adapting to your new “home” country and settling into your new lifestyle.

Planning a move between the US and the UK? We’ve handled tens of thousands of international relocations, and we know how to make yours safe, easy, and affordable. Just reach out to start a complimentary quote with one of our international experts.

Tell us about your move!

  • MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.