So you want to move to the Garden State, do ya? Let me be the first to congratulate you on your wise decision! New Jersey is an overlooked gem of mid-Atlantic culture, food, and entertainment. If there’s one thing we New Jersians love, it’s feeling like we have our own exclusive club that no other state understands. Here are some things to know about moving to New Jersey that you probably won’t experience until you get here.
1. Your home is identified by your exit on the Parkway
If you ever get lost in New Jersey, all you have to do is go far enough in any direction and you’ll probably find a sign for the Garden State Parkway. The Parkway is at the heart of NJ driving culture, acting as a universal hub that we can all use to easily determine where things are. If you’re talking to someone who’s from a different part of Jersey than you are, just tell him or her which Parkway exit you take to get home. They will completely understand.
2. Sports are complicated
New Jersey is divided between New York’s sphere of influence and Philadelphia’s sphere of influence. As a result, the teams we root for are completely different from region to region. Those who live in North and Central Jersey are in Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Devils, Rangers, and Knicks territory. Folks from South Jersey are in Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and 76ers territory. If you’re ever taking a road trip to the other end of the state, don’t make the mistake of wearing your favorite team’s apparel in enemy territory—especially if you’re a Mets, Phillies, Giants, or Eagles fan!
3. There’s a fierce pork roll vs. Taylor ham debate
Pork roll/Taylor ham is a pork-based processed meat product that usually comes in breakfast sandwiches (think of it as extra salty SPAM). While this food item is popular throughout the mid-Atlantic region, New Jersey is the only state that heavily disputes its name. Most folks in South and Central Jersey call it pork roll, while most Northerners dub the the breakfast item Taylor ham. Don’t make the mistake of calling pork roll/Taylor ham by its “wrong” name in the town you’re in. You might end up smack dab in the middle of a hotheaded argument. Then again, we New Jersians get hotheaded over just about everything.
4. We live and breathe Wawa
If you’re wondering, “What the heck is Wawa?” you’re not alone. Although this convenience store has locations in many northeast states, it’s a powerhouse in New Jersey. And we love it. From make-your-own sandwiches to an unrivaled selection of snacks and candy to 24-hour gas stations, there’s no reason not to love Wawa. It might not make sense to you now, but just wait until you’re starving and need to make a “Wawa run” at 3am.
5. We don’t pump our own gas—and we’re proud
New Jersey is known for being the only state in the US where it’s illegal to pump your own gas. What you might not know is that we take quite a bit of pride in that fact. It’s mind-blowing to me that most non-Jersians have probably never uttered the phrase, “fill it up regular.” We love being able to stop for gas without having to get out of the vehicle, unless of course we’re at Wawa and it’s time for a snack!
6. New Jersey pizza is on par with New York pizza
Although this fact offends many pizza-loving foodies, it’s true. New Jersey is known for it’s terrific pizza and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as New York pizza. NYC may boast a reputation for producing the world’s best pizza, but we learn from the best—and we’ve been doing so for over 100 years! No matter where you live in the Garden State, I’m willing to bet you’ll find a kickass pizzeria less than 10 miles from your house.
7. Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi are living legends
These Jersey natives make us proud to call our state home. Springsteen and Bon Jovi have been so popular over the last 40 years or so that they have completely overshadowed a previous NJ superstar—Frank Sinatra. If you ever see Bon Jovi or the Boss in concert in New Jersey, you might just lose your hearing. And if you’re not a fan of these guys, it’s best to keep those opinions to yourself.
8. New Jersey is so…weird
Go into any NJ bookstore and you’ll probably find a Weird NJ travel guide. This publication series lists the odd, fascinating, and downright scary urban legends our state is known for. From the Evil Clown of Middletown to the New Jersey devil, there are a ton of bizarre staples to explore. Around Halloween, it’s common for kids to go “Weird New Jerseying” by our state’s creepy landmarks.
9. We love the Shore, but not the traffic getting there
Beaches down the Jersey Shore have something for everyone—great beaches, delicious food, awesome bar culture, cool boardwalk games, and a heck of a lot more. However, your trip to the beach could be the bane of your existence. Driving down the shore on a sunny weekend morning is the equivalent of driving to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. And if you’ve never driven through a traffic circle before, be prepared for a rude awakening. Don’t even get me started on jughandles. Even after you make it to the beach, there’s a good chance you’ll have to scavenge for parking. Try to get to the shore during non-peak hours for the best experience.
10. We’re a small but diverse state
Where else can you get mountains, beaches, farmland, cities, and suburbs all in one place? New Jersey may be the 5th smallest state in the country, but it is one of the most diverse. North Jersey is totally unique from Central Jersey, and Central Jersey is totally unique from South Jersey. The accents are different across the state. The food preferences vary wildly. We are a melting pot of different people, but we’re also united by the fact that we’re from the toughest damn state in the Union.