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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Adjusting to my new surroundings in Florida

Last year my family and I moved to Fernandina Beach, Fla.. My husband and I had just about all we could take from our Phil Murphy and we felt that Ron DeSantis was the way to go. We were on the hunt for less restrictions plus moving to a town that has beach in its name wasn’t a bad trade off. I’m honestly still adjusting to the fact that we are so close to the ocean.

We had no idea what to expect. We had never visited this town before we moved here, so the thought of coming in blind was both thrilling and horrifying to us. Although we absolutely love it here, there are a lot of major differences, some I’m not sure I’ll ever be okay with.

No. 1: I’m going to go on record and say that anyone below the Mason-Dixon line cannot drive. It’s like every day is a Sunday and drivers move slower than molasses. I’m not saying I’m always in a rush, but it feels like no one has anywhere to go of importance. To top it off, the actual skill set of driving is missing. How do I know? Two reasons: 1) When you see an accident here, it’s always a pile up. Apparently no one knows how to make evasive maneuvers and they all just collide into one another. Sometimes I feel like I live in New York City with the amount of ambulance and fire truck sirens I hear from my house.

My 16 year old daughter was just handed her driver’s license, and I say “handed” because the actual behind-the-wheel test took all of four minutes! That included walking to and from the car. By the way, when I moved down here and realized the age was 16 and not 17 to get her license, I almost died of shock. However, I will say, she runs most of my errands which is absolutely ahhhmazing!

No. 2: They ruined pizza. I know this seems dramatic, but I assure you, it’s a fact. I’ll never forget the day we arrived. We ordered pizza because I didn’t want to cook and unpack at the same time, and what showed up was what I can only describe as an abomination. I can’t even tell you the words that came out of my husband’s mouth when he opened the box because it’s not family friendly, but let’s just say, my little one learned a new curse word that day. It was not only flavorless, it somehow managed to be colorless, which is something I didn’t even realize was possible. Quite frankly, it looked depressed, and to top it off it was the wrong shape! It wasn’t square and it wasn’t round; it was like some sort of confusing oval hybrid.

Gone are the days of living in Hammonton and having to make the difficult decision of which amazing pizza place to pick from. Now when we have pizza night (I can’t even believe I’m saying this) we go to the frozen section and make our selection. I actually cringed writing that.

No. 3: Locals do not exist. I live in a development and I have yet to meet one person who was born and raised here. Everyone is an implant from somewhere else, which means there aren’t any traditions and you’d be hard pressed to find any people with an Italian background. I went to the grocery store and asked for ricotta and apparently I pronounced it wrong because two people had no idea what I was talking about. They asked if that’s the cheese you put in Mexican dishes and pronounced it like Ri-CAAAA-DUH. I actually laughed, which wasn’t received well. I couldn’t find it because they don’t sell it down here, which means I’ll never be able to make my grandmother’s famous lasagna recipe again. Instead I just look at her handwritten recipe and read it out loud hoping she can hear me in heaven, pull a favor with the big guy upstairs and ricotta will magically appear in stores. I’ll keep you all posted; so far it hasn’t worked.

No. 4: Surprise, surprise, no one can cook. Don’t get me wrong, they try but the food they are making is horrible. My neighbor made us coleslaw when we moved in as a welcome gift, that in itself speaks volumes. I know for sure when it was presented to me I had a confused look on my face. The gesture was sweet and so was the coleslaw. It was sweet, runny, sour and had raw snow peas in it and grapes!. I don’t know if you ever ate a raw snow pea, but to me it’s gross and hard to chew. The grapes were a disgusting surprise and yet somehow fit perfectly with the disaster that was already that coleslaw.

No. 5: Remember when I told you there is such a mix of cultures that there are no traditions. I saved the most shocking for last. There is no Christmas Eve or Christmas service. If Christmas doesn’t fall on a Sunday, they don’t do anything and there isn’t a special program. I grew up going to my Aunt and Uncle’s church and on Christmas Eve I’d listen to the special music with my brother, cousins and uncle. If I’m being honest, the highlight was not the music, although it was great. We all looked forward to the end where we all held candles and lit them one by one so that the room went from pitch black to bright. Why was that so special to me? Because every year my Uncle Bob Comunale dripped the burning hot wax on us and we would laugh and try to not to get caught by Pastor DeNick.

If they don’t have any church services down here, there will be generations of children missing out on the potential opportunity to be scalded by hot wax. In my experience that’s a monumental moment, and to miss out is a shame!

Although there have been some differences we have to get used to, overall, we are so happy we moved. My children are thriving and my husband and I are tan year round which to me is a major plus. There are days that I do miss Hammonton and the familiarity of being there, but there is also something to be said for being able to go to the grocery store and not running into people I’d rather not see. You might think I’m kidding, but if you know me in real life, you know that list of people is looooong!

Kasi DeStefano was a lifelong resident of Hammonton. She now resides in sunny Florida with her husband, two daughters and dogs Moo Moo & Pepper. She is taking applications for anyone who wants to relocate with her to form an alliance. All inquiries can be sent to


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