The Ultimate Guide to Moving to California and West Coast USA
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With its vibrant cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, and its outstanding areas of natural beauty including the Grand Canyon and glorious Sierra Nevada mountain range, no wonder West Coast USA is one of the leading destinations for Brits moving abroad and home to over 16 million residents. The area known as the West Coast comprises three pacific lining states; California, Oregon and Washington, California being the most populous. The largest metropolitan area on the West Coast is Los Angeles, home to nearly 4 million people.
Moving to West Coast USA
Choosing a place to live
When choosing a place to live on the West Coast, its worth considering which factors are affecting your decision. A good tip is to list the things that are important to you, such as job opportunities, lifestyle, schools, home size and safety, separating them into two groups; things that are absolutely necessary; and things you’d like but are not ´deal breakers´. This will help you make a more rational decision. If it’s the bright lights of a big city you’re after then downtown Los Angeles, San Francisco or San Diego could be ideal with their exciting 24 hour entertainment culture, fashionable districts and excellent job opportunities. A more family-friendly option is suburban Orange County with its year round beach weather or, if its a more rural and laid back life you’re looking for, then the magnificent forests of Oregon provide the perfect haven for woodland walks and coastal or lakeside weekend retreats.
Moving your possessions
Leaving behind your friends and relatives to moving abroad can be a somewhat daunting experience which can leave you feeling overwhelmed and at times a little lonely. Moving your much-loved personal possessions with you can help ease the emotional strain and ensure you feel right at home as soon as you move in to your new place. Britannia Movers are highly experienced movers of furniture, personal possessions and cars, offering a door-to-door service that ensures your possessions are carefully cared for from the moment they leave your home in the UK to their final destination in America. The service includes customs clearance and arrangement of any necessary accompanying documents. Britannia Movers will even pack your belongings for you, ensuring your prized possessions are expertly handled for the safest and most cost-effective journey possible.
Whilst planning and packing for your trip it´s worth noting that the following items are prohibited from entering the USA.
- Cuban cigars or any Cuban merchandise
- Drugs and drug paraphernalia
- Meat products
- Alcohol-filled sweets and chocolate
- Lottery tickets
- Flick Knives
If you’re bringing your dog or cat into the USA from the UK you’ll be pleased to know that there is no quarantine required as the UK is a ‘rabies free’ country. However, your pet will require certain certificates from your vet confirming vaccinations and good health. The certificates required depend on the state you are entering so make sure you check the relevant government websites for more information a couple of months before you leave. If your pet is too young to be vaccinated then a confinement agreement must be completed.
If you’re flying to your new home, it’s unlikely your pet will be able to travel in the cabin with you unless its very small, (small enough to fit in a box under the seat in front of you on the plane) and will most likely need to travel in the cargo hold. Airline companies also require their own separate certificates that prove that your pet is eligible and in a fit state to fly. The requirements and necessary documents vary from airline to airline so ensure you check the company website carefully before you travel.
Britannia Movers can help you with all aspects of pet transportation via our affiliate Pet Air, who can support you with all aspects of pet transportation, including filing the correct documentation and ensuring your pet is cared for and has everything they need for a safe and comfortable journey to their new home.
If you are moving to the USA for over a year and thinking about taking your car or motorbike with you its important to note that it will be subject to U.S. safety standards, bumper standards, and air pollution control (emission) standards after the first year. Most vehicles bought in the UK will need to be modified in order to conform to these standards so be sure to check the relevant government websites for all the details. Britannia Movers are experienced in aiding customers to transport their cars worldwide and will be able to provide you with everything you need for the safe transport of your car, bike or other motor vehicle. We also have a partnership with Autosource, for those looking to buy in the US (or Canada). They can help purchase the car and secure a loan without credit history in the US.
When moving abroad it can be difficult to organise your finances. Opening a temporary international bank account with a worldwide bank such as HSBC whilst still in the UK could minimise the difficulty of managing your money. Once you are settled into your new home you can then assess the various options and credit cards available to you in your local area. It’s important to note that if you are bringing more than $10,000 USD dollars in to the USA you must file Form 4790 with the United States Customs Service and declare your money on arrival. Britannia Movers offer money transfer services through their partner, Currencies Direct to help you find the most efficient and cost effective way to move your money.
Travelling to West Coast USA from the UK
The simplest way to travel from the UK to West Coast USA is by airplane. The largest airport in California is Los Angeles International (LAX). Many airlines fly direct between London and LAX including British Airways, Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and United Airlines amongst others. The journey takes approximately 11 hours.
For those intending on a short stay its good to know that British passport holders can visit the USA without the hassle of organising a Visa through the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). However, please note you must provide details of your trip and intentions online at least 72 hours before you travel. This is known as an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation or ESTA. If you don’t have an ESTA you’ll be refused entry to the USA.
To spend any length of time over 90 days in the USA, you will need a Visa. If you have already been employed by a company with offices in the USA they should be able to arrange this for you.
Living in West Coast USA
California is notorious for its entertainment, film, fashion and music industries as well as health, fitness and tourism. There is also significant growth in other areas including engineering, architecture and construction.
The following table shows typical monthly salaries across a range of industry sectors.
Courier / Delivery / Transport / Drivers
Fitness / Hair / Beauty
Fashion and Apparel
Recreation and Sports
Administration / Reception / Secretarial
Customer Service and Call Center
Import and Export
Law Enforcement / Security / Fire
Advertising / Graphic Design / Event Management
Publishing and Printing
Facilities / Maintenance / Repair
Food /Hospitality / Tourism / Catering
Purchasing and Inventory
Factory and Manufacturing
Construction / Building / Installation
Sales Retail and Wholesale
Accounting and Finance
Science and Technical Services
Electrical and Electronics Trades
Health and Medical
Quality Control and Compliance
Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology
Government and Defence
Teaching / Education
Airlines / Aviation / Aerospace / Defense
Fundraising and Non Profit
Oil / Gas / Energy / Mining
Media / Broadcasting / Arts / Entertainment
Executive and Management
Finding a job in West Coast USA
Online jobs boards such as indeed.com are a great way to find jobs in California and the surrounding states. Another leading website which is now the number one choice for companies looking to recruit, as well as job seekers alike is LinkedIn. Individuals can create an online CV and request recommendations from previous employers and colleagues for their portfolio. Alternatively the jobs section of the local newspaper is still a great way to find employment anywhere in the USA.
The local currency in the USA is the U.S. dollar (USD) which is the most widely used currency in international transactions. U.S. dollars are available in banknote denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100.
Cost of everyday items (L.A.)
Loaf of Bread (white)
Chicken Breasts (1kg)
Sports and Leisure
Monthly Gym Membership
Tennis Court Hire
Eating and drinking out
Restaurants in California can be pricey due to the large number of high-income households in the state. The culture of ‘being seen’ in the right place is also an imperative part of some residents lifestyles, especially those working in the media and entertainment industries. That said there are a huge variety of restaurants available to suit all tastes and pocket sizes. Mexican restaurants are incredibly popular, alongside barbeque and grill style eateries. You’ll also have the chance to sip some of the states delicious and globally respected wines for a low price in your local bar.
Because of the low price of petrol and cars in the USA, combined with the vast stretches of open land, West Coast dwellers rely heavily on cars and their own transport for getting around. The easiest way to get around when you first arrive in your new home, if you decide not to take your car with you, is to hire a car from the multitude of reliable vehicle hire companies based in airports and local towns and cities. If you really don’t want to drive, you do have the option of taking a coach or the train, but be prepared for long monotonous journeys.
Rental prices on residential property in the West Coast of the USA vary greatly depending on the area you are choosing to live. The average price for renting an apartment in California varies from $1,400 USD for a studio apartment to $3,500 USD for a 4 bedroom home. In Washington state the prices are lower from just under $1,000 USD for a studio apartment to $2,500 USD for a 4 bedroom home. Inner city dwellings are often more expensive than the suburbs and can be limited in space.
Whilst English is the official language of California and indeed the rest of the West Coast, 42% of the population learn a separate mother tongue from birth. The main ‘alternative’ language in California is Spanish but there is also a significant number of Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean speakers living there too. In fact over 200 languages are spoken in California, mainly due to the high number of indigenous dwellers and immigration from East Asia.
USA Federal Holidays
-1st January 2014 – New Year’s Day
-20th January 2014 – Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Third Monday of January)
-17th February 2014 – Washington’s Birthday (Third Monday of February)
-25th May 2014 – Memorial Day (Final Monday of May)
-4th July 2014 – Independence Day
-1st September 2014 – Labour Day (First Monday of September)
-13th October 2014 – Columbus Day (Second Monday of October)
-11th November 2014 – Veterans Day
-27th November 2014 – Thanksgiving (Fourth Thursday of November)
-25th December – Christmas Day
Both public and private schools are available for children and teens on the USA´s west coast. Much like the rest of the USA, public schools are reliable and a perfectly adequate option for providing your child with a safe and productive learning environment. Private schools come at a price which will largely depend on the area chosen and if your child will board or stay at home.
Nicknamed the ‘City of Angels’, L.A. is the second most populous city in the USA after New York. With 3,792,621 current residents, Los Angeles is well-known for its Hollywood district, home to millionaire and billionaire actors, film producers, directors, singers and entertainers and is a hugely popular tourist destinations for people from all over the world seeking a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous. Why not visit your favourite celebrity´s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or pose against the backdrop of the infamous Hollywood sign. You could also visit some of the world-renowned film and music museums or even take a guided tour of some of the top celebrity dwellings.
Seattle in Washington is a bustling seaport city which was originally inhabited by native americans for 4,000 years prior to the arrival of the European settlers in 1851. Its fascinating history means that whilst being a modern and cosmopolitan city, deep rooted native american traditions remain in the city’s culture with pow-wows still taking place throughout the year. If that´s not for you, why not visit the Space Needle, with outstanding views of the surrounding cityscape and mountain backdrop or take a trip to visit the first ever Starbucks which opened in Pike Place Market in 1971 and still displays its original signage and features.
Home to the Golden Gate Bridge, an icon of California which is celebrated as one of the Wonders of the Modern World. San Francisco is a bustling city, ripe with interesting attractions and things to see and do. From The Haight, a legendary arts and shopping district to Alcatraz Island, home of the defunct Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, the combination of the historic and nostalgic with modern interest and a buzzing nightlife means San Francisco really is a top ´go to´ destination on the USA´s West Coast and a great place to start your new life, living The American Dream
Napa Valley in California is one of the most famous wine regions in the world as Its warm sub-tropical climate provides the perfect conditions for the growth of delicious fruity grapes. Producing award winning wines year round, Napa Valley is a notorious contestant to some of the great wine regions of France. In fact in 1976, Californian wines beat french wines in a blind tasting known infamously as The Judgement of Paris. A trip to Napa Valley offers the perfect escape from busy city life and with a tour of one of the many famous vineyards in the world, you can also enjoy your own Californian wine tasting experience.
Popular Nearby Destinations
Las Vegas or ‘Sin City’ as it is notoriously referred to is world-renowned for its exciting nightlife, casinos, pop and rock concerts and is home to some of the most luxurious and magnificent hotels on the planet. It is a tourist hotspot and has been depicted in numerous Hollywood blockbusters as the place to forget all your worries and cares and simply have the time of your life. A popular destination for stag dos and also weddings, if moving to the West Coast, Vegas will be on your doorstep situated in the Nevada desert next to California.
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon in Arizona is duly listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and with almost five million visitors each year, it’s not surprising that
it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.
The ideal spot for hiking, animal spotting and of course many a great photo opportunity, the magnitude of this natural phenomenon can only be completely realised when seen for yourself.
The perfect place to take visiting friends and family once you have settled into your new home on the west coast, the Grand Canyon offers a great number of walks, tours, museums and other tourist attractions making it a safe and pleasurable destination for everyone.
The climate in West Coast USA varies greatly from state to state and indeed, city to city. Coastside Californian cities such as San Diego, L.A. and San Fransisco offer a mediterranean climate with warm dry summers, perfect for enjoying the long sandy beaches. In parts of Washington and Oregon a wetter oceanic climate results in more rain throughout the year. However, the winter remains mild allowing for year round outdoor activities. There are also expanses of desert in California and Oregon where mountains have formed a rain shadow. It is in these vast and sparse landscapes that some of the hottest temperatures on earth have been recorded, the highest being 57 degrees celsius.
West Coast Culture
Unlike the fast paced lifestyle of USA’s East Coast, the West Coast is more laid back and relaxed in terms of culture and lifestyle.
Sun, Sea and Surf
Living by a beautiful white sandy beach is something most Californians take for granted, but the feeling of warm sand between your toes and the vast array of exciting beach activities can be a real attraction for those moving from the UK. Whether catching a wave in a world famous surfing hotspot or enjoying a stroll and people watching in Malibu or perhaps even stopping for a quick workout on Muscle Beach, you’re sure to be enchanted by California’s world-renowned beach culture.
Film and the Arts
As the central hub of the American film industry, there are a huge number of interesting cinema and theatrical attractions to amuse residents throughout the week. Such attractions include catching a film premiere, museum exhibition, fashion show, launch party, photography display, poetry reading, unveiling or even an award ceremony.
Due to the mild sub-tropical climate, and also the high demand for healthy foods as part of the desire to look young and fit, fresh fruit and vegetables are relatively cheap in California. Certainly more so than the east coast of America. That said the state is well-known for its in-car dining culture with a vast array of drive-thru fast food restaurants available on the states many highways. Further north along the West Coast in Oregon and Washington, salmon and other seafood dishes are hugely popular and combine with influences from both Native American and Asian style cooking. There is a strong focus on locally produced ingredients in Pacific North West cuisine, which include the likes of berries and other forest fruits, mushrooms and game meats such as moose.
Sports are a huge part of Californian culture, with the state being home to some of America’s most famous professional and college sports teams. The most popular sports include American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey and soccer and matches are regularly enjoyed live at arenas and stadiums or from home on the television. World-renowned basketball team, The Los Angeles Lakers, are perhaps one of Californias most successful teams with a huge 17 titles to their name.
More about West Coast USA…
- At 5912 ft, Kennedy Mine in Jackson is one of the deepest gold mines in the world.
- The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles is the largest outdoor amphitheater in the world.
- Washington state, just like the country’s capital city Washington D.C., is named after George Washington, the first president of the United States of America.
- The name Seattle comes from Sealth, the name of the Indian chief who was in command when white settlers first arrived in the area in 1851.
- Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest lake in the USA and was formed by the collapse of volcano, Mount Mazama.
- The Hollywood Walk of Fame, located on the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street is now home to 2,500 stars, paying homage to the worlds most popular film stars, directors, producers, presenters, musicians and comedians.
- The Grand Canyon has been inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years. However, the first European to visit the area was Spanish born García López de Cárdenas in 1540.
- Some prison cells in notorious high security federal penitentiary, Alcatraz on Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, were just 5ft by 9ft in size which meant prisoners could extend their arms to reach either side of the cell.
- The world´s oldest ship, the Star of India, built in 1863 is currently homeported at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
- All the scenes from the original Twilight film of 2008 were filmed on the West Coast, including Silver Falls State Park Oregon, Mount St, Helens, Washington and Santa Clarita, California.