Why did you leave the city for the country?
July 7, 2010 3:41 AM   Subscribe

As an American who spent most of my life in big cities, I am now moving to the English countryside. I want to hear about other people's experiences with the transition from city to country life and what they do for entertainment.
posted by xyla2000 to Travel & Transportation around England (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up in the countryside and moved to the city, but I'm going to give you the example of my mother in law, who sort of did the reverse. Basically her time divides four ways:

- Gardening
- Community activities (including various social clubs, amateur dramatcis charity work, church)
- Learning - i.e. using community colleges and evening schools
- Socialising at friends' homes

She is retired, though. I think the biggest question you have is how much you do/do not want to engage with the local community. There are pros and cons to either choice, but the question is where your friends or social life will come from (assuming you want a local-based one and it isn't already in place).
posted by MuffinMan at 3:47 AM on July 7, 2010

learn to appreciate lukewarm beer and you will be fine
posted by ouke at 3:52 AM on July 7, 2010

"Cellar temperature" (somewhere around 10-12C) is hardly lukewarm - unless you're in a particularly cold pub it will be well below room temperature while not being so cold it numbs the tongue and prevents you from tasting the beer (being so cold you can't taste it properly is an advantage for many types of beer, of course).

Depends what sort of "countryside" you're moving into. Many villages will have an active social scene, as MuffinMan says - clubs, events in the village hall, the pub (if still in existence). The church plays a larger role as a social centre than it does in most cities - people who are only vaguely religious (the vast majority of "Christians" in the UK) are more likely to attend church in rural areas, in my experience, because it's a place to meet people. The really big difference is that in a rural area you have a much more limited choice of people to socialise with, and so there's a much greater need to rub along with everyone regardless of whether they are "your sort of person". On the other hand, many "rural" areas are in fact little more than dormitories for towns and cities, with people driving out of the area for all their working and social activities.
posted by nja at 4:04 AM on July 7, 2010

Pub! This is the best way to meet people, and find out what's going on in the local area. If there's any local clubs you might be interested in the landlord is the best person to ask. As well as that a lot of pubs run football teams and pool and dart leagues.
posted by tsh at 4:15 AM on July 7, 2010

And there's always the chance to become a real ale aficionado too. As you can see above, we are slightly obsessive about the stuff. :)
posted by tsh at 4:16 AM on July 7, 2010

"The English Countryside" covers a massive, massive range of cultures and local peculiarities, from the Cumbrian fells to leafy Surrey - where are you moving? That will greatly inform answers here.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:37 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

What did you do for entertainment when living in the city?
posted by Simon_ at 4:51 AM on July 7, 2010

As others have said, a bit more information about you and where you're moving too will help.

Here are some generalities. People travel for entertainment. There will be little or no public transport after 6pm, so you need a car or a lift.

Hopefully your local pubs will be great.

Even if you don't go to church, there will be clubs and social activities connected with it and based there because it's often the only community space in the area. You don't need to start going to church to attend. Many things happen in the daytime on a weekday because generally older people live in the countryside and don't travel, there will be less stuff happening in the evening. Younger people move out or socialise where they work.

No matter where you're from or how long you live there, you will always be an incomer. This will probably not be an issue, but that does depend on the area. My Dad is a County Councillor for the village my parents have lived in for 20 years, it's pretty much a dormitory village for the nearby towns and cities. Even with all that, he got caught in a discussion the other day between two older residents, and he realised that the issues went right back to when they were at school together, and nothing my dad could do would help resolve it, he just hadn't lived there long enough.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:38 AM on July 7, 2010

If you're in the countryside proper rather than the suburbs then you probably have the opportunity for some great riding. If you like shooting, birding, hiking, or that sort of thing then those are popular hobbies.

Gardening as mentioned above, anything that requires a lot of space that you could never really do in the city. Always wanted a large Japanese garden? Now's your chance!
posted by atrazine at 5:47 AM on July 7, 2010

One thing that I wish someone had told me before my similar move a few years back is this:
People. Move. Slower.

I don't mean they crawl, or that they're dumb. I mean that time simply isn't the hurryupgottadoitnowmovemovemovedammit factor that it generally is in the city. Don't expect shops to open right at 9, don't expect the server to bring your menu as soon as you sit down, don't expect people to get the hell out of your way just because you're walking faster.

(This, of course, does not apply if there's a real emergency. The pub will clear out before you've even realized that there's a fire alarm going off all the way across town.)
posted by Etrigan at 6:12 AM on July 7, 2010

I was in a pub out in the English countryside once and drew attention because I was woman drinking beer. People found this fascinating. Evidently only the men drank beer in that area. The women ordered mixed drinks like gin and tonic and such.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:34 AM on July 7, 2010

Additionally, as you may well already know, Britain is tiny, and huge areas of the British countryside are about an hour from London, or other large cities, on the train. What plenty of people do for entertainment in the country is go to the city for the evening.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 7:31 AM on July 7, 2010

Seconding what game warden to the events rhino said... My folks have maybe 6 houses within a mile of theirs, but they are a 20minute drive to a main train station, and a 40 minute train ride to the centre of London.
posted by SecretsKill at 9:11 AM on July 7, 2010

Walk. The countryside is covered with footpaths. Explore - get a large scale OS Map of your area and get familiar with the country lanes. Watch the seasons change. Forage in the hedgerows. Look at the birds. Listen to the dawn chorus. Celebrate that the summer days are 18 hours long. Look at the stars in the winter sky.

Find local food producers. Find your local breweries (it's what this American does in the English countryside). Go to the famers market. Shop seasonally. Buy local eggs. Remind yourself what real food, honestly prepared, tastes like.
posted by sagwalla at 9:46 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

As pointed out above the specifics will depend on which part of the country you are talking about, but it's impossible to be very far from a town, and difficult to be far from one or more cities wherever you are in England. My experience is with North Yorkshire. For what it's worth, things break down into two areas: community and cultural.

Yes, a lot of community life revolves around the pub, but as noted there are many other things -- church events at the village hall, school related things, agricultural shows (from village up to county), tennis and gardening clubs, yoga, playgroups and so on. A lot of the people who take part are retired because they have the free time, but working age people also are well represented in most things. The locals actually like it when newcomers take part in the community; many incomers arrive and treat it a little like suburbia where you barely know your neighbours and certainly don't take an active part in anything and they are the ones that are resented or ignored.

Culturally there is a huge variety. Locally, a panto, films shown regularly at a local hall, a music festival, visiting theatre troupes, lectures etc. And if you are willing to travel a bit pretty much anything you could want -- for about the same travel time it would take from outer London to the West End -- where I was I could have theatre in Scarborough, York, Leeds and Bradford, opera in Leeds, music in endless variety and so on. You don't have the choices you would have in London, but then again London is only a couple of hours away by train if you are starved for something specific. In other areas of the country the closest cultural centers will be different, but the idea will remain the same

The big mental shift is the same as in the States: going form a large, anonymous city, to life in a small community where over time everybody comes to know pretty much everything about you. Also the change from having everything available nearby, at any time of the day or night, to having limited options nearby, no 24 hour filling station close etc. The only public transport is by taxi except for a few intermittent busses along major routes. Developing friendly relations with the local tradesmen is really important as you don't have too many options; if you need a plumber in a hurry it's as well to know one who can get to you the same week and is willing to return your calls.

I have heard newly arrived people complain about the noise (dawn chorus, animals, farm equipment, shotguns or bird-scarers, RAF jets practicing at low level...) and the smells of livestock, but I'm presuming you are not that naive.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:05 AM on July 7, 2010

I can't speak to the English countryside, but about five years ago I went from having been a Big City Girl all my life, to living in a cabin in the forest.

Conceptually it's probably a lot like rural England here, there's a small town (800 people) 6 miles away, and that's where I get my mail and meet friends for dinner. There are larger towns farther away (5,000 people/15 miles; 40,000 people/25 miles). This is a rural area which is actively farmed, and that which isn't under propagation is woodlands.

To compound the isolation, I'm not in a relationship (and happy with that status), AND I work from home on a freelance basis. Crazy, right? It probably helps that I'm very introverted.

What Helps:

1. Metafilter, and AskMe (obvy). Other online communities, including my own blog, Ravelry, and the blogs of others. I spend a lot more time participating online than I ever used to. When I lived in the city, my interest in the web was "read only."

2. Netflix - both their streaming and their DVD services are lifesavers. (I'm sure there's an English Netflix, right?)

3. Chickens! I never wanted chickens until I moved out here and realized this might be my only chance to live the real rural life. My pet chickens are fun, I raised them from baby chicks, and built their coop (actually a chicken tractor) by hand, from scratch, starting from a knowledge base of zero.

4. I like to learn. Chickens were a great opportunity for that. Living in a rural area is a great chance for you to dig into any projects or fields you've always been curious about. Things you thought "Oh I'll do that when I'm retired." Not to sound morbid, but you may never make it to retirement, so why not start doing those things now?

5. Knitting. I learned to knit about a year before I moved. I have pushed myself to get better, learn more, meet more people, get involved with the knitting community. Your favorite hobby will offer the same opportunities (perhaps not locally, depending on the hobby, but certainly online).

6. No TV. It's an easy cop-out to just plop yourself in front of the television and let it soak up your entire discretionary time budget. Life's better without it!
posted by ErikaB at 11:23 AM on July 7, 2010

I'm sure there's an English Netflix, right?

I was going to recommend lovefilm. I would advise against going without TV initially (as someone who only uses his for DVDs and moved to Cornwall 5 years ago), the first few months in any new place can be difficult and it is nice to have something to take up the time if nothing else is available. It might also help with some cultural acclimitisation.

Go looking for farm shops, the countryside is full of them and while they may not be cheap they can offer deliciousness,
posted by biffa at 12:30 PM on July 7, 2010

The other reason for giving more of a clue where you are is that then you can be invited into MeFi meetus more easily. If you are moving to Cornwall there could be 3 of us by the end of the year!
posted by biffa at 2:14 PM on July 7, 2010

Learn to create your own entertainment, as opposed to going to places that entertain you like in city or big town life. What I have noticed amongst city people who have moved out to the city is that they struggle to see what there is to do if there isn't a building or place that sells you something to do. Going out for walks especially, or biking, learning to enjoy the outside and peace and quiet will be important and useful to you. You might start to notice nature more, the birds and the plants, the changes in smell in the air depending on the time of day, all of these things. Depending on how you adapt, and your personality, you will either go crazy from boredom of you will find that you relax and learn to appreciate the moment more.
posted by tumples at 3:56 PM on July 7, 2010

Thank you everyone for their suggestions and comments. For those who asked, I will be moving to Surrey near Guildford.
posted by xyla2000 at 9:17 PM on July 7, 2010

Xyla2000 - I don't think many would consider Guildford very "out in the country", though there is some beautiful countryside out there (there's a lovely walk out over the Downs from Guildford to Shere). Guildford is a good-sized place with creature comforts (and some discomforts, like the clubbing culture). I used to work in Guildford and stayed for a while in a village called Bramley, to the south of Guildford. It was a great place to get familiar with the rhythms of life in the UK - country enough to offer rural beauty on the doorstep, but only a few miles from Guildford, and then London is less than an hour away by commuter train.
posted by sagwalla at 12:55 AM on July 8, 2010

Sagwalla: I will actually be in Shere.
posted by xyla2000 at 1:58 AM on July 8, 2010

Excellent! It's a lovely village, and you've got Surrey Hills Brewery on your doorstop.

Now I'll stop banging on about the beer!
posted by sagwalla at 2:03 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

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