Philadelphia expat city guide

The city of Philadelphia, in the eastern US state of Pennsylvania, boasts a proud and long history. Its role in the most important events in American history has left a legacy on the city, blending both a strong sense of patriotism and an open acceptance of expatriates.
It’s also one of the financial, economic and cultural centres in the USA, attracting many international corporations and headquarters. It is home to five Fortune 1000 companies and is the eighth largest metropolitan economy in the USA. Many British professionals opt to make an international move to the city every year.
The city has always sat at the forefront of American history. It was formed in 1682 by an English Quaker, William Penn, designed to act as the capital of the then Pennsylvania Colony. During the American Revolution, it was the main meeting place for the Founding Fathers, and here they signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Until 1790, it was the largest city in the country (when New York City overtook it) and it even served as the temporary capital of the country during the construction of Washington DC.
It also has a strong history of immigration. There is a huge ancestral heritage of Irish, Italian and German immigrants, and during the early 20th century, it welcomed a large number of African Americans and Puerto Ricans.

History and culture

There are a large number of historical sites of global importance located in Philadelphia, which are certainly worth visiting. For those interested in the foundation of the United States, the top attractions are Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, which both cater for thousands of tourists every year. Independence National Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there are 67 National Historic Landmarks.
There is a lot of interest here for the scientific community too. The Franklin Institute is a science museum, and centre for scientific education and research that was established in 1824. It is one of the oldest sites of its kind in the country. It’s named after Benjamin Franklin, and his national memorial sits inside. The city is also home to the USA’s first zoo, first hospital and one of the oldest urban parks, Fairmount Park.
Art lovers are no less catered for. The Rodin Museum hosts a huge collection of work by August Rodin – the largest outside of France – whereas the Philadelphia Museum of Art is one of the biggest art museums in the world. You don’t even have to actually visit any of the many museums or galleries to see examples of amazing art. The city has more public art and more murals than any other city in the country.
There is a strong passion for sports in the city, so as an expatriate it’s worth trying to catch a game and support one of the local teams. Whether you prefer baseball or American football, hockey or basketball, every sport is well covered here and there’s a real community vibe in the crowds.

Philly lifestyle

The Philadelphian climate offers warm summers and cold, snowy winters, but is generally mild. This makes it perfect for expatriate families who want to make the most of getting out and about in the city. There are many parks and playgrounds to take advantage of, as well as riverside walks and attractions.
It’s very easy to get around too, with a vast and reliable public transport system. It is regularly voted as one of the top walking cities in the country, with a simple layout and easy navigation. The main city centre is only 25 blocks set between two rivers, all spaced out in a grid street design, interspersed with handy public squares.
If you prefer to get around on two wheels rather than two legs, there is an extensive bike system, with over 400 miles of dedicated bike lanes and over a thousand bikes for hire. Otherwise, public transport includes buses, subway, trolley line and trains.
When you need to stop off for something to eat, there is certainly no shortage of coffee shops, restaurants and cafes. The cuisine is eclectic, thanks to its varied ethnic past. Probably the most iconic street foods are the Philly cheesesteak and soft pretzels, but it goes far beyond fast food. You can find exceptional fine food and dining experiences around the city.
It’s also worth visiting one of the city’s markets to stock up on local specialities, artisan cheese, locally sourced meat and farm groceries.

Family matters

Many expatriates who relocate to Philadelphia for business do so with their families. Often expatriate children attend the public schools – the ones in the most affluent areas of the city are very well regarded and some even offer the International Baccalaureate for continuity of education. There is also a competitive private school system with long waiting lists. These schools are excellent with tight admissions procedures – expatriate families are competing for places with the families of the many diplomats and government officials who live and work in the city.
Finding somewhere to live is a top priority. Thanks to a thorough network of neighbourhoods, no one area feels too vast and there are suburbs to suit every family. Chestnut Hill, for example, has long been associated with Philadelphia’s upper class, and still offers some of the best mansions in the city with excellent schools and a close-knit community feel.
Narberth offers large suburban villas, and you can pick up tasteful colonial mansions in Haddonfield. Swarthmore has a vibrant multi-cultural air and is continually growing in popularity. For expatriates who want to be closer to the city for work, then it’s worth looking at Fairmount or East Falls.
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