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Regional Culture Shock: Moving to the Mid-Atlantic

Regional Culture Shock: Moving to the Mid-Atlantic
November 7, 2018

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The next region in our series is the Mid-Atlantic. If you are planning a long-distance move to this popular region, we’ve got the scoop on how to survive life in the Atlantic states of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware.

Mid-Atlantic Region

The Mid-Atlantic region is famous for packed highways and toll booths. Your first experiences merging onto the highways will probably be panic-inducing, so remember to stay calm and keep moving. And because the winters here can be long and brutal, pot holes and beat-up roads will also be a constant reality.

So if you drive like you’re auditioning for “The Fast and the Furious,” the Mid-Atlantic region might present some adjustment challenges.

And don’t let the prospect of dealing with heavy winter snows get you discouraged; the area actually gets to experience the four seasons, and few places in the country do autumn better than the Mid-Atlantic region.

Moving to Delaware

Moving to DelawareAt first glance, Delaware can appear to be the fifth wheel on the cool car that is the Mid-Atlantic region. This is not Delaware’s fault; when the neighboring states house such well-known sights as the Nation’s Capital, the Original Nation’s Capital (Philadelphia), the Jersey Shore, and the City that Never Sleeps (past 10 a.m.), it’s hard to get attention.

So to solve that problem, the state offers no sales tax. It seems to be working.

Cultural highlights includes a near-fanatical devotion to the store Wawa’s, Dogfish Head Beer, and ongoing efforts to start friendly arguments with Florida and Philadelphia over which state has the best beaches and cheese steaks, respectively. Admittedly, that does seem like a Pee Wee football team trying to pick a fight with the New England Patriots, but even if you disagree with the arguments, the state’s food and beach offerings won’t disappoint.

Outdoor recreation gets encouraged here because of the temperate climate, although cautioned should be exercised when engaging in something more involved than hiking or bicycling. Should you feel the need to try zip lining, for example, keep any screams to a minimum; the neighbors and the wildlife will thank you for it.

Moving to Maryland

When moving to Maryland, get used to hearing about strange laws.

While it may not rival Florida for the sheer volume of strange news, Maryland does have a colorful history of strange laws that seem to get endlessly debated. It’s illegal in Baltimore to spit on city sidewalks, although no ruling currently exists on whether the spitter can carry their own spittoon while on the sidewalk. In the last ten years, various state laws involving the profession of fortune telling have been considered or struck down (bet no one saw that coming). It’s also illegal to throw a bale of hay (or anything else) out of a second-story window, a decision that has absolutely destroyed the state’s fledging “Let’s Throw Crap Out Of Windows” sports league but was met with wild acclaim by various members of the livestock community who were sick and tired about having their meals chucked out of a window.

Speaking of something to eat, you will also have to deal with the high-volume use of Old Bay seasoning on the food. Don’t take this personally; there’s just a lot of seafood offerings in Maryland, and Old Bay seems to go on everything, possibly even the cocktails. The vegetarian and vegan restaurants probably have it, too. The desserts MIGHT be safe.

You may also have to deal with the debate of whether or not your new home qualifies as part of the North or part of the South. Maryland sits below the Mason-Dixon Line, which would suggest it belongs squarely in the category of Southern State. Pose this question to a crowded room, however, and a debate may ensue, as many residents consider themselves part of the North.

But if you want certainty in your regional relocation choice, there’s always…

Moving to New Jersey

There is northern New Jersey, there is a southern New Jersey, and against all available topographical evidence, there is NO central New Jersey. Pick a side and start talking trash about the other side.

But forget the regional stuff for a moment. When moving to New Jersey, take a moment to enjoy the fact that you’ll never have to pump your own gas again. While the Garden State has a history of many American firsts (first baseball game, first intercollegiate football game, first brewery, and presumably the first place someone honked their car horn 0.00001 seconds after the light turned green), it also has the distinction of being the last state in the union where it’s illegal to pump your own gas at a gas station.

To someone moving to New Jersey, such a reality may seem like the biggest luxury in the world. “What, pump my own gas? Darling, let the attendants handle it. Champagne?”

So while you’re sitting in your car toasting the good life, come to grips with looking past the various New Jersey stereotypes. For instance, there’s only a 50 percent chance the gas attendant will in any way resemble the cast of Jersey Shore. There’s also a good chance everyone you know will live just off a parkway and that Dunkin Donuts will forever and always be the place for coffee and doughnuts. However, there’s also a 50/50 chance you may have to endure Mischief Night, the night before Halloween when pranksters celebrate the season by applying generous volumes of toilet paper to houses and trees.

The state also features plenty of amusement parks, boardwalks, 24-hour diners, surfing, saltwater taffy (it’s EVERYWHERE), and a legendary monster called the Jersey Devil, apparently the Chuck Norris of American Creature Legends. When Bigfoot goes to sleep at night, he has nightmares about the Jersey Devil.

Moving to Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to some of the oldest and most storied sports programs in the country, and the fans here are very passionate, like “We’ll celebrate a championship win by flipping cars and setting things on fire” passionate.

While new residents are not required to start cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Philadelphia Eagles, Penn State Nittany Lions, the Philadelphia Flyers, or the Philadelphia 76ers, you may want to think twice about supporting any other team on game day. God be with you if you’re a Baltimore Ravens fan. Oh, and you’ll probably hear the theme from “Rocky” a fair amount. Just go with it.

The towns and cities may present a bit of a linguistic adventure for transplants, too. Never mind easy names like New Orleans or Los Angeles; here you’ll be forced to pronounce words like Conshohocken and Punxsutawney with a straight face and a minimal amount of spit.

If you want to spit, consider this truth: Pennsylvania residents pay income tax and state taxes, and you may have to contend with local wage and service tax charges. This is ironic, as Pennsylvania was where the Declaration of Independence got signed, partly due to that whole “taxation without representation” thing.

There’s a good chance of running into the Amish or Mennonites in Pennsylvania. And if you’ve ever been irritated by getting stuck behind some jerk on a vespa, just wait until you’re stuck behind a horse and buggy driven by someone who looks like they’re hiding Harrison Ford somewhere on their farm.

There will be some regional culinary offerings that will be ever-present in Pennsylvania: cheesesteaks, brats, Yuengling beer, and those big soft pretzels. The pizza here is pretty good too, but don’t say that to anyone from New York; they have views on that subject

And speaking of which…

Moving to New York

A few obligatory notes if you’re moving to New York City: it’s expensive, the apartments are small, parking is an impossible myth, it’s always noisy because there’s always something going on, and there will be walking.

In some ways, the culture shock of moving to New York might actually be less abrupt compared to the other Mid-Atlantic states, mostly because so much of New York culture has been on display for decades. If you spent any time watching movies or sitcoms, you’ve probably been exposed to some idea of what living in New York is like. You don’t see too many superhero movies set in North Dakota, after all.

Just a few tips: don’t look up at the buildings, keep moving on the sidewalks, and watch out for the bike messengers; those guys are fast.

But if you’re not going to the city, you will find a state flush with colleges, forests, and dairy farms. New York State has almost 20,000 cattle supplying milk and dairy products; rumor has it many of the cows relocated here from Maryland over that whole “no hay out the second-story” nonsense.


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