Arizona seemed like another world when I moved from the East Coast

'I can safely say Arizona is truly the wild wild west.'

Growing up, I was stuck in an East Coast bubble. I spent the majority of my youth in New Jersey and the surrounding Tri-State area.

Although I broadened my horizons with trips to various exciting locales, like Orlando, Boston, Myrtle Beach and Washington, D.C., I only ever traveled west of the 100th meridian line a handful of times. 

When I moved to Arizona for college and officially became a Southwesterner, I picked up on the little things at first — like how nearly every suburban house is only one level and for some reason people still try to have grass lawns even though we live in a desert. 

A year later, I see the bigger picture and realize how different life can be from state to state. And I can safely say Arizona is truly the wild wild west. 

The climate was the biggest change I had to adapt to. I was excited for it to be warm all-year-round, but I was not ready for the long bouts of 100 plus degree weather. Never in a million years did I expect myself to believe 80 degrees is the perfect weather for jeans and a sweater. 

In Arizona, it rarely rains, and when it does, people celebrate the precipitation as if they’ve never seen it in their lifetimes. Meanwhile back in New Jersey, the week isn’t over unless it rains at least twice. 

Since it’s so hot, I am constantly dehydrated. Not even refilling my 25 oz S’well twice within a matter of six hours can quench my thirst. And when I wake up at 2 a.m gasping for water like Spongebob, I can’t drink the tap as I would at home since the amount of chlorine in the water here makes it taste “bleachy.”

In terms of city life, New York is what I am familiar with — and it never sleeps. Phoenix, on the other hand, never wakes up. It’ll be the middle of the day, and no one is outside. The streets are barren, and even during lunch break, some restaurants are completely empty. 

In order to actually experience some semblance of human interaction, I have to go to Tempe, and to do that, I first have to conquer the freeway. 

The highway system in Arizona was a whole new ballpark for me. On Interstate 287 and Interstate 80 in New Jersey, we got rid of the HOV for a reason. After experiencing it in Arizona, I now understand why. Cars fly at nearly 100 mph just to pass each other to get into the far left, only to go even faster once they get there. 

By the time I get to Tempe, my tank’s low, and I have to get gas, but there’s one problem — I don’t know how to. 

In New Jersey, we have people pump our gas for us, and whenever I tell anyone this, they automatically assume I’m incompetent. The amount of times I have been told how “stupid” this is immeasurable. New Jersey needed a way to regulate gas prices and protect consumers' safety, so actually it’s not stupid

Despite the fact people speed like bats out of hell, in real life, Arizona is so slow. 

People take their dear sweet time when it comes to just about everything. One time, I asked an employee at Fry’s which aisle the rice cakes were in and he said he would be back with an answer. After 10 minutes of waiting, he never returned and I left the store rice cake-less. 

Regardless, I am slowly adjusting. I am learning Arizona’s tricks of the trade and adapting my lifestyle to fit them. 

Now, I always remember to bring a jean jacket to class since buildings blast their air-conditioning and sitting in economics feels like hanging out in a tundra. Or how I make sure not to reset my clocks for daylight savings time anymore. 

Even though we all live in the U.S., it sometimes feels we come from different worlds. Each state has its own culture that defines its inhabitants creating a unique range of perspectives and experiences depending on where you’re from.  

While some things can be the same from state to state, they can also be vastly different. What one person views as normal, may be strange for another — like having a forest of cactuses instead of pine trees. 

When people move, they bring these ideas and habits along the way, showcasing the melting pot of culture that defines America. Sure, I may not know how to pump my own gas, but neither do some people in Oregon. 

It’s been a struggle to conform to these changes from state to state, but maybe I will have it down by the time I graduate. I mean, do you ever get used to 110 degree weather?

Reach the reporter at and follow @munson_olivia on Twitter. 

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