Living in Houston

American Culture



  • Shake hands when you meet a person for the first time
  • Americans like when people smell nice and look nice – just say thank you if you receive a compliment
  • Do not be late for any event; Apologize if you are late.
  • Respect personal space – don’t stand too close
  • Treat everyone equally
  • Do not ask questions about religion, income, marriage status, age, or politics
  • You can call your teacher by their first name at BEI
  • You can make new friends
  • Americans do not negotiate price unless you are buying BIG items such as a car or house
  • International students need to obey U.S. laws
  • If you get a ticket from the police, pay your fine right away


Once you arrive in Houston, one of the first things you’ll want to do is open a bank account.

Checking accounts allow you to deposit and withdraw money often and are a great way to pay your monthly bills.  When you open a checking account, it usually comes with checks and a bank card, which can be used as your Debit/ATM card to make purchases. You will need to take several documents when you go to the bank to open an account.  Check with the specific bank about what they need, but in general, you will need Passport, Enrollment Verification Letter from BEI, Form I-20, two proofs of Residency in the US (lease agreement, electric bill, etc.). When you visit the bank, be sure to ask all the questions that are important to you, such as: What fees does the bank charge? Are other services included when I open the account? These banks are nearby BEI’s campus.

  • Bank of America
    5348 Westheimer Road
    Houston, TX 77056
  • Chase Bank
    5884 Westheimer Road
    Houston, TX 77057
  • Wells Fargo Bank
    5219 Richmond Ave.
    Houston, TX 77056

Cost of Living

Houston’s Cost of Living is significantly less than other metropolitan cities in the United States. Despite being the 4th largest city in America, and having a population of over 6 million, the cost of living is Houston is 10% less than the national average. In fact the cost of housing is even 22% less than the national average. It is possible to enjoy great entertainment and activities, while being able to afford necessities. You can really stretch your dollar and enjoy a great life if you choose to move, work, or study in Houston.

Driver License

If you wish to drive a motor vehicle, you will need a Texas driver’s license. Please go online to or find your local DPS office. Some applicants may need to complete IMPACT certification before taking their driving test. If the applicant is younger than 25 years old then they must take a driver safety course before applying for the license. F-1 Students need to bring Passport, I-20, I-94, DPS Letter from BEI, two documents with your name and home address, for example electric bill, bank statement, or lease agreement. Foreign nationals may drive with a valid, unexpired driver’s license from another U.S. state or country for ONLY up to 90 days after moving to Texas.


Food & Fun

Everything is bigger in Texas, especially the food. Houston is home to over 10,000 restaurants representing 70 different types of cuisines and cultures. Whatever you are in the mood to eat, Houston has either a restaurant or supermarket for it. Enjoy traditional Texas BBQ; Grab a bowl of Pho in Chinatown; or enjoy an elegant evening at some of the most culturally refined and sophisticated venues in the country. Check out these websites to learn more about restaurants and food events in Houston. “Space City” also enjoys a variety of entertainment, cultural and adrenaline-pumping events. Every week, there are concerts, sporting events, and arts. Houstonians also love to get outside and enjoy activities like bicycling, volleyball, and jogging in the many parks around the city. BEI students can take advantage of trips, and student activities every week. We go to waterparks, dancing, the movies, etc. Find other activities in Houston using the links below.

Health Insurance

If you are entering the US on an F1 visa, it is a good idea to have proof of health insurance while you study at Bilingual Education Institute.  In many countries, health care expenses are covered for residents.  However, in the United States, individuals are responsible for these expenses themselves.  Medical expenses can cost thousands of dollars.  A good insurance policy gives you access to excellent medical facilities and offers protection against expensive costs of health care.

Option 1:

Purchase health insurance from a private company in the United States.

BEI does not mandate which company you use.  There are many options for international students with plans as low as $40/month.  Here’s one company that many of our students prefer.

Option 2:

Bring a health insurance policy from your home country.

With this option, students may need to pay their medical bills by themselves first, and then get reimbursed later when they return to their home country.

Metro Q Card

Once you arrive in Houston, one of the first things you’ll want to do is figure out transportation.

Houston’s bus system, “Metro” is one of the most commonly used ways to get around.

For convenience, frequent riders can use the Metro Q Card. This card is more like a prepaid card. You can put in as much money as you want in it. In order to purchase the Q card you will need to request a BEI enrollment verification letter and bring your ID.

Where to buy?

  1. Online:
  2. Mobile App: On the mobile app you can purchase digital tickets using your debit or credit card and show the QR code to the bus driver and/or fare inspectors. The app is available for both iOS & Android devices. Q-Ticketing App on Google Play | Q-Ticket on the App Store
  3. In-Person: Take your BEI Enrollment Verification Letter to one of the participating locations.  Nearby locations include:
    • Fiesta Mart
      6200 Bellaire Blvd,
      Houston, TX 77081
    • HEB
      5895 San Felipe St.
      Houston, TX 77057
    • Metropolitan Transit Authority – METRO
      1900 Main St.
      Houston, TX 77002


Welcome to the USA! Your safety is very important to us. We think Houston is very safe, however, it is always important to take precautions. Please make sure you follow these simple rules for your security:

Observant of your surroundings:

It is very important to stay “alert” and observant of your surroundings. Wherever you are travelling, you should always observe your surroundings to be aware of who is walking behind or in front of you.

Night Time Out:

It is advised not to walk alone at night. Try and avoid it as much as possible. If it is absolutely necessary make sure to walk in groups or pairs.


Please always beware of ‘Crimes of Theft’. Make sure never to leave your personal belongings (wallets, purse, cellphone, laptops, books etc.) unattended. Don’t walk away, as it only takes a second for someone to steal your belongings. This rule is true for cars as well. Never leave wallets, purses, laptops, cellphones, and passport visibly on your seat while you leave your car to go into a store.

Personal Information:

Your personal information is your prized possession. Identity theft is when Credit cards, ID cards, Driver’s license, Passports are stolen. Never give out information over the phone or through emails. There are many scams of people pretending to be the IRS, FBI, etc. Always keep copies of your passports, visa, I-94, I-20 and other important documents.
Be happy and be safe always!!

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