Guide to Expat Life in Chicago

So, you’re thinking of moving to Chicago – the well-established “second city” of the United States.
Chicago has it all – culture, history, nightlife, opportunity – and so much more. It shares a lot of similarities with its East Coast sister New York City, but without some of the stresses that accompany life in the Big Apple, including a more affordable cost of living.

Moving to Chicago

The first thing to be aware of when moving to Chicago is the time difference: if you’re moving from the UK, for example, the time difference will be -6 hours (-5 hours during Daylight Savings Time). With a little bit of preparation, this won’t have too much impact on keeping in touch with friends and family at home, but it’s worth being aware of.
If you are moving to Chicago and already have some connections in the city, it will be very helpful to settling in and getting insider advice. However, it’s not essential to know people before moving, Chicagoans are very friendly and welcoming, there will be plenty of opportunities to make friends.
Moving anywhere – especially to a different continent – can be a daunting prospect, but many have done it before you and many will do it after you. Chicago is a very multi-cultural city, so look into expat groups and interest groups that may include fellow expats to make some new friends!


The CTA transport system in Chicago is generally excellent. Like all transport systems, there may be the occasional train or bus delay, but usually, it runs like a charm. If you’re coming from an area that does not have a similar transport system, you will be astounded by how easy it is to get around without a car. As with many large cities, driving in central Chicago gets congested, making the CTA a popular choice.

Residential areas

Deciding on where to live will be an important factor in your move to Chicago. Broadly you can opt to live in the city or in the suburbs. This will really depend on the life you’re looking for. In the city you’ll be close to all the action. It will of course be busier and noisier, but with plenty of parks, beaches and entertainment options you won’t be short of things to do. The suburbs are a commute to the city centre. They are much quieter and suit a more relaxed lifestyle. If you are looking to spend time with your family, away from the city, this could be the option for you. Research the different residential areas, to understand their pros and cons and how well they match the lifestyle you’re looking for and your accommodation budget.

Iconic Landmarks

Expat life in Chicago can be great fun – there’s so much to do. When you get your feet on the ground, there’s no better way to begin assimilating yourself in the culture than by visiting some of the iconic landmarks the Windy City has to offer.
Perhaps the most well-known of these is the Bean at Cloud Gate, which is exactly what you would expect – a huge silver bean! It’s a great meeting place as it’s so easy to find.
There’s a wonderful variety of attractions in Chicago – including Millennium Park, Willis Tower and the Navy Pier to name just a few. It’ll take a while to get around to all Chicago’s great landmarks and parks, which is no bad thing!


The weather is a huge talking point in Chicago. Summers are beautiful – barbecues, festivals, trips to the beach are all par for the course – but the winters can be cold – very cold. Make sure you’re prepared for a 4-month winter, with temperatures much colder than those you’re used to in the UK. If you are prepared for the weather and are someone who is good at adapting to changes in the seasons, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Social Life

It’s not difficult to have a great social life in Chicago. Wherever your interests lay, they will likely be accommodated for in Chicago. Sports, book and film clubs, art galleries – it’s all catered for. Chicago also has a renowned nightlife, with bars open long into the night, so if going out in the evening is an important part of your social life, you’ll have plenty to enjoy.


Chicago is the home of the “deep dish” pizza and the locals are very proud of it – and rightly so, it’s great! Join the locals and find your favourite pizza place – there’s lots to choose from, all offering their own unique slants on the classic Chicago pie formula.
It’s not all pizza though – Chicago has fantastic options for eating out. Whatever cuisine takes your fancy, you won’t be short of choices.

Making the move

When you’re ready to make the move, it is important to work with the right team to make sure your move is smooth and stress free. Choose a reputable moving company with plenty of experience moving customers to the United States and Chicago. If you’re moving from London, the international removals team at Cadogan Tate moves customers to the US every week. You can get in touch with us for advice and a no obligation quote.