‘How exactly do you pump gas?’ And 10 other thoughts since moving to Charlotte from New Jersey.

Jersey Shore- Image by Deanna Drogan

I moved to Charlotte from New Jersey when I was seven years old and at first, my family felt like foreigners coming to a new land. The overall atmosphere was different, the people were different and even the food was different. Now, we could not see ourselves living anywhere else, but I am not going to lie and tell you it wasn’t a transition.

Here are 11 thoughts that have crossed my mind since moving from what they call “the armpit of America” (I beg to differ) to the Carolinas:

(1) How exactly do you pump gas? 

Up in Jersey we don’t pump our gas, we pump our fists! Okay, so that was painfully not funny. But in all seriousness, if you didn’t know, New Jersey is now the only state where it is actually illegal to pump your own gas. According to the New York Times on January 1 of this year, Oregon, the only other state with this wacky law, loosened its gas restrictions.

Last summer, my cousin from NJ stayed with my family in Charlotte and watching her try to pump gas for the first time was comical. Though, it did get old pretty fast when I suddenly became her gas instructor and was forced to accompany her on any trip to the gas station to fill up.

(2) I thought “sir” and “ma’am” were derogatory terms… 

Growing up in New Jersey, the words sir and ma’am did not exist in my social circle’s vocabulary, unless they were joking around. In fact, as a kid I even grew up calling my friends’ parents by their first names (large gasp). Moving to Charlotte, that quickly had to change, unless I wanted to be known as the demon child of the South.

(3) Where did all the diners go?

Okay so don’t get me wrong, North Carolina has an endless number of delicious places to get breakfast/brunch, but I will say I do miss a good ole’ fashioned diner. Being home to the largest diner manufacturer in the world, the Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company, NJ holds a sketchy looking diner on almost every corner — and typically the sketchier looking, the better. A trip to a diner with my grandpa to enjoy a classic egg sandwich on a bagel and staring at myself in those tacky mirrored ceilings used to make for the perfect Saturday morning.

Taylor gang is on its game today #njdiners #topsdinernj #topsdiner #foodandwine

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(4) If I have to explain to people one more time that we are nothing like the Jersey Shore cast…

“Oh so like Snooki and all of them, right?” Absolutely not. Don’t get me wrong, Jersey has its fair share of the wife-beater-wearing, hair-gel-abusing, hardly understandable natives, but typically we blend into the South fairly well. I will say that I typically get caught when I say the word orange. I will faithfully pronounce it “are-inj” until the day I die.

(5) Do I really have to settle for Papa John’s pizza?

No offense to my extended family, but this could have been the hardest part about leaving NJ and heading down South. This may be up for debate, but there is simply nothing like a good slice of New York or New Jersey pizza. Typically thin crusted with fresh mozzarella and crispy basil, and baked to perfection — I would almost say it was hard to find a bad piece of pizza in Jersey. This transition was difficult as first, but over the years with new pizza places in Charlotte such as Inizio, or Desano, my family is able to get our delicious pizza fix without driving miles away.

(6) I am just gonna run over to Waw… I mean QT 

Anyone I know from the north is typically team Wawa when it comes to convenient stores or gas stations. Maybe it’s sad that a convenience store used to get me so excited, but whenever I would see that yellow, little bird logo, I would want to stop. There is simply nothing like a hot Wawa sandwich for a long road trip. However, it is hard to compete with a good soft pretzel from QT (shh don’t tell my family).

Wake up and smell the ☕️

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(7) Bye bye ocean, hello lake?

And I thought leaving behind the pizza would be hard… If you are a beach addict like me who was used to driving only a couple minutes to bask in the sun with feet buried in flour-like sand and gazing at a sparkly, blue ocean view, Charlotte may lack for you in the beach department. Unfortunately the closest beach is over three hours away, making a quick beach day become a beach vacation. At first being opposed to the idea of spending a day at the lake instead, I have found that both Lake Wylie and Norman do have their fair shares of beauty and fun.

(8) Wait…people can actually be this nice?

It is always interesting now traveling back to NJ and seeing the difference in customer service. It is common to visit a grocery store up north and have your store clerk give you your receipt and quite possibly a dirty look. However, in the South typically your sweet store clerk gives you a an in depth interview about your life story behind the counter. This, of course, is not true of everyone.

(9) Holy Chick-filA on every corner

Blessings do come in all shapes and sizes, even if that is in the shape of a nugget. I had never even heard of a Chick-fil-A until probably middle school. Jersey has them now (spread out), but in the South, Chick-fil-A’s are almost as common as trees — and I love it. I am a northern girl who loves sweet tea, but of course had to transition from calling it “iced tea.”

Now the only question is…which sauce? 📷: @girlwiththecurl21

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(10) Since when did “what” become a curse word?

I remember the first time I watched my friend get grounded for saying “what” to her mother and my nervous, confused seven-year-old brain spent hours trying to analyze what exactly she did wrong — I couldn’t figure it out! Believe it or not, there is a huge culture change that takes places when moving from the north to the South.

(11) I never want to leave this place.

I will forever be a Jersey girl at heart, but after 14 years spent in the South, I really could not see myself living anywhere else. NJ will always be my first home, but Charlotte has stolen my heart. Maybe it is the genuine, sweet people, maybe it’s my new love for Southern food, maybe it’s the beautiful atmosphere, maybe it indeed is, Chick-fil-A.

Whatever it is, I can say that I am proud to be a Charlottean — even though I will never, under any circumstance, say “y’all.”  


  1. Although I no longer live in North Carolina, I still start my day at the office reading a couple news stories, as well as checking a few Charlotte Blogs to see what’s going on in the area. I used to always get gas over near the Manor Theater (across from Boston Market I believe) outside of Uptown at a small gas station where they would always come out and pump gas for their customers. They would also clean your windshield. The good ol days!

  2. Hi Deanna

    We are moving from Gladstone (near Chester), NJ to Charlotte

    Your piece is spot on and

    Even though we lived in Greenville, NC for years we had forgotten how much different it is in the South

    Plueral of yawl is all yawl — no one uses youse guys — a line at Starbucks may involve the person in front of you discussing their family, kids, jobs, etc and the line moves so sloooow — and Charlotte makes the tailgaters in NJ look laid back but I guess this is NASCAR area

    We are setting up a Art Glass Studio and Gallery at 438 Atando Ave — grand opening in September but we are setting it up now — stop by some time and have a NJ peach or tomato with us

    The Pfeifers

    • Came across this post. I know it’s from a while back! My husband and I are considering moving to Charlotte. We live in Gladstone, NJ which is why this caught my attention. How do you like it there?? Any advice?

  3. After a year, I still can’t seem to call it Uptown. A downtown is a downtown all over the world, no matter what hill it’s on.


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