I was born and raised in North Carolina, but most of my friends and family were not. In fact, 42 percent of North Carolina’s population was born outside of the state. My mother was from Northern Virginia and my dad is from Ireland. My husband was born in Russia, but spent his teenage years in Idaho. When they each moved here, they found some things to be, well, different. Many of my Fuqua classmates were in the same boat.

As a native North Carolinian, I put together this list of “things to know when you move to North Carolina,” based on my own experiences and those shared by friends on social media.


  • The seasons can all run together—even in the same week. Be prepared to master layering clothes for winter-like mornings and summer-like afternoons.
  • We don’t like to drive in the snow or the ice that often forms on driving surfaces, nor do our cities have enough plows to cover every street. When it snows (once per year), stay home. It will melt in a day or two.
  • If you’re suffering outside on a summer day we’ll frequently tell you “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” This is true.
  • Close your windows at the first sign of pollen. Springtime in North Carolina is characterized by pollen so thick that it leaves a yellow layer of dust on everything.
  • Fall is lovely, especially in the mountains of Western North Carolina. A well-timed drive down the Blueridge Parkway will make you forget about the ice, humidity and pollen.
BBQ tray with cornbread, coleslaw, and Cheerwine
BBQ tray with cornbread, coleslaw, and Cheerwine


  • Cheerwine is a soft drink, not an alcoholic beverage. Similarly, North Carolinians say “soft drink” or “soda.” Never “pop.”
  • A fish camp is a type of restaurant that serves fried fish. No tents, cabins, or other outdoorsy equipment is involved.
  • BBQ is a food group (usually pulled or chopped pork). It is not an event where you cook outdoors or a grill itself.
  • North Carolinians take BBQ VERY seriously. There exists a rivalry between Eastern North Carolina (vinegar-based) and Western North Carolina (tomato-based) sauces. Western is the best. Trust me.
  • When it comes to fast food restaurants, Cookout has the best milkshakes and Bojangles has the best fried chicken.
  • Pimento cheese is heaven and you can put it on just about everything.
  • Hot dogs are served with chili, and this chili does not have beans in it.
  • Tea means sweet iced tea. If you’re on a diet, you can order a glass of half sweet, half unsweet.
Sign of "Coach K Court"
Duke and the nearby University of North Carolina are huge basketball rivals

Culture and Pastimes

  • Basketball will always be more important than football.
  • Our basketball rivalries are more intense than our BBQ rivalries.
  • College basketball trumps all. People will take vacation days to watch the NCAA basketball tournament, also know as March Madness.
  • North Carolinians say “yes ma’am” and “no sir” and will call older adults Mr. or Mrs. If someone calls you “ma’am” they don’t think you’re old—they’re trying to be polite.
  • We don’t all listen to country music and go line dancing, but many of us have owned at least one pair of cowboy boots.
  • We pull over for funeral processions, which can be quite lengthy. They can also pop up anywhere because there are churches on every corner.

Carolina-isms and Terms to Know

  • “Y’all” is singular for “you all.” “All y’all” is plural. “All y’all’s” is plural possessive.
  • “Fixin’” to do something doesn’t mean anything is broken. It means “preparing to” or “about to.”
  • “Bless your heart” means “you’re an idiot.”

If you’re thinking about making the move to the Tar Heel State, rest assured that it’s a friendly place with tasty food, mild winters, and the greatest college basketball teams in the country. Your biggest challenge will be finding time to try all 40 milkshake flavors at Cookout.