Perched on the eastern edge of the Mid-Atlantic, New Jersey has a reputation and culture like no other.
Only you’re not interested in the television-show depictions and recycled stereotypes. You’re looking for what it’s like living and moving in New Jersey — it’s cities, regions, weather, people, food, cost-of-living and more. You know, the real-life, everyday stuff.
Here’s what you really need to know about moving to New Jersey, plus some insider extras that’ll have you walking and talking like a born-and-bred New Jerseyan who has spent their entire life in the garden state.
The state of New Jersey is a continental mesothermal climate.
In normal-human speak, that means the state experiences a moderate fluctuation in temperatures, fair levels of humidity and climate variability between the four seasons.
Typical New Jersey seasonal weather patterns break down as follows:
U.S. News continually ranks New Jersey as one of the strongest states for education, beginning at the preschool level and extending into college opportunities and advancements.
In fact, New Jersey ranks second in the nation for preschool through K12 education, behind only Massachusetts. As for its collegiate atmosphere, New Jersey is home to one of the most prestigious universities in the country — Princeton — as well as Rutgers University and Montclair State, two other world-renowned institutions.
The state’s education system is particularly known for its life and biological sciences research and graduate programs. State education rankings are based on several criteria, including the percentage of the population with college degrees, student loan debt, tuition costs, standardized test scores, high school and college graduation rates, and their degree timelines.
The cost of living in New Jersey will range depending on the city and county you’re moving to.
For example, living in the northern Newark metro area will cost the average household (two adults, two children) over $94,000 per year.
Consider these top variables calculated into the average cost of living in New Jersey:
Yet even considering the above-average classification, living in New Jersey is considered favorable, particularly for those commuting to and from work in New York City. Cost of living variables like transportation and housing are significantly reduced living across the Hudson River, making New Jersey suburbs and metro areas in Hudson County particularly attractive for commuters desiring lower costs than New York.
Relative to its size, New Jersey is an incredibly diverse state with a unique demographic makeup contributing to its regional cultures and subcultures.
In New Jersey, over 20 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino and 15 percent identifies as black or African American.
Let’s explore each of the state’s three main regions — Northern, Central and South New Jersey — to better grasp the geographic and cultural diversity inherent to the Garden State, helping you identify where to feel most at home.
Too-often relegated as the lower-cost alternative to living in Manhattan, it’s easy for outsiders to oversimplify living and moving to North New Jersey. Yet Northern New Jersey’s suburbs are microcosms of their own, each with interesting facts and affordances for those living and moving there.
Defining features of living and working in Northern New Jersey include:
Overall, these counties are widely considered a part of North New Jersey:
Central New Jersey, as its aptly named, sits in the middle of the state and is home to the state’s capital of Trenton.
While there are many features that make Central New Jersey stand out, some of the region’s most iconic include:
While the exact list is often up for debate, counties in Central New Jersey include:
Last but never least, Southern New Jersey stamps its mark on the state in a few distinct ways:
Counties constituting South New Jersey include:
Whether you’re visiting or you’ve just recently moved, talk like a New Jersey native with this breakdown of slang and common expressions signature to the Garden State.
Heading “down the shore?” That means you’re heading to one of South or South-Central New Jersey’s infamous beach towns dotting the Atlantic Ocean.
The phrase is commonly used by north New Jerseyans to describe weekend trips or summer vacations to these coastal destinations. Peak tourist season “down the shore” runs from late May to mid-September.
No, it’s not just a gas station. It’s an iconic establishment revered in the Garden State as the go-to spot for freshly prepared sandwiches, snacks, an extensive coffee bar, its own line of dairy products, ever-clean facilities and — most importantly — friendly staff ready to fill your visit with pleasant conversation.
While founded in Pennsylvania, New Jerseyans like to claim the convenience store as their adopted own. WaWas are particularly prevalent in the southern counties of the state, though they are increasingly sprinkled in Central and North New Jersey.
Ready to level-up your brunch game? Order a pork roll at many restaurants and cafes in South Jersey, where you’ll be served a hot, gooey sandwich of egg, melted American cheese and — the signature ingredient — thick slices of pork-based Taylor Ham, all tucked inside a hard bread roll.
Name-brand purists may refer to this New Jersey delicacy simply as a Taylor Ham, given the brand of tinned ham originally used to make this stick-in-your gut breakfast. For a real New Jersey feast, enjoy your pork roll with a side of disco fries, or french fries smothered in cheese and gravy. You’re welcome.
“The City” is New Jersey shorthand for heading to New York City or Philadelphia.
Depending on where you move or live in the state, referencing “The City” will automatically denote where you’re heading or where you’re coming from. In North Jersey, “The City” indicates nearby NYC, particularly Manhattan, while in South Jersey, it references neighboring Philly.
Bonus fact: People from “The City” often join the crowds flocking “down the shore” for some sun, surf and sand during summertime.
You aren’t in New Jersey if you don’t overhear some argument, at some point, between a North or Central Jerseyan and a South Jerseyan regarding the name of their sandwich.
In the north and middle parts of the state, those meats, cheeses and vegetables stuffed between slices of bread are subs — end of story.
In the south, though, you better believe it’s a hoagie — a term again reflecting this region’s connections to nearby Philly. Hoagies can also be called grinders or heroes, though, for even more southern regional somersaults.
“Pies” are a way of life for a state where nearly 20 percent of the population claims Italian lineage.
New Jersey’s take on pizza prioritizes the sauce, specifically a balance between a sweet-yet-savory tomato sauce and a thin crust. In certain parts of the state like Trenton, a “tomato pie” is a local cuisine staple, with the toppings added first before layering on that tomato-sauce goodness.
Whether directing movers or helping a friend navigate to your place, “exit” is a useful Garden State-ism relaying where you live in regards to the nearest numbered highway exit.
East Jersey residents are particularly famous for using this slang, as epitomized in the now-iconic Saturday Night Live sketch “What Exit?” that’s become part pop-culture punchline, part New Jersey-quirk turned badge of honor.
Jughandles are New Jersey’s take on highway off ramps or slip roads.
More specifically, cars enter the “jughandle” to make left turns, most often after exiting a highway or interstate. Drivers enter the jughandle on their right, marked as its own designated lane, then proceed to make a large loop that aerially resembles the handle of a jug (hence the name).
By the end of the loop, drivers are re-set on their course left, all while avoiding other directions of traffic and maintaining — at least theoretically — an efficient use of road infrastructure.
Check out these fast facts and historical tidbits, many of which give instant street cred when moving or living in New Jersey.
Looking for a moving company in South Jersey to take the headaches and hassle out of your big move? Request a free quote online today.
Transtar Moving Systems is the local expert when moving to or from Central or North New Jersey into the southern part of the Garden State — and beyond. See our full suite of moving services in South Jersey, including residential, commercial, specialized and long-distance moves. We do it all.