Is America a country or a business?

The United States is the third largest country in the world and is made up of a mixture of large urban areas and beautiful, sparsely populated natural areas. Because of the immigrants who came to America since the 17th century, among other things, the USA consists of a colorful mix of cultures from all over the world.

The country is overwhelming: it's all about size. The supermarkets z. B. are huge, portions of food are very large and the skyscrapers are "huge". Americans think big and anything seems possible. The United States is not called the land of opportunity for nothing. The "American Dream", the diversity and contrasts between nature and culture make the USA a very popular holiday destination.

facts and figures

CapitalWashington D.C.
total area9,826,657 km2 (about 27x as big as Germany)
population327,774,344 (as of: 2018)
religionChristian: 79.8%, Jewish: 1.4%, Muslim: 0.6%
Time difference5 to 10 hours earlier
Travel time8 to 12 hours of flight time
electricity110V (plug adapter recommended)
Life expectancyMen: 74.4 years, women: 80.0 years
Obesity66.7% of the population is overweight
tap watersafe to drink


The USA initially consisted of 13 states. In the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 states were added, so that the country now consists of 50 states. The five largest cities are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia.


The United States is a relatively modern country that doesn't have a lot of old buildings like Italy, for example. This is partly due to the history of the United States. The continent of America was not discovered by Columbus until 1492, as many people believe, but rather Asians probably sailed to America centuries before that. At that time, Indian peoples were already living in America. When the Dutch came to America, they called the country “the new Netherlands” and New York “New Amsterdam”. Because of this, there are still many shops and streets with Dutch names such as: B. (Spanish) Harlem after the Dutch city of Haarlem. In addition, many American surnames sound Dutch, even though the country was only briefly owned by the Netherlands.

On July 4, 1776 (Independence Day) thirteen colonies declared themselves with the declaration of independence (Declaration of Independence) free from colonial power. The English disagreed with this, which led to war between the US colonies and England. After many years of war, the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1787 and George Washington became the first President of the United States.

Other important historical events
Some other important historical events are the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the World Economic Crisis (Great Depression) in the 30s of the last century. In the American Civil War, the northern states were in conflict with the southern states, which resulted in bloody campaigns and battles. During the Great Depression from 1928 to approx. 1938 the USA was in an economic crisis and about a quarter of the working population lost their jobs.

How America got its name
America is named after the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci. He was one of the first to realize that America was not in Asia, but a new continent. He explained this in the letters "Quatuor Americi Vesputii Navigationes" and "Mundus Novus". These travel reports spread through Europe and some map makers then referred to the continent as "Terra Americi" after Amerigo Vespucci. Eventually the name was changed to "America", which also included the southern half of the new continent.

Language and culture

English is the official language in the United States. The alphabet is the same as in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, although some letters and words are pronounced and stressed differently. Since the USA is very large and consists of 50 states, you can also hear other languages ​​such as Spanish, Chinese or French on your trip. In addition, 178,000 people still speak Navajo, the language of one of the many Indian peoples.

public holidays
The United States has quite a few holidays. Please note that on public holidays that fall on Mondays, events often take place on the weekend before.

holidayAuthorities, companies and banks open or closed
January 1st: New Years DayMost companies closed
3rd Monday in January: Martin Luther King DayMost authorities and banks are closed
14th of February: Valentine's dayMost companies open
3rd Monday in February: Presidents ’DayMost authorities and banks are closed
17. March: St. Patrick's DayIrish holiday: most businesses open
First Sunday in March or April: EasterMost companies open>
Last Monday in May: “Memorial day”Most companies closed
4th of July: Independence DayMost companies closed
1st Monday in September: Labor dayMost companies closed
2nd Monday in October: Columbus DayMost authorities and banks are closed
October 31: HalloweenMost companies open
November 11th: Veterans DayMost authorities and banks are closed
4th Thursday in November: ThanksgivingMost companies closed
December 24th: Christmas EveMost companies closed
25 December: ChristmasMost companies closed

Weather and climate

Because the US is so big, it has a variety of climates: from the cold tundra climate to the tropical rainy climate. The northwestern US is mostly wet, while the central part is fairly dry and warm. Therefore, always find out about the weather and climate of the state or place you are traveling to so that you are prepared for all weather conditions.

Best travel time depending on the weather
In terms of weather, spring and fall are generally the best times to travel to the United States. The temperature is then very pleasant in most places. In winter it usually rains more, in summer it is warmer.

Hurricanes and tornadoes
Hurricanes and tornadoes are relatively common in certain parts of the United States. Hurricanes and tornadoes occur from October through November, especially in areas with warm ocean water (like Florida).

Find out about the weather
Because the United States is so big and has different climates, it is difficult to say what the weather and climate in the United States will be like. Therefore, inquire about the local weather in good time. Please also keep in mind that the United States is heavily visited from late December to April. The number of tourists varies from place to place.

Transport and entry

In the USA you can travel comfortably by plane, train, bus, boat, subway, taxi, RV or (rental) car. Public transport usually works well in the cities, but not necessarily outside of the metropolitan areas. If you want to cover a long distance in a short time, the plane is often a good option, as domestic flights are usually cheaper than the bus or train. The subway and taxis are usually cheap and convenient for getting around cities quickly. In general, renting a car is a great way to travel around the United States because it allows you to move around the country freely rather than relying on public transportation. Please note: the German, Austrian or Swiss driver's license is not recognized everywhere in the USA. We therefore recommend that you apply for an international driver's license if you plan to rent a car in the United States.

Immigration service
All Germans, Austrians and Swiss who travel to the USA require a passport, which must be valid at least until the day of departure from the USA. Children and babies need their own passport. Please note: If your children are traveling to the USA with an ESTA (i.e. without a visa), they will need a regular, biometric passport. A German children's passport does not have the chip required for the ESTA and is therefore not sufficient (the Austrian children's passport already has this chip). If you are taking more than 10,000 cash to or from the United States, you must report this to customs. You are not allowed to bring drugs, fruit, meat, seeds, dairy products and lottery tickets into the United States, among other things.

Visa or ESTA
If you are going to travel to the USA in the near future, you will need a visa or an ESTA (meaning ESTA). The ESTA is an alternative to the visa. German, Austrian and Swiss nationals can now visit the USA without a visa by applying for an ESTA (see requirements for the ESTA). The ESTA is valid for vacation and business travel in the USA for a maximum of 90 consecutive days. You can apply for an ESTA in just a few minutes, while a visa application takes a lot more time and money. If you do not meet the requirements for the ESTA, you can still apply for a visa.
Read more about the ESTA


In the US, dollars are used to pay for, rather than euros. The value of the US dollar fluctuates widely. Always find out how many dollars you will get for € 1 before you leave. On February 1, 2018, you received about 1.20 dollars for € 1.

Debit card (bank card with Maestro or V-Pay symbol)
In general, you can pay with your German, Austrian or Swiss debit card, as this card mostly contains the Maestro logo, which is also used in the USA. Do you not have a debit card with a Maestro, but only with the V Pay logo? It can then be more difficult to pay by card or withdraw cash in the US. Please note that you will often pay a fee when you withdraw money. Also make sure that you have to activate the use of your debit card in the USA often before you leave. Banks have introduced this rule to make transactions outside Germany, Austria or Switzerland more secure. Please contact your bank for more information.

Credit card
We recommend that you take a credit card with you on your trip. In the USA, a lot is paid by credit card (and of course cash). This way, you don't have to carry as much cash with you, which makes your trip and stay safer.

An important difference to Germany, Austria and Switzerland is that most Americans tip around 15 percent if the service in the restaurant is good. The wages of restaurant workers are very low as they are expected to be offset by tips.

Travel and safety information

The current travel warnings and safety information for the USA can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office (Germany) or the BMEIA (Austria).

Make sure that you always have all your travel documents (e.g. your driver's license and passport) with you. We recommend that you make a digital copy of these documents so that you can print them out in case you lose them.