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.
(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).
(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-fil–A 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.”
(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.”