Living in Miami
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A comprehensive guide about living well in Miami
Bienvenidos a Miami! Most expats living in Miami experience a whirlwind of cultural impressions. Indeed, Miami has more in store for you than the average American city. Read our Relocation Guide to learn more about Miami’s cultural makeup, demographics, healthcare, and transportation.
Life in Miami
- While living in Miami, expats will experience a heavily Latin American-influenced city. Two-thirds of the city’s inhabitants speak Spanish at home, so picking up a few Spanish skills would be a good idea.
- Sports buffs in Miami won’t miss out: the city is home to many successful sports teams such as the Miami Heat or the Florida Marlins.
- Expats won’t need to worry about healthcare since there are many good hospitals located in the metro area and a high-quality trauma center.
- There are several public and private schools located in Miami’s metro area as well as some international schools. Nonetheless, expat parents should gather enough information on the schools before enrolling their children.
- The public transportation system is not very extensive in Miami. Most Miamians rely on their car to get from A to B. Make sure to avoid peak times while driving in Miami because otherwise, you will lose a lot of time stuck in traffic.
Culture in Miami
If you are an experienced expat, chances are you are used to the various effects of culture shock by now. However, even if you are familiar with US customs in general, adapting to life in Miami can be quite a unique challenge. Even for US citizens who migrate to Florida’s sunny south, it may take some settling in, as life in Miami is influenced chiefly by its many Latino inhabitants.
Thus, living in Miami should be a challenging and insightful experience for expats. While the city may not be as fast-paced as New York or quite as laid-back as L.A., it does indeed have its own chaotic charm. Amidst the vibrant chaos, however, there is a place for everybody. No matter where you come from or which language you speak, you can feel right at home in Miami once you’ve dealt with any initial difficulties.
Miami’s Different Faces
Without question, Miami is an incredibly diverse and multicultural city. In fact, more than 50% of the population is foreign-born. Most notably, people of Cuban descent make up around a third of Miami’s population. Throughout the 80s and 90s many newcomers also arrived from Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.
The city’s growth was also influenced by the internal migration of US Americans choosing to resettle in Miami. Today, immigration is not as rapid. Still, expats living in Miami’s metropolitan area, which counts more than six million inhabitants, are part of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the entire country.
Around two-thirds of the Miami populace speak Spanish at home as their first language. As such, Spanish is an essential part of Miami life. Aside from improving your English language skills, you may have to pick up at least some basic Spanish to get around more easily in Miami. Other languages you may come across while living in Miami include Haitian Creole, French, Portuguese, German, Italian, and Arabic. In fact, there are more than 100 different languages spoken in Miami’s households.
Movies and Sports
As you may well know, life in Miami is the subject of a host of movies and TV shows, many of which are filmed directly on site. Some of the most well-known and most popular are Golden Girls and, of course, Miami Vice. Other shows at least partially filmed in this city include CSI Miami and Dexter. Similarly, Hollywood has frequently chosen Miami as the setting for their movies: Bad Boys, The Bodyguard, Any Given Sunday, and Scarface were all set in Miami.
Sports are another major aspect of living in Miami. The city is home to the storied Miami Dolphins NFL franchise, the Florida Marlins MLB team, and the Miami Heat, winners of three NBA finals. Most home games of these teams take place at American Airlines Arena, Sun Life Stadium, and Marlins Park. The city has also been the host of the Super Bowl ten times, most of any city along with New Orleans. Not a big fan of football, basketball, or baseball? Not to worry; there are plenty of other professional sports teams, giving you the opportunity to attend ice hockey, tennis, soccer games, and more while living in Miami.
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Healthcare and Education in Miami
Not Affordable for Everyone: Healthcare Facilities in the US
The US healthcare system offers some of the most extensive services and the best facilities in the entire world. Modern treatment methods and excellent medical staff are available all over the country. However, only a small percentage of the population can afford top-notch services. Despite the Affordable Care Act, which aims to make healthcare services more widely available and affordable, the USA is still the only developed nation with no comprehensive national healthcare plans.
Currently, there are two public health insurance plans: Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare caters to pensioners and disabled citizens while Medicaid covers people with a particularly low income. Additionally, the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge aims to provide health insurance to uninsured children.
Health Services in Miami
Should you ever get sick or suffer injury, Miami isn’t the worst place to be. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area is well equipped with its over 60 hospitals. One of the best is Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. Hand-in-hand with the University of Miami’s School of Medicine, it conducts significant research work in, for instance, the fields of eye and blood diseases. However, the hospital also offers high-quality health services to their patients and houses Ryder Trauma Center, which treats the vast majority of trauma victims in Miami-Dade County.
Of course, you are free to also turn to Miami’s other healthcare institutions, which include:
- Baptist Hospital
- South Miami Hospital
- University of Miami Hospital
- Kendall Regional Medical Center
- Larkin Community Hospital
- Mercy Hospital
- Miami Children’s Hospital
- Mount Sinai Medical Center
Education Options in Miami for Expat Kids
Education in the US is divided into elementary school, middle school or junior high, and high school or senior high. Upon graduating high school, students receive their high school diploma and thus potentially qualify for higher education. However, enrollment in a US university may require further tests and examinations.
Expat parents should carefully consider whether to choose a public or private school for their children. While public schools are open to all children in their respective districts, the lack of a nationwide curriculum means that there can be considerable discrepancies in education standards. Private schools typically offer facilities of a higher quality. However, tuitions usually reflect this and can be fairly steep. Whichever you prefer, you should make sure to gather as much information as possible and visit the schools before enrolling your child.
Sending your children to an international school is another option, and possibly the better one if you do not plan on staying in Miami for the long term. Of course, it is still just as important to make a well-informed decision. One thing to consider is that the staff at international schools often has plenty of experience with expat kids. In Miami-Dade County, you’ll find schools such as the French American School of Miami and the Metropolitan International School of Miami.
Additionally, a list of private schools, kindergartens, and preschools in Miami can be found at GreatSchools.org.
Getting Around Town: Transport in Miami
Located at the southern tip of Florida, Miami is a major transportation hub. Many airlines have layovers here, and for flights from many Latin American countries the first port of call is Miami International Airport or Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Unsurprisingly, numerous highways, interstates, and railroad lines begin and end in Miami as well. Similarly, both Fort Lauderdale and Miami are major destinations for cruise ships.
Hailing a Taxi in Miami
Around Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami, you should be able to hail a cab without issue. After all, they can be seen everywhere there, and you usually don’t have to wait all too long to get a ride. However, if you find yourself in a different part of the city, calling ahead to get a taxi might be a good idea.
If you’ve already ridden a cab in Miami, you may have noticed that taxis offer both metered and flat rates. Rates might change regularly, influenced, for instance, by fluctuations in US fuel prices. Fortunately, you are usually not required to pay extra for your luggage. Don’t forget to tip the driver at least 10–15% of the fare. Also, please note that in the United States, it is customary to sit in the back seat unless all the seats are occupied.
Be Patient: Driving in Miami
Many people moving to Miami from other parts of the United States take the Interstate down to the city. From Jacksonville, 340 miles (547 km) to the north, the I-95 leads south, straight to downtown Miami. Road trips are a popular way of experiencing the US, and one from New York along the I-95 to Miami would take upwards of 20 hours.
As you’re settling down in Miami, the city’s expanse may very well make it necessary for you to acquire your own car in order to get around properly. When exploring your new home by car, though, it’s a good idea to avoid rush hour traffic roughly from 07:00 to 09:00 and 16:00 to 18:00. Traffic can also be perpetually heavy around certain avenues, such as Palmetto Expressway. You should also keep your eyes open for construction sites, which can turn driving in Miami into a complete nightmare.
More Options to Get around Miami: Train and Metrorail
If you enjoy traveling by train, head on over to the city’s Amtrak station, which, granted, isn’t exactly the fastest mode of transportation to and from Miami. For instance, a trip to New York would take around 30 hours. In order to get around Miami, you can also rely on the Metromover. This is a free mass transit train system operating in downtown Miami, which offers a great perspective of the city from its rails elevated above the streets.
The Miami Metrorail covers 25 miles (40 km) of heavy rail tracks on two lines to 23 stations, from Palmetto to Dadeland South. Trains depart every five to fifteen minutes between 05:00 and 01:00. Additionally, the regional Tri-Rail commuter trains connect Miami to the counties immediately to the north, Broward County and Palm Beach County.