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Housing in the US

The Best Places to Live in the US

Moving to the US? This self-proclaimed “melting pot” is rife with cultures from around the globe. While the cost of living is high in most of the American cities that are popular with expats, newcomers will easily feel at home whether it is among local Americans or fellow-international transplants.

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At a Glance:

Some of the best places for expats to live in the US may be obvious such as Los Angeles and New York City, but others may surprise you such as Portland, Sarasota, and Austin.

  • Portland, Oregon, offers a laid-back lifestyle for foreigners seeking an easy-going way of life.
  • Sarasota, Florida, attracts many British expats, perhaps seeking a place with better weather. With year-round sunshine and sandy beaches, Sarasota makes for the perfect change of scenery.
  • Austin, Texas, is a very diverse and vibrant capital, attracting more than 100 new residents every day.
  • New York City will never lose its charm. This intoxicating destination continues to attract expats from all over the world hoping to make it in The City.
  • Los Angeles, California, offers a dynamic atmosphere, a contemporary city life, and beautiful beaches to anyone that relocates there.

Popular American Cities for Expats

Trying to figure out where to live in the US? Two of the most popular expat destinations, New York City, New York and Los Angeles, California, are to be expected given their size and international reputation. However, the other three cities on our list—Austin, Texas; Sarasota, Florida; and Portland, Oregon—may be more of a surprise. Although these three mid-size cities are not as cosmopolitan or as well-known as other US metropolises, the benefits they offer foreign residents as just as exciting as relocating to The Big Apple or the City of Angels. Portland and Austin even both have InterNations communities where you can connect and network with fellow expats in the city, exchange tips, and participate in exciting local events and community groups.

Whether you are looking to relocate to a place with year-round warmth or to a city that never sleeps, our list of the best places to live in the US is sure to have something to please everyone.

Portland

Expats moving to Portland will not feel left out in this popular, alternative destination. It will be easy for foreigners to adapt, as locals in Portland are all about the community. Expats will find that this is a comfortable and easy city to live in. It is a place known for its outdoor recreation, progressive vibes, delicious food, and an overall friendly atmosphere. The mid-sized city’s easy-going, laid-back charm seduces expats from all over the world. Additionally, it is an hour’s drive away from both the beach and mountains.

Cultural Life

Portland is an artsy, proudly weird city that embraces non-traditional, eco-friendly lifestyles. If you are a bookworm, you will find plenty of cool bookstores to visit along with tons of local businesses. Themed bars and farm-to-table food culture is huge in this city. Vegans and gluten-free foodies are sure to have plenty of options when eating out. Cycling and public transportation are the top ways to get around.

Size of City

Portland is located in western US. It is 375.5 km squared in area, and it is the largest city in the state of Oregon. It has 647,805 inhabitants.

Work Opportunities

Portland has a booming economy, especially when it comes to start-ups and service-based businesses. If you are in the field of technology, this city is ideal for you. Other industries where foreigners may find job opportunities include:

  • solar panel companies;
  • health;
  • software,
  • sports;
  • nonprofits;
  • microbrewing;
  • advertising;
  • apparel firms.

In this city, networking and who you know is vital for landing a job. Nearly 80% of jobs in this town are landed through word of mouth or personal recommendations. Therefore, it can take some time and a bit of extra effort to find employment. Expats who have newly relocated to this American city are advised to start building up their professional networks via informational interviews, events, etc. as soon as possible.

Cost of Living

In comparison to other top expat destinations like New York City or D.C., one of the problems with Portland is lower salaries. People often find that the minimum wage (while increasing) is not keeping up with the rising cost of living in Portland. This includes soaring rent prices (average 1,945 USD monthly) and home buying options, where the median house price is 620,783 USD. Housing expenses in this city are 79% higher than the national average, and the overall cost of living is 29% higher.

For a single person living in Portland, the average cost per month (excluding rent) is 980 USD. For a family of four, this increases to 3,486 USD per month.

Food and groceries are 15% higher than the national average, and healthcare is 7% higher.

Also, if you have little ones and need to enroll them in preschool, be aware that Oregon is one of the most expensive states for preschool fees.

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Sarasota

This Florida city is a particularly popular destination among British expats. Foreigners are attracted to Sarasota due to its year-round sunshine, fantastic beaches, and dining options, among other things. The city also offers top-rated healthcare, quality hospitals, and great schools for those moving with children.

Cultural Life

The lifestyle in Sarasota is laidback, which makes it an alluring spot for many expats. It can be described as an artsy town with great shopping. Sarasota is referred to as the state’s “Cultural City.” It offers plenty of events and performances, including a blues and jazz festival, cook-offs, film festivals, and more.

For those who are more active, Sarasota also has a fantastic sports culture too. Here you can partake in watersports, golf, and tennis.

Size of City

This small city is found on the east coast of Florida in southern US. Sarasota is 65.31 km squared and has a population of 56,994.

Work Opportunities

Sarasota is close to major hubs such as Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, which makes it ideal for various work opportunities. The entire state of Florida also does not charge income tax, which leaves you with more money in your pocket. This, in particular, is undoubtedly an enticing reason for foreigners to settle here. For work opportunities in this strong local economy and great job market, make sure to look into the following sectors:

  • healthcare;
  • aerospace and aviation;
  • agriculture;
  • manufacturing;
  • hospitality and tourism;
  • insurance;
  • telecommunications;
  • education;
  • automotive;
  • accounting and financial services;
  • supermarkets and grocery stores;
  • human resources.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Sarasota is 9% higher than the national average. Yet, affordable housing (which is 2% higher than the national average) and cheap rent are some of the main reasons this is a top destination among expats. Housing will, nevertheless, be the most considerable expense. The median house price in Sarasota is 264,500 USD. Utility bills are also 6% higher than the national average. Food and groceries are also 20% higher, and healthcare is 17% higher. Nevertheless, Sarasota is generally cheaper than other neighboring areas in the state.

Austin

Given that Austin is home to more than 300 parks and has fantastic weather nearly year-round, it is no wonder why foreigners choose this iconic American city to settle down. More than 100 people move to Austin each day, and there is no sign of this tapering off. It has been predicted that by 2030, the area could grow by more than 80%. Expats from all over will quickly integrate and feel right at home, as the Texan capital is an incredibly diverse city.

For expats with children, you will find a broad range of schooling options for kids. Austin has 29 public school districts, 27 charter school districts, and more than 100 private schools. It is home to the University of Texas and 26 other public and private universities and colleges.

Cultural Life

There is a strong community feel in Austin, and this is one of the many reasons expats move to this unique and friendly city. Austin is the live music capital of the world and has a vibrant arts scene. Outdoor activities are a significant part of the cultural lifestyle here. Another interesting fact that makes this city special is that it is a liberal bubble in a sea of conservative Texas.

Size of City

Austin is in the American South and is the capital of Texas. It is 704 km squared, with a population of 950,715.

Work Opportunities

Austin is a computing and technology hub, so if this is your field, this city could be the best choice for you. Facebook, Dell, IBM, Google, Samsung, and many others have offices in this capital.

If you are not in tech, there is still a very promising job market for highly skilled expats. Other significant industries in Austin to consider include:

  • entertainment;
  • healthcare;
  • education;
  • business;
  • engineering;
  • government.

Workers can expect to receive an average weekly wage of around 1,116 USD, or an average annual salary of 51,596 USD.

Cost of Living

The median price for a home in Austin is 407,400 USD. Rental prices for a one-bedroom are around 1,190 USD. Without rent, a family of four can expect to pay 3,062 USD per month, while a single person in the city will spend 861 USD in monthly costs. Housing expenses in Austin are 2% higher than the national average, but the general cost of living is 3% lower. This includes grocery prices, which are 12% lower than the national average, and healthcare, which is 1% lower. Utility bills are also 12% lower than the country average.

If you wish to enroll your children in a private high school, expect to pay 10,757 USD per year in tuition fees.

New York City

Often referred to as simply The City, New York is not for the faint of heart. Life in this complex metropolis is fast-paced, challenging, costly, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Moving to the city is undoubtedly a smart career move. As the saying goes, if you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. You will find more entertainment, culture, and city life than you can possibly take in.

Cultural Life

“The cultural capital of the world”­—with such a title, explaining the city’s supply of cultural and artistic activities feels redundant. The city is home to the biggest artistic movements and productions, both past and present, of music, dance, theatre, and visual arts.

The city is incredibly multicultural, with the expat community making up almost half of its population. NY’s ethnic diversity certainly contributes to this plethora of art forms and cultural diversity, which is precisely what makes this vibrant city one of the most coveted destinations in the world.

Size of the City

New York City has an area of 302.6 square miles (783.8 km squared), and a population of 8.6 million. It is the most populated city in the United States.

Work Opportunities

New York’s economy and job market revolve around the following industries:

  • financial services;
  • media and communication;
  • healthcare;
  • real estate;
  • professional and technical services, such as accountants, mechanics, marketers;
  • retail trade;
  • manufacturing;
  • information technology;
  • education.

This city is the personification of industrious spirit. People here are tough and competition is fierce, no matter your sector. Don’t expect much work-life balance if you want to succeed here.

Jobs in NY pay well, and they should, considering the city’s high cost of living. Working in New York pays an average of 74,000 USD a year.

Cost of Living

NYC is the most expensive city in the United States and one of the ten most expensive in the world.

A single person’s monthly costs are around 1,100 USD a month, not including rent. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center will cost you 3,100 USD, while a three-bedroom apartment is closer to 6,100 USD. Choosing to live outside the city center will significantly reduce your housing costs. A one-bedroom apartment costs approximately 2,000 USD, and a three-bedroom apartment is around 3,600 USD.

If you want to buy a home instead of renting one, be warned: NYC has the most expensive housing market in the US. One square foot costs an unbelievable 1,300 USD (14,000 USD per square meter). Utilities cost, on average, 126 USD a month, plus 60 USD for internet.

Getting around in New York by public transportation costs 120.50 USD a month. Taxi fares start at 2.90 USD, and an additional 1.86 USD for every kilometer.

Education in NY is also costly. International schools’ annual fees are close to 20,000 USD a year, while preschool should cost 770 USD a month.

Los Angeles

You may know it for its long palm trees, sultry beaches, and the infamous Hollywood sign, but Los Angeles has a lot more than that to offer. The city’s dynamic atmosphere coupled with its growing tech and science industries continue to make it a preferred destination for expats. Find out what you should expect of the city’s size, cultural life, cost of living, and work opportunities in this article.

Cultural Life

If you want an alluring and vibrant cultural life, L.A. will not disappoint you. This city has one of the richest, most diverse cultural and artistic scenes in the US, if not the world. You will find the biggest concentration of museums per capita in the world here, the headquarters of giant film studios, and endless options to try diverse cuisine.

Expats make up a big part of the resident population, which contributes to the overall multicultural atmosphere of the city. You will find some aspects to be less glamorous, however. Housing can be so expensive it is contributing to the city’s growing homeless population. You will also find competition in L.A.’s job market to be fierce, so be prepared to hone and showcase your best skills.

Size of the City

The city of Los Angeles is the most populated in California, and the second most populated in the US. It has 3.7 million residents in an area of 486.67 square miles (1,260 square kilometers).

Work Opportunities

Los Angeles’s most solid industries are:

  • healthcare;
  • retail;
  • hospitality;
  • manufacturing;
  • scientific and technical services;
  • education;
  • entertainment.

You will find other industries booming, such as the aerospace industry, bioscience, and fashion.

Competitiveness in the Los Angeles job scene is comparable to that of New York. A significant part of the workforce takes up freelance work along with their full-time job.

To live comfortably in the city, expect to make around 74,000 USD a year, which is the average salary.

Cost of Living

A comfortable lifestyle in Los Angeles can take quite the toll on your earnings. You should expect a single person’s costs to amount to 965 USD a month without rent.

Housing will take up the biggest part of your expenses. Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs around 2,200 USD, while a three-bedroom apartment is closer to 4,000 USD. Buying instead of renting is only for a select few. Homes here cost almost 745 USD per square foot. Utilities are around 125 USD and internet costs 62 USD a month.

If you are enrolling children in preschool or kindergarten, be prepared for a hefty monthly bill. The minimum you would pay a month for private preschool is 800 USD, but it can go up to 1,500 USD. Tuition fees for international school costs an average of 22,000 USD a year.

A monthly transportation pass in L.A. costs up to 100 USD. If you plan on driving in L.A., know that gas is quite cheap, at 1 USD per liter. You can buy a new mid-range car for 22,000 USD.

Updated on: February 04, 2020

All about the US

Understand the process of relocating to the US by reading our practical guide on moving to the US. We discuss the requirements you need to meet and the steps you need to take for your transition. From determining what visa you need to your first encounter with the US tax system, our guide covers all you need to know for a successful move.

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