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Regional Culture Shock: Moving to New England

Regional Culture Shock: Moving to New England
September 30, 2018

If you are considering a cross country move to the quaint area of New England, here are some highlights and pointers about the culture in the northern most corner of the nation.

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Brace Yourself for a Move to New England

New England. Home of Staples, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Cumberland Farms, and Vineyard Vines, all with their offices based here. Home of famed authors Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, and John Irving. Getting coffee means making a run to Dunkin’ Donuts, because they’re on every street corner. Lobsters can be purchased from the back of a truck, like fruit vendors on the side of the road and Lobster Rolls are all the rage.

Ice cream means getting some Ben and Jerry’s, and your beer from Sam Adams. Water fountains are referred to as bubblers and milkshakes with ice cream are called frappes.

And, of course, there’s the New England Patriots, The Red Socks, The Celtics, The Bruins and the intense New England fans who love them dearly.

Life in New England can be exciting, but culture shock exists even in these northern states.

New England Accents and Terminology

“Get out of the yahd! It’s time for suppah!”

The long “a” sound and the loss of the letter “r” will be strange at first, but you’ll be fishing by the “hahbah” in no time. Here’s an in-depth guide to the New England accent, if you’re looking for it.

And if you’re relocating to New England from the South, tread carefully when using the terms “ma’am” and “sir;” the terms get associated more with age than respect up here.

If there’s one thing a person moving to New England needs to understand about the region’s accents and terminology, it’s the term “wicked.”

The word gets used up here as a synonym for “really” or “very.” It’s not easy to trace the historical path from the word’s original meaning (as in “sinful”) to the current usage employed by New Englanders (“She’s wicked smart” or “Its wicked cold out”).

Considering the region’s history with the supernatural, the term “wicked” in New England can probably be traced back to the Puritans of New England, who seemed to enjoy using the term to accuse one another of witchcraft (“They’re wicked witches! Hang them!”). It’s possible the Puritans really wanted to emphasize just how much of a witch the person they were accusing was, which may have eventually led to the current usage when everyone got tired of being put on trial every other week. (“No, judge, I’m not a witch. Henry just doesn’t like my tree shedding leaves in his yard. Yeah, he’s wicked stupid”).

Note: A quick Google search will confirm the lack of any real witch accusations and/or trials in the New England area in the last few decades, so if New England native points a finger at you and works the word “wicked” into a sentence, there’s a higher-than-average chance they’re paying you a compliment. All bets are off if you’re wearing an Eagles jersey, though.

Pro Tip: When you first move to New England, you may feel a great enthusiasm to start using the word immediately. This is acceptable, but don’t make the mistake of using the term “wicked” every chance you get. The locals will think you’re trying too hard, and because the word covers a whole spectrum of usage from compliment to insult, they’ll be right. Start small:

“Tom Brady played wicked great,”

“Watch out for that wicked bad pothole,”
(or if you have to travel anywhere further away than 20 minutes,)

“That’s wicked far.”

Speaking of driving far…

The Moose are Loose: New England Wild Life

Every region in the United States has indigenous animals that wander onto roads when they think the coast is clear. Foxes, squirrels, opossums, raccoons, and white-tailed deer reside in the New England area, which means drivers run the risk of coming into contact with them on the road.

Head far enough north in New England, however, and there’s a good chance you’ll encounter a moose.

In terms of indigenous wonders, a moose is a sight to behold and one of the joys of moving to New England. They’re big, they’re majestic, and they’ve got antlers that go on for days. Also, they like to cross roads at night and have been known to chase cars and occasionally attack them. So if you’re driving and come across a moose, give the animal a wide berth and don’t try to shoot past them; they might decide to give chase. Ever tried explaining a moose attack to a car insurance agent? Good times.

Note: The term “moose” can apply to either a single moose or several moose. As such, there are no meese, only moose. You’ll never have to worry about a herd of meese coming for you; save that anxiety for the moose.

And since you’ll be driving in the New England area, keep in mind...

People are Funny about the Weather Here, Too

Every region of the United States deals with some form of recurring disasters, be it hurricanes or blizzards. And for some reason, many of the locals seem to view their disasters with a carefree attitude. Hurricane heading for the East Coast? Board up the windows and break out the liquor for the hurricane party. Earthquakes shaking the buildings? Whatever; stand in the doorway until it finishes and then get back in the traffic jam.

Move to New England, and you have to live with the reality of snow. And not just the white stuff you see in Christmas movies; snow in New England can be heavy and dangerous. Blizzards are intense snow storms that can become as larger in size than a few US states, and Nor’easters are basically a snow hurricane.

If you’ve ever lived in an area that has to deal with hurricanes, you’ll understand the mixed emotions New Englanders have with snow. They love snow days (Time off from work! No school! Cozy up with some Dunkin’!), but dealing with the snow can be problematic even for people who have lived there all their lives.

So what to do? Invest in a good winter wardrobe when you get up there, keep the car battery charged, and learn how to drive in the snow (seriously, be wicked careful!).

And A Few Other Things

Farmer’s markets ( “Fahmah’s Mahkets”) get a lot of foot traffic in New England. Maybe it’s got something to do with the sense of independence that New Englanders prize, or maybe it’s just the desire to buy local, but when you move to New England, you’ll find them everywhere. Not to say that supermarkets don’t exist up there. You’ve got your Market Basket, Roche Brothers, Hannaford, and Stop and Shop. And if you want a burger, head for Whataburger.


Moving in Winter: How to Prepare