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As the world’s third most populous nation and one of its superpowers from recent history to the present, the United States of America has played a significant role in shaping the state of the world today.
A nation of immigrants, it remains predominantly populated by those of European descent — approximately 77% of the population — but Hispanic and Asian populations have been the fastest growing groups in recent years. Ethnic diversity continues to be a defining characteristic of the country.
Geographically, at more than 9.8 million square kilometres and occupying 40% of the North American continent and several island territories, all told, it is the third largest country worldwide. With so much territory, its renowned diversity extends to nature, as it is also one of the planet’s 17 mega-diverse nations, hosting an astounding array of natural and geographical features.
While the U.S. has the second largest manufacturing sector in the world, its economy is now mostly focused on post-industrial service and knowledge economies.
Virtually every kind of housing abounds overall in the United States, but many aspects, including cost and availability, vary widely depending on type and location. American housing trends remain largely shaped by the phenomenon of suburban developments and other extra-urban planned communities that tend not to possess the features of a traditional, centralised town.
Generally, an estate agent is not required to rent, but in certain situations it may make the process easier. Both individuals and agencies rent out property, with large agencies being common, especially in apartment complexes.
All school-aged children have access to public education. Most attend public schools, with roughly 10% attending private. School enrolment procedures vary, so you should contact your school of choice. Age brackets are 5 to 11 for elementary school, 11 to 14 in middle school and 14 to 18 in high school. The U.S. does not have grammar schools, but there are magnet, charter and vocational schools.
Around 25 states house international schools, and scholarships exist for them and private schools. Check with the international school of your choice to learn about which school leaving qualifications they issue.
Public schools must not discriminate against students and parents whose first language is not English.
Given its size and diversity, you can encounter a stunning variety of natural and historical sites, enjoy theme parks, take road trips, visit famous places and experience a wealth of culture with open and friendly social behaviour. The U.S. contains many regional and subcultures whose diversity is reflected in elements like its cuisine: Western European with heavy Native-American, African, Mexican and Asian influences.
Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage, and there are local and regional specialities of all types of spirits. You must be at least 21 and be able to provide identification to drink alcohol. State and local governments also create their own alcohol laws, and their differences can be quite extreme.
One of the most surprising facts about the U.S. is that it has no official language, though some states have established one. English and Spanish are most widely spoken.
The U.S. measurement system doesn’t use the Metric system but the Imperial system: feet and inches to measure length and pounds for weight. Temperature is measured by the Fahrenheit.
It is important to know about tipping: a 15-20% tip is a social obligation in restaurants, salons and spas, food delivery, taxis, and other services. Restaurants often automatically add gratuity for large groups. Tipping is also socially obligatory in bars, where a dollar tip per drink is the norm. You may see communal tip jars in places like cafes, but these are optional.
Also important is arranging your health care. In the United States, medical services are extremely expensive — often cost-prohibitively so — without insurance. What’s more, significant changes to U.S. healthcare laws by the government have been ongoing since 2010, creating additional complexities for those who must obtain or change their health insurance or method of care. If your employer provides health insurance, the process may not be so difficult, but if you must seek insurance on your own, you might want to do so with assistance from an expert.
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