What is it like living in a small town?

lyfiaOctober 18, 2007

Next month we will be moving to a real small town with ~4k people. I have never lived in such a small town before. Smallest was about 120K and that was for a very short time, so I'd like to hear from others who have or are living in a small town what to expect. We will be living right outside of town in a new part of an existing sub-division of acerage lots.

I met one of our neighbors and landowners in the area where we are moving and he mentioned when I said I've never lived in a small town that everybody knows your business. This makes me a little uncomfortable (not that I have anything to hide - just a private person who would never want to be a celebrity). So any tips on how to deal with that too would be much appreciated.

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Do you have school-age children? Will you be living in town or outside the town? Will you or anyone else in your household be working with other townspeople?

We live in a small town--but not right in town. Until our children started school we really didn't get to know anyone--both my DH and I worked in bigger towns not too far away (25 or so miles). I suspect that unless you grew up in the town, live or work right in town, or have children in a local school you'll be able to keep your life private.

Probably the best way to stay anonymous is not to get involved in anything. I don't recommend it, but that's probably the only way. When there isn't a crowd to melt into, you can't help but be visible.

Personally, I like that I know a lot of the people now and that when I go to the grocery store I will run into at least one or two people I know. I'm not an outgoing, gregarious person, but I do like to have contacts with my neighbors.

By and large, most people in small towns are friendly and much more relaxed/laid back than those that live in large towns or cities. But I have noticed that, at least in the DC area, many people have moved out to the country & small towns to not only escape the traffic and have more room but also to live someplace where people are friendly and not overly concerned with "keeping up with the Jones'" or having perfectly manicured lawns & house. In a small town you don't have to feel that you can't have people stop by just b/c your house isn't in perfect condition. And stop by they will (once they get to know you)--if only for a short chat.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2007 at 7:07PM
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Check out the Kitchen Table forum, a lot of people there live in small towns.

I think there are a couple of other factors to consider... is your small town very close (commuting distance) to a larger metro area? That will be different from a small town that is oh, 50 miles from the next town of any size.

And the part of the country will make a difference, too. In the West, your privacy will be more respected, but in the South, the locals will expect you to belong to one of their main churches or other organizations. (Am speaking from personal experience).

Here is a link that might be useful: The Kitchen Table

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 10:25AM
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Thank you both of you. We will be right outside of town in a new small acerage neighborhood that is part of an older similar style neighborhood.

We don't have school age children, but are working on the children part so one day hopefully we will.

The town is in TX and it is more than 50 miles to any of the larger cities such as San Antonio, Houston, and Austin. There are some larger small cities not too far away, but still at least 20-30 miles or more.

The town and surrounding town do get some "outsiders" in the form of retirees and lots of tourists for some big events twice a year as well as people just wanting to get out of the city for some r&r.

We are both going to have some long commutes and not have too much time to socialize as we'd like to go do our hobbies on the weekends. Now you have me scared. Good thing is DH grew up one town (a little larger though) over in a different county so maybe he will be good at this. Though we are very similar in personalities.

Thanks I will check out the "Kitchen Table" forum.

BTW I don't want to be anti-social and I don't mind meeting people and talking in the grocery store or other public places. I do that now as I always run into somebody I know when there due to the few stores in the area where I live. I'm just not sure what to expect as I don't feel like I have to participate in anything here unless I have the time and time will be even more precious to me once we move.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 12:05PM
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I've lived in a small town most of my life. All my life, really, with the exception of 1 year, LOL.

I wouldn't know how to live in the city. It always seemed like a fun thing to try for a while but I'm a small-town type and I don't think I could handle it for too long. It's what you're used to and how flexible and adaptable you are personality-wise that make the biggest difference, I think. My dd had never lived in a city until she moved for college, and she has pretty much lived in the city ever since and loves it. She loves small towns, too. She's the Bohemian type and is happy with anyplace that celebrates that sort of thing. She also has no trouble meeting new friends and building a new social life.

The thing about people knowing your business is probably unavoidable in a town of 4k simply because you're going to run into the same people frequently. Your neighbor is also going to be the bank manager or grocery store clerk etc. It's not like you can go into the bank to clear a bad check (which, ahem, may or may not have ever happened to me) and think that no one will know you there. OTOH, they may actually phone you to tell you there is a problem and allow you to take care of it before there's a fee. You give up some anonymity but you gain some personal attention.

I'm not very social and AM very private but I like that there are people who take a personal interest in me or wave to me in the grocery store. I have lived in a neighborhood in town, which was very pleasant and friendly, and currently live outside town on acreage with few neighbors. Pluses and minuses to each. The only thing I couldn't stand was living in an apartment complex, which felt to me like living in a goldfish bowl.

Good luck with your move! There is a thought that I have always kept in my head and that my daughter lives by as well: your choices are rarely irrevocable. So, give it a chance and see how it goes. In the off chance that you find you hate it, you can always change your mind and go back to the city! Sometimes we get tripped up by the notion that a decision is permanent.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 2:16PM
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I only lived in a small town of about 1200 until 8th grade then I moved to a big city - went from a class of about 120 to a class of about 800. You're definitely not anonymous in a small town. Everyone knows who everyone is and depending on how "notorious" you are they can know alot about you. I think it's more that everyone knows everyone rather than everyone knows everything about every one.

I had the opportunity to go to my class reunion in the small town for the first time ever - my 30th class reunion. I also went to the one for my high school class. Gotta' say I had much more fun at the small town reunion - people were more down to earth and friendly - and I knew everyone!!

Life is what you make it - no matter where you are. I wouldn't worry too much - it will probably be just fine.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2007 at 11:34PM
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I have a friend who just moved to a small town. She is divorced with three small boys. Anyway, the folks in that small town are very religious, all the ladies and girls wear knee length skirts, and hair in buns (to give you an idea).

My friend is a teacher, and was shocked to hear that she was the "talk of the town!" She soon realised that the daily newspaper had published a story on their "new teacher" and they shared every tiny bit about her i.e. age, where she moved from, how long divorced, single mum with three boys etc. She wasn't too happy, but is now learning to enjoy the peace and quiet coupled with the whisperings about her "risque" life,lol

You might enjoy the small town if they're a little more open than this one.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2007 at 7:18PM
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seekingadvice - I don't really live in-town right now. We are trading the same size lot and a 100 sq ft smaller house when moving so from that stand point I guess things won't be so different. The ammenities will be though as I can be downtown in 20 min if I want with the country living feel right now. I don't mind people knowing who I am or anything like that. I'm guessing we'll really only know the neighbors around us as most of our business will have to be done in the towns we work in due to hours we'd actually be home so maybe we won't be notorious. At least I hope not ;) (that part scares me - though I'm not sure what we'd do to be notorious).

gibby3000 - "I think it's more that everyone knows everyone rather than everyone knows everything about every one. " - I really hope that is the case as that is fine with me. I had that in the master planned community I grew up in.

mariposatraicionera - I'm sure this town is a little more open than that so hopefully that won't be an issue. I do hope it is more the friendly more slower paced like others have described.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 10:50AM
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It's funny-- when we first moved to Maine, the town we were living in had 800 year round residents. My ex and I joked that we increased the town's population by almost 1% (there were six of us)! When we went to register the kids for school, it was funny-- the entire school (about 100 kids) all came to the windows to get a gander and wave hi to the "new kids". A friend of my exbrother in law (who also lived in town all his life) who didn't know us from Adam came over as we were unloading the Uhaul. His wife had a piping hot casserole (that was excellent) and he had the bed of his truck filled with almost a whole cord of firewood. We unloaded that after he helped us unload the Uhaul. Welcome to the neighborhood!

That's small town! It's a beautiful thing!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 11:34AM
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We considered moving to a small town a few years ago. The town had only one major employer, so our neighbors would have also been dh's coworkers. Overall, we found the town to be quite charming and the people to be very friendly. It felt safe.

Had we moved there, we would have also bought a small condo in the closest city to have a weekend get away.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 8:21PM
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I really like how seekingadvice summed up her experience...and buehl ang Bill V but nobody met us with cord wood (a neighbor did come by with cookies.) My sentiments are similar to theirs. I love small town life. People in our town are respectful and have enough going on in their own lives that they don't care to spend a lot of time dwelling on the affairs of others. There are a few gossips I like to avoid but there aren't many people interested in listening to them. There is an active core of people devoted to making our town a special place. The downside is that it seems like a haul to go get groceries or to run errands. But DH and I work from home so don't commute to a place where these things are readily available.

This town suits our personalities (including dd's--she likes coming home fairly often from college in one of the larger New England cities.) I grew up in a large suburb (my class size was 400, ds's elementary school class size was 25--including kids from 2 towns) and DH grew up in a large city. I hope it suits you, too.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2007 at 11:51PM
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Thank you everybody you are making me feel much less worried about it and I hope we'll have the same experience as you have.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 12:07PM
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I will descibe one recent experience of my "small town" experience. A couple here in their early 50s both have cancer, believe it or not. On Saturday night we (dh, and I and all of our kids) attended a benefit for the family. It was held at the local catholic grade school auditoriuum. A ton of money was made for the family, all by donations. There was food, a sock-hop, a raffle, silent auctions (of course everyone bid way more than anything was worth), and lots of fellowship, and way too much beer.

This is pretty typical of our small town life. Of course gossip runs rampant, everyone knows everyones business, and we have nowhere to shop. Nothing is perfect. But, there is a lot to like about small town living.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2007 at 1:44PM
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