Coming to America: Relocation Tips from the (street) wise.

We’ve done it. 26 (and counting!) of our portfolio companies have done it. Maybe you could do it too. Here are our top tips for your re-location to the US of A — the practical and the obscure. Thanks to the Conversocial and Big Health team as well as each of the members of Octopus Ventures USA Team for their unique insights.

Photo by Nicole Harrington


  • Learn to say ‘water’ in an American accent (soft T). This will help a lot at restaurants.
  • Get Global Entry. This gives you TSA pre-approval which means priority access through immigration and security. It costs $100 + £42 and takes a simple interview at a US embassy. Well worth it.
  • Bank account, phone, SSN (Social Security Numbers). The Golden Trio to get you access to living and getting paid.
  • Seamless. It’s the JustEat equivalent for takeaways. Essential.
  • Venmo or Cash App for instant cash transfers. “I literally got laughed at for getting cash out. “What are you going to use it for?’ was the incredulous question.
  • Set up in a co-working space: WeWork; Spacious; The Wing; Knotel; the Neue Collective; AG collective. They put on events so you should meet some good folks.
  • When you read out a number on the phone, people generally don’t give any verbal confirmation that they’ve heard a string of numbers, which can be confusing at first.
  • Chip & pin and contactless payments haven’t quite landed yet so don’t be shocked when people take your credit card to the back room or check your credit card for fraudulent payments.
  • It’s not weird to walk into a bar alone and chat to strangers — just as much as people will strike up conversations with you in a bar or even in the street.
  • If you’re in a rush order an Uber and a Lyft and see which one gets you a closer car. No fee if you cancel within 2 minutes.
  • 1st floor is the Ground Floor.
  • Downsize everything other than your budget — which needs to be upsized!

New York City

  • StreetEasy app — great for initial apartment hunting.
  • Via, Uber, Juno, Lyft AND a Metrocard for longer journeys. Although Yellow Cabs can be quicker to flag.
  • Ear-covering hat and solid winter coat plus snow-proof boots for winter.
Photo by Andre Benz
  • A friend with a house in the Hamptons, Fire Island, Montauk for summer weekends!
  • Subway cars have a/c in summer… but the platforms don’t.
  • Comfortable walking shoes and the courage to jaywalk.
  • Blocks — Walking a street (north/south) takes about a minute; walking an avenue (east/west) is about 3 minutes.
  • The lingo — HOUSE-ton; ‘The City’ ‘The Bridge’ ‘Downtown’ ‘Uptown’ ‘The 4’ ‘The L’ (train/subway not tube or metro); waiting ‘ON’ line.

San Fransisco

  • Craigslist — not just apartments but furniture. Given how transient the population is you can always pick up brand new CB2/Crate & Barrel for half price. Pay with Venmo then use Lugg to go get it for you.
  • Clipper card in San Francisco for BART and Muni (the much-underused tram/tube system) …it’s even good on ferries to Sauselito. Caltrain down the bay.
  • Never leave the house without a jacket. Weather changes frequently from sunshine to fog, and there can be a 10 degree spread between neighbourhoods. East Bay (Oakland) is reliably warmer than SF.
  • The lingo — San Fransisco = The City, SF, San Fran…never Frisco. SV = South Bay, the peninsula, the valley. Although the valley can also mean the central valley and the south bay is known just as “the bay”
Photo by Umer Sayyam
  • On the weekend, get out of the city. Everyone’s squeezed into the 7x7, and escapes on the weekend to get fresh air, particularly north to Marin. Outdoor stuff is a major social activity. It’s pretty normal to “go on a hike” (a walk) with someone you barely know. Bolinas or Pacifica for surfing, Mount Tam for hiking, camping or cycling
  • Get ready to spend more on everything than you thought possible. If you want a laugh, go to Bi-Rite and take a look at some of their price tags.

Want some help asking the right questions to help your business to succeed? Get in touch with our experienced team at Octopus Ventures.