The US really is a jigsaw of various cultures. The landscape, the people, the food, the language, everything can change from place to place within the good ol' US of A. For me this is always easier to discuss than to experience. If you move to Japan, you expect major cultural differences. If you move to France, you expect more cigarette smoke (until very recently), slower movies, richer food. But when you move from North Carolina to New Jersey, you don't expect the differences to be that big of a deal.
When you transplant yourself you get a whole new life: new apartment. new job. new people. new license plates. new ridiculous ways of making left turns. new love life. new expectations for your future.
All of this can bring great joy and great anxiety at the same time. You start to wonder why you're experiencing culture shock in your own darn country. How can Japan seem like a better fit than the Northeast? Except for taxes that shoot through the roof, I think the most easily quantifiable difference for me in New Jersey is the language.
People around me curse all the time. This hardly ever happened in Japan, and in France, only young people still clinging to their teenage years did it on a regular to sound cool. I've been here for four months but hearing f*ck all the time still trips me up. Also, there are a few expressions I simply never heard before I moved to New Jersey, and some of them don't even sound grammatically correct:
and others that have escaped me at the moment.
Going forward, I should be able to surmount a language barrier, because it's still English. In the meantime, my work is piling up on the credenza, and I still haven't done my food shopping for the week. F*ck.