Thinking about living in North Carolina? You’ve come to the right place.
I lived in the Old North State for 12 years and have definitely learned a few things about daily life in North Carolina.
Home to a population of nearly 10.5 million, North Carolina is the 9th most populous state in the country. The state is best known as the birthplace of Aviation, irresistible barbecue and friendly locals — there’s so much to love about living in North Carolina.
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so let’s cover everything you need to know about moving to North Carolina based on firsthand experience. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, I’m here to help!
Largest Cities in North Carolina
- Population: 903,300
- Average salary: $68,700
- Median home price: $400K
- Population: 480,500
- Average salary: $65,000
- Median home price: $445K
- Population: 305,000
- Average salary: $76,700
- Median home price: $250K
- Population: 294,000
- Average salary: $81,000
- Median home price: $415K
Pros & Cons of Living in North Carolina
Pros of Moving to North Carolina
#1. Southern hospitality
The south is known for hospitality, and North Carolina is no exception. It’s not uncommon to walk into a supermarket, cafe or restaurant and be greeted by name if you’ve lived in the town long enough.
True to form, locals focus on getting to know their neighbors and building a sense of community. That’s not to say that you’ll be greeted with open arms (I’ve found locals to be friendly, yet reserved — I’ll cover this in detail shortly) but you will be welcomed and treated with respect.
Truthfully speaking, the friendly community feel took some adjusting at first because I’ve mostly lived in large cities where being greeted by name was deemed unusual. However, after moving to Carolina and making the adjustment, this is one of my personal favorite perks of living in North Carolina.
But I don’t want to fool you, it’s not all sunshine and peach cobbler — gossip runs rampant in the rural parts of town and you’ll need to be mindful of the tea you’re spilling.
Local’s Tip: Something that caught me off guard after moving to North Carolina was hearing kids use “yes ma’am” and “no sir” in practically every interaction. This is considered southern etiquette and folks are keen to teach their children manners. So heads up! Being called “ma’am” isn’t a reference to your age, fret not.
#2. Laid back, easy-going lifestyle
If you’re moving to North Carolina with the hopes of escaping the grind and bustle of daily living, you’ll find reprieve. The state is home to a handful of great cities, but most of the Tar Heel State is rural. You can just as easily find a charming apartment in the city or a farmstead, if you so choose.
Obviously your lifestyle with depend on your way of life in North Carolina. If you’re the self-sufficient sort you’ll have plenty to do. If you fancy yourself a city-dweller, you won’t be disappointed either.
Regardless of your preference, both city and rural life have an overall laid-back quality about them that I haven’t seen in other places I’ve lived.
The only downside to the easy going vibe is the lack of ambition you may come across from time to time. But even then, it’s hard to fault someone who considers living in North Carolina the end prize.
Still, it’s worth pointing out, especially for those looking to grow their careers after moving to North Carolina. It won’t come easy (I’ll touch on this shortly as well).
#3. Access to the mountains and the beach
If you consider yourself a nature nut, you will love living in North Carolina. The access to nature and plethora of outdoor recreational is hard to beat. Between the breathtaking Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll be spoiled of choice.
Most weekends can be spend hiking, biking, fishing, swimming or hunting. There’s something for everyone! Indeed, it’s hard to find yourself bored after moving to North Carolina, as most of your free time can be spent outdoors.
Heck, take a road trip to Great Smokey Mountains National Park (the most visited national park in the country!) and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.
If you prefer the sea to mountaintops, the state has you covered in that department as well. Miles of sandy shoreline mark the spot where our lovely state ends and the Atlantic Ocean begins. All this to say, both the outdoor recreation and road trip possibilities are endless while living in North Carolina.
#4. The low cost of living in North Carolina
Speaking from personal experience, one of the best things about living in North Carolina is actually being able to enjoy life without feeling the pinch of irrational rent prices and overall high cost of living.
But don’t just take my word for it. A recent study by MIT found that a single adult (without kids) needs to make a minimum of $31,660 per year to live in North Carolina. Considering the average salary in the state clocks in at $54,250, the cost of living in North Carolina is deemed reasonable.
Know about taxes before moving to North Carolina
- State income tax: 4.99%
- Combined state & local sales tax: 6.98%
- Property taxes: 0.84%, well below the national average
Worth mention: The flat 4.99% state income tax is one of the lowest in the country, further adding to the lost cost of living in North Carolina.
#5. Affordable housing market
You’re probably not surprised to learn that affordable housing plays the largest role in the low cost of living in North Carolina. And it’s true, with median home prices coming in at $330,000, many folks end up moving to North Carolina to fulfill their lifelong dream of owning a home (myself included).
The affordable housing prices couples with reasonable property taxes and you’ll understand why buying a home in North Carolina is a desirable endeavor.
#6. The mouth-watering BBQ
You haven’t lived until you’ve tasted the irresistible temptation that is vinegar barbecue, it’s life-changing. Heck, it won’t take long after moving to North Carolina for you to realize the vital role BBQ plays and that folks are willing to defend the honor of their preferred style.
I’m not joking, the debate has become the subject of state legislation with bills being introduced over which of the two prominent BBQ styles should be deemed official.
If you’re new to North Carolina, allow me to fill you in. There’s two types of BBQ (Eastern style and Lexington style) and the topic of the best is hotly debated. The similarities end with the choice of meat (both use pork), from there the methods differ.
Eastern BBQ calls for the smoking of the whole hog (minus the snout) before finishing with a vinegar-based sauce. It’s all about the meat in this method, and sauce would serve as a mere distraction — although a small side of ketchup-based sauce is provided, for those so inclined.
Lexington style BBQ (also called Western style) uses only the pork shoulder and employs a ketchup-based red sauce perfected with vinegar and spices. Unlike Eastern style BBQ, the meat is part of the party, but not the whole show.
Regardless of your preference, know this: you can’t go wrong but you better learn to defend it. In any case, having daily access to mouthwatering BBQ is one of my favorite things about living in North Carolina.
As for my favorite BBQ joint? C’mon now, my grubby little hands will never squeal! 😉
#7. Mild winters
Before moving to North Carolina I found myself living in Chicago, where I braced for winters with the enthusiasm reserved for water-downed cocktails and malfunctioning alarm clocks. Winters were a bear and I was desperate to get out, as such, moving to a place with mild winters was non-negotiable.
Enter North Carolina, sweet North Carolina. While my new state gets snow occasionally (folks aren’t accustomed to driving in the snow, so be careful), the winters are mild overall. Average daily temperatures hover around 40°F-50°F with nights dipping below freezing 28°F-35°F.
Living in North Carolina during the winter months is easy compared to other places I’ve lived, and it’s one of the things I most enjoy about daily life here.
Cons of Living in North Carolina
#1. Locals are friendly, but reserved
Recall how I mentioned southern hospitality as one of the best things about living in North Carolina? It’s true, but this point warrants a deeper dive.
In my experience, locals are very friendly, but there’s a reserved nature about them. I think this is a normal human reaction to outsiders, but it takes a little while for folks to warm up and to make genuine friends after moving to North Carolina.
A coworker joked that North Carolinians are the best neighborhoods and acquaintances a person could have because “respect” is a second language. And it’s true, kindness comes easily, but friendships are earned (and typically last longer, in my experience).
#2. The summer humidity is no joke
So I’ve told you home much I enjoy the mild winters after moving to North Carolina, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention the blistering hot summers. Summers in North Carolina are the worst. Seriously, I’ve had days where the temperature soars to 80°F by 8am (I mean, what the heck?).
Partner the intense heat with the constant humidity and you’ll be begging for a shower before pulling out of the driveway. But before I get some sassy remark, allow me to explain. I knew that living in North Carolina would require becoming acquainted with a humid sub-tropical climate, but even after 12 years I still can’t get used to it.
Likewise, rain is not uncommon during the summer months. Know what that means? Sauna-quality humidity (yay!). Not to mention the plethora of problems that arise when humidity becomes a part of your daily life.
Speaking of, here’s a local’s tip: Purchase these bad boys before moving to North Carolina. They’re non-negotiable in my book because they prevent things from molding overnight. You can thank me later.
#3. Finding a gig might be challenging
Find a job before moving to North Carolina is vital (especially if you plan to live in the rural parts of the state). But don’t just take my word for it, with an unemployment rate sitting at 3.8%, North Carolina isn’t one of the easiest states to find work.
I was fortunate enough to keep my teleworking job while living in North Carolina, so I didn’t experience the challenges of find a job firsthand. However, some of my friends have shared stories of woe, especially when searching for white collar jobs they could advance in.
The largest employers in the state are: Walmart, Duke University, Food Lion, Wells Fargo, Lowes and Bank of America.
#4. Natural disasters are a consideration
Just when you think summers in North Carolina can’t get worse, you’ll experience the threat of a looming hurricane. Many folks are surprised to learn that North Carolina the 3rd most hurricane prone state in the country.
What this means for you: Anytime you hear mention of a possible hurricane, make a beeline for the grocery store and stock up on essentials. You never know when the threat will come to fruition so you’ll want to be prepared.
#5. Poor public schools
You may be surprised to learn that the home of Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill might value public education enough to fund it, but no dice.
In true form to its southern neighbors, North Carolina’s public schools are nothing to write home about. Sadly, our state has one of the most poorly funded schools systems in the nation.
So what does that mean for you? Well, if you’re moving to North Carolina with kids in tow then you will want to budget private education into your cost of living in North Carolina.
Retiring in North Carolina
Is North Carolina a good place to live?
Now to answer the big question: Is North Carolina a good place to live? The answer is yes, between the affordable housing market, low cost of living and unmistakable southern hospitality, living in North Carolina is living life on easy mode.
Is North Carolina a good place to retire?
Yes, North Carolina is a good place to retire because the state offers generous tax breaks for retirees. For starters, Social Security income is not taxed and if you’re over 65 years old, up to $35,000 of your retirement income is exempt from state taxes.
Pros & Cons of Living in North Carolina (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the pros and cons of moving to North Carolina.
- Southern hospitality
- Laid back, easy-going lifestyle
- Access to the mountains (alright, hills) and the beach
- The low cost of living in North Carolina
- Affordable housing market
- Mouthwatering BBQ
- Mild winters
- Locals are friendly, but reserved
- The summer humidity is no joke
- Finding a gig might be challenging
- Natural disasters are a consideration
- Poor public schools
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