7 surprising things about living in a small town

Moving to a small town brings some obvious changes. Shopping for anything beyond groceries means a day trip to another town. Ethnic restaurants barely exist. There’s no apple store at the mall for when your computer crashes. There’s no mall, for that matter.

These are obvious, right? When we moved to our small town I didn’t think much about how different things would be culturally. Sure, I knew we headed to a new part of the country and joining the military community. Those would of course bring some lifestyle changes, but I didn’t really think about the small town aspect beyond the obvious. So imagine my surprise when I realize that half the commerce works through Facebook rather than their own website! Or that map apps like Waze don’t really work in such a rural area: they will ACTUALLY take you on dirt farm roads, genuinely telling you it’s the best route.

If the sunrises are this gorgeous it's worth getting up for them!

Seven Surprising Things About Living in a Small Town

  1. Businesses often don’t have websites. Facebook pages, or ask around. Organizations communicate exclusively through Facebook messenger. The flip side to this is that you can sometimes get deals that you hear about via word of mouth. It’s all about knowing the pass code: deals aren’t advertised, but if you ask about it specifically, they’ll give you the deal.
  2. Credit cards can’t be your go-to form of payment. I’m not talking about your fast food national chains, or anything on base. But locally owned businesses and services often function on cash or check only. Don’t even think about showing up without your checkbook – I know friends who have been refused service because they didn’t show up with the money.
  3. Local events are a big deal. Our town hosts two main events each year: the Rockin’ Rumble and Candy Cane Cash. I’ve shared about the Rockin’ Rumble previously, and it’s quite the main event every April. The town basically shuts down for the weekend except for events related to the car show. Candy Cane Cash is a sweepstakes for shopping locally during the holidays. We had just moved to the area during the last one, so we kind of missed its popularity. That is, until we realized that everyone we knew had gone to the prize drawing and parade! Who knew? But we’re marking our calendars for next year!

Classic cars to crazy creations at the Altus Rockin' Rumble, Oklahoma! | Teaspoon of Nose

  1. Things can happen much quicker than you expect – sometimes you pick up the phone and things can happen in a way that doesn’t in bigger cities. When we lost our wifi after a storm, we already had the cell number of our local technician and called him up.  He swung by the next morning when he finished another job and fixed it without bothering with the paperwork, a full six days before our official appointment!
  2. Things can happen much slower than you expect. Let me reiterate that even with the guy coming as soon as possible, it still took FOUR DAYS to fix our internet. Which I know sounds a bit prima donna, but trying to run an online business means momma needs her wifi. Another example: we had a backyard fence installed and only one company we could use. Possibly because there’s no competition, the process took three weeks.
  3. It is TOTALLY about who you know. It shouldn’t surprise you that small town life runs on relational capital. Before you hire a service or make a purchase, ask around. There’s usually deals that float around through word of mouth only that the owners honor if you’re in the know!
  4. Weekend trips are more common and less… glamorous. At almost three hours away, Oklahoma City counts as a day trip. People were confused when we planned an overnight trip there! Friends go away much more regularly than in pervious places I’ve lived. Most of the time, though, there’s a significant shopping portion involved, even for just groceries! If you want things like health foods, craft supplies, or clothes from anywhere other than Walmart, you have to set aside a day.

small town surprises

I didn’t consider myself a city girl before moving out here, but living in a town smaller than the undergrad population of my university has given me a whole new perspective.

For those of you who’ve moved from big city to small town, or vice versa: what differences surprised you?

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18 thoughts on “7 surprising things about living in a small town

  1. As a Londoner who relocated to a teeny town in Southern Italy I feel your pain. There’s something lovely about knowing your neighbours now though rather than worrying if they’re going to mug you. I find the hardest thing about a small town is that people refer to place by the first name of the person who owns them, which is fine unless you don’t know them! “Go get the meat from Giuseppe not Michele” Er who are either of those guys?!

    1. Haha exactly! I recently had a friend give me directions, and he used zero street names or distances! “just head north out of town until you pass the second cemetery…” It worked, but it was so confusing at first!

  2. Wow, this is such a nice compilation of all the points I can relate to. I moved from my city to a small town and it seemed like I am in a totally different part of the world. Great post!

  3. This is a really interesting read because I grew up in a large village where everyone knew everybody’s business and I hated it, moved to a big town as soon as I was old enough to live on my own-but there is that community side of things that I miss, always having people on hand if you need them etc… for me a big town suits me better, but I appreciate where I spent many years a lot more now I am no longer there!!

    1. I’m sure there’s some crazy things going from small to big as well! It’s been a fun to experience, but I also think I’m probably a city girl at heart. 🙂

  4. As someone that grew up in a small(relatively) town, I know one thing for sure – I’m never coming back. There’s nothing like a big city, vibrant and colourful. But I do understand why some people want to move.

    1. I have to say that I don’t think I could do a small town forever. This city is smaller than the university I attended! But for a couple of years, it’s fun to try something new.

  5. I’ve always wondered about living in a small town. Mainly from watching Gilmore Girls growing up. It seems really sweet to know all of your neighbors but also dealing with them being in your business, which I am not fond of. The feeling of community seems nice though.

    1. Haha that’s hilarious – my husband told me it would be like Gilmore Girls when we first found out we were moving there!

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