1. The North-South (Central) Divide
When out-of-towners ask what New Jersey is like, we have to start by explaining that there is no one Jersey. Simply put, North Jersey relates more to New York City, while South Jersey holds an allegiance to Philadelphia. Where you were raised determines which sports teams you support – Yankees vs. Phillies, Giants vs. Eagles – whether you use the word ‘sub’ or ‘hoagie’, and if you were more likely to run to a 7-11 or a Wawa for your late night snack. Then there’s Central Jersey. We don’t fit cleanly into the more industrial north or the agricultural south, and our towns are markedly more liberal than anywhere else in the state. Although the dividing lines may not be easy to point to on a map, everyone you meet while visiting the state will be able to tell you which Jersey they’re from.
2. We are not the cast members of Jersey Shore
Whether we’re from north, south or central Jersey, none of us turn into the cast of Jersey Shore when the sun comes out that first summer weekend. We have over 100 miles of beautiful coastline rich in history, but because all it takes is being really loud, drunk, and angry to be on TV, Jersey Shore has unfortunately become a large part of defining how our state is viewed. More cast members from Jersey Shore grew up on Staten Island than in Jersey, while all of the show’s central personalities are born and bred New Yorkers. We aren’t the state that created Jersey Shore — we just happen to be the location where they combined into one giant tan entity.
3. We actually are ‘The Garden State’
For the most densely populated state in the country, infamous for our cities near the airport and our propensity for speeding on highways, we also have a surprising amount and variety of natural beauty. The Pinelands National Reserve covers 1.1 million acres, while New Jersey is also home to over 9,000 farms. Our small state is ranked 3rd in the country for cranberry, spinach, and bell pepper production, and we’re top 5 in peaches and blueberries as well. Out-of-towners may be surprised how much of their time in New Jersey will be spent hiking, canoeing, or picnicking on family-run farms.
4. How to Navigate a Jughandle
In New Jersey, you often have to turn right to get to the left side of the highway. Introducing all newcomers to: the Jughandle.
Because we’re also a state with some of the fastest drivers in the nation, the jughandle originated in New Jersey to keep traffic moving smoothly. Instead of stoplights with left-only signals or forcing cars to switch into the faster left-hand lane, risking accidents and slowing down other drivers, we designed our roads with right-only exits that loop drivers around to the other side.
This is definitely a source of confusion for out-of-towners, which lends to the argument that jughandles are actually more dangerous, but to those raised in New Jersey this peculiarity is second nature.
5. The Jersey Devil
Any out-of-towners driving through the Pine Barrens may be curious to hear more about the residing Jersey Devil. This mysterious creature lives in the expansive forested land of South Jersey where he has stayed hidden for over 250 years, stealthily coming out at night to raid the odd farm.
Most origin stories claim that a Mrs. Leeds of Estellville was so unhappy to discover that she was pregnant for the thirteenth time that she yelled out, ‘Let it be the devil!’ and her cry came true. The baby was born a devil and fled, flying out of the window and into the nearby swampy land where he has lived since.
There have been countless sightings of a creature in the area, often described as a kangaroo-like animal with the head of a dog, wings like a bat, horns, hooves and a tail. Many locals tell of a strange screeching heard piercing the night in the area, a signature of the ‘Leeds Devil’.
6. Mischief Night
Speaking of spooky stories, out-of-towners visiting in October will learn that we love Halloween so much we start celebrating the night before. Mischief Night is a term that originated in Britain to describe a night of chaos before May Day or Guy Fawkes Day. Apparently when this tradition ‘crossed the pond’ it only really stuck in New Jersey and became a label for the night before Halloween.
Certain towns in New Jersey also call this occasion ‘Cabbage Night’ or ‘Goosey Night’, but it all comes down to the celebration of the ‘trick’ part of ‘trick or treating’. A night of chaos and pranks, you’re likely to have your house egged or TP’d on October 30th if you live in Jersey. Most out-of-towners won’t be familiar with this custom, as New Jersey is the only state in the US where the majority of residents recognize the existence of Mischief Night.
7. We aren’t a garbage state
When out-of-towners visit New Jersey, they are always quick to express surprise that we aren’t the ‘Dirty Jersey’ they thought we would be. ‘Wow, this is actually really nice!’, your guest might exclaim. Anyone passing through will soon learn that they don’t actually need to pity those of us who call New Jersey home. We don’t deny our flaws, but we also have a lot to point to that we’re proud of and we will be happy to show any out-of-towners what makes us unique.