I live on a different planet than the one I grew up on, though I'm only 1,150 miles from where I was born; a mere 18 hours by car.
(But that's really the awesome thing about Earth, isn't it? So many places you go are utterly unlike anywhere else. Most of the world, nearly every square mile of it, is not covered over by strip malls and parking lots. Our views, our perceptions, are much too narrow to take seriously when you really stop to think about it.)
New Jersey, though, is sort of like another star system than the one in which we find Missouri and Michigan. The people here really are different enough to be part of a separate culture than what you'll experience in the midwest. This can be a problem when it comes to political, religious, and social issues.
You could think of it in terms of latitude and longitude, the way America works. There are similarities along the same line of latitude, yet many differences because of longitude changes. And there are similarities in regions along the same line of longitude, yet still other differences because of latitude changes.
I live on nearly the same latitude line as my birth place, each location having four distinct annual seasons, and the same general understanding about nature and yearly changes that go along with that aspect of life experience. But culturally, longitudinally, we are worlds apart. Of course we have the same cable TV stations and broadcast networks and we have the internet, all drawing us closer in what we know and think about the world. Yet we're not at all the same because our worlds were settled by very different groups of immigrant ancestors, and because this world here on the east coast is always in a state of change while that world in the center of the country settled down a long time ago, and evolves more gradually, almost imperceptibly by comparison.
Now I'm going to contradict what I just said, a little bit, but it's not a contradiction if you've spent time here and there.
They weren't kidding around when they said "Everything's up to date in Kansas City." There's nothing really old there, so there isn't quite the same appreciation for antiquities, even in just American Colonial terms, that there is here. There's a constant turnover out in the middle of America, because while the people don't change much, the goods and services do, and if you blink you might miss something. There are what you'd call "institutions" there; types of cuisine, a few significant landmarks, and some beautiful parks. But people spend a lot of time all seeking out the same next new thing.
Here, many of the buildings were all old before the midwest was completely settled, but most of the people are less settled in their ideas and understanding about the world around them. They're more open to differences in other people because there are so many more people, so many more different people, and so much more to experience in terms of culture and diversity. It can't be matched anywhere else in the country.