I spent my boyhood in New Jersey, kindergarten through 10th grade. Then I moved to Texas to finish up high school. Since I graduated HS, I’ve lived in Philadelphia, NYC, went back to Texas, Baton Rouge, and I’m now back in NJ. As a former stockbroker, my clientele spanned the entire country; Minnesota, Hawaii, Florida, South Carolina, Washington state, etc. The point is, I was in enough other places, and away from New Jersey long enough to really know what I’m missing by living here. Further, I’ve dealt with people from many different places, and there’s a drastic change in peoples’ interactions when one leaves NJ.
Statistics will tell you that NJ is the richest state in the union and that quality of life here is something akin to “wonderful”. However, statistics say all kinds of things that aren’t true. Truth be told, the quality of life here is pretty damned awful when compared with every other place I’ve lived, with the possible exception of Philadelphia.
Traffic is horrid, in part because the major highways are toll roads, which slows down the major arteries, and also pushes 18-wheelers onto the more local roads to avoid the tolls and keep down costs. By the way, tolls were initially implemented to pay for the initial construction of the parkway (in the case of the Garden State Parkway). It wasn’t sold to the public as something that would be ongoing for all eternity. In addition, there is, to my knowledge, NO way to leave the state without paying a toll. This is significant, since NJ is often referred to as a sleeping community, where workers from Philadelphia and NYC go home to take refuge from the city. Commuting by train and bus is one thing, but you can’t drive into either city for free either.
Property taxes in NJ are, by now, infamous. I know a person in North Carolina who has a house similar to mine, except that it’s on 3 acres of land vs. my .75 acres, we live in comparable communities in terms of services and schools, and he pays in one year what I pay per quarter in NJ. While there has always been talk of property tax reform in NJ, the corruption in the government here is entrenched to the point where the government is seen as just a thinly veiled organized crime gang. Property taxes mean money, and they’re not going to give that up without one helluva fight.
Of course, property values here are also sky high. My buddy’s house in NC that’s just like mine? Well, he paid a little more than half what I paid, and has 3 acres, and his house is about 5 years newer than mine. With property values so high, builders see high margins on new homes, and with the most dense population in the country, condiminiums have done more than simply “dot” the landscape. This has added to the congestion on the roads, the congestion in the neighborhoods, and has thoroughly eroded the quality of life here. Believe it or not, with .75 acres of land, I’m the envy of everyone I know who lives in NJ.
Besides monetary stuff, the attitudes of the people in NJ just generally suck. Badly. People are rude, obnoxious, and brash. It’s obvious in any place where you have to interact with them. Your local supermarket, the mall, at work, at the beach, in movie theaters, at sporting events, and most definitely on the roads. NJ drivers, while not the worst drivers in the world, are amazingly aggressive. I’ll say one good thing about NJ drivers: while their aggressiveness is absolutely unparalleled, so is their driving skill. They’ll piss you off unmercifully, but when you calm down, you’ll think about what just happened and actually be impressed at the feat they just pulled off.
The weather in NJ alone makes it fall into the “not worth it” category for me. If I have to live through summers that at times get as hot, and always get as humid as Houston, I do *not* *also* want to deal with the disgusting, dark, drab, cold, never-ending winters as well. My buddy Matt has often said to me that it’s too hot for him to ever go south, but the reality is that many places in the south are no hotter than NJ.
So is there any good news? I love my job. There’s lots of work in the state. That part is nice, I suppose, except that you’re working with other people from NJ, who are either really stuffy, ubereducated, impersonal drones, or self-centered, opportunistic, arrogant beasts. Believe it or not, I have not found that to be the case in other parts of the country. My job doesn’t exhibit too much of that, which is part of what I like about my job. Unfortunately, not everyone can have my job, so for most people, I’d say just stay away from NJ. You know those surveys that restaurants and hotels give you? They always ask “Would you recommend us to a friend?” Well, not only would I not recommend NJ to a friend, I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy.