How to Sound Like a Local in Raleigh

As a transplant, you won’t be in the minority in the Raleigh area. In fact, most people are from somewhere else and it’s increasingly hard to find a true local – meaning someone who was born in Raleigh. We are very welcoming to newcomers in the area since almost everyone was in your shoes at one point or another.

But even so, you’ll likely want to fit in as easily as possible. And there are few surefire ways to stand out as a newbie.

Keep these tips in mind as you settle into Raleigh:

Don’t say you are moving to or live in RDU.

If you hear someone say RDU in any context other than talking about the airport, it’s a sure fire sign that they are not a local. RDU is the airport code, and if you tell someone you live in RDU, they are going to know you are not from around here – or worse, they’ll think you actually moved into the airport. Using the term Raleigh-Durham is also a big red flag that you are a new transplant. Instead, talk about the specific city that you are moving to – Raleigh, Durham or one of the many smaller towns in the area.

But it’s OK to use the term “The Triangle.”

The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area – along with surrounding towns, including Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Wake Forest, Carrboro and Garner – is often referred to as “The Triangle.” And if you hear the phrase “The Triad,” the person is talking about Greensboro, High Point, Burlington and surrounding towns. To make it even more confusing, if you hear someone say “Research Triangle Park” or RTP, they are not talking about the entire region, just the large office park located between Raleigh and Durham near RDU.

It’s State and Carolina.

College sports, especially basketball, is big in this area. When someone says that they are going to a State game, they are heading to watch the North Carolina State University Wolfpack play. Likewise, if someone says that they root for Carolina, they are cheering for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tarheels. And yes, you will fit in quicker if you pick a team soon after moving here.

If someone says UNC, it’s understood that the person is talking about UNC at Chapel Hill and not one of the other state universities, such as UNC at Charlotte or UNC at Wilmington. These schools are almost always referred to by their full name or maybe as Charlotte or Wilmington, if it’s already understood that the conversation is about colleges.

Inner and Outer Loop

While technically the road name is I-440, no one really calls the interstate that circles downtown Raleigh by its official DOT name, but instead says Inner and Outer Loop. And if you find yourself confused as to which road you need to take, just remember that you are on the Inner Beltline or Loop if you can see downtown Raleigh Skyline out of the passenger side of your car.  As an aside, the northern loop around the area is called I-540 and everyone, even locals, use the official name for this road.

Inside the Beltline (or ITB for short) means inside the I-440 Loop.

If you hear someone talk about “Inside the Beltline” or they use the abbreviation ITB, they are talking about the area located within the I-440 Loop. This includes downtown Raleigh as well as several historic neighborhoods, including Five Points and Cameron Park.

Y’all is a Word.

You don’t have to actually use the southern term. I promise, no one will hold it against you whether you do or don’t. But don’t be surprised if you repeatedly hear people use the word y’all when referring to a group of people. It doesn’t mean that the person isn’t educated or has a small vocabulary, it just means that y’all is simply a word.

And the easiest way to know when you’ve become a North Carolina local is when y’all rolls off your tongue without you even noticing. Trust us, your day will come.



Jennifer Goforth Gregory