Help me survive BFE without too much misery
June 5, 2015 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Partner lives and works in a rural area of the country. I have lived in cities all of my adult life. The area where he lives is beautiful, but services of all kinds are limited. It's also very conservative, and we are not. But due to circumstances to be explained, I've committed to living there for at least 3 years. Please give me your tips and suggestions for making rural life work so that I can continue to see this as an adventure and not something to resent!

Partner and I plan to be married sometime next year. He has lived and worked in the same rural area for the past 20 years (we are both mid-40's). When we started dating early last year, he was actively seeking employment in an urban setting and had been for several years. While he is qualified for the work he's seeking, jobs in that area are few and far between. An added (delightful) complication is his child from his previous marriage, which limits how far away Partner can look for work. Initially Partner was very on board with moving to an urban area, even if it meant taking a less desirable job in his field. However, within the past 6 months he's become burnt out with the job search, and I had noticed him talking less and less about possible urban areas.

We had a long discussion about our future earlier this week (we'd talked about this before, but this discussion was the real 'let's get everything on the table' talk). Partner is currently in a place where he sees his child almost every day. A job change or move would mean getting to see Child only a few times a month. Partner is an awesome dad, and frankly I love seeing the two of them together. I think Partner would be quietly devastated to see Child that infrequently. Custody will be revisited in 4 years, hence the timeframe. I have the sort of job where I can find well-paying work anywhere, and have already been approached by employers in Partner's area. So, it makes sense for me to move to Partner's area.

Trouble is, I like living in a city. I like passing 5 grocery stores to get to my shopping destination. (In fact, wandering around big/exotic grocery stores is one of my favorite things to do.) I like eating at different restaurants and going to different bars on nights out. I am a runner and love running in different neighborhoods, on greenways, in parks. I also love my privacy. When I visit Partner, we are always stopped when we are in public (Walmart, the drug store, the one restaurant in town, walking the dog). ALWAYS. And now I get stopped when I'm by myself (Aren't you Partner's girl? Where are you running in such a hurry? You gonna feed that to Partner?).

I will do this. I'm not looking for relationship advice. This is the right choice. Partner is appreciative, but he's also worried about how I will survive/thrive once we move. He's committed to getting out of town at least one if not two weekends a month. I know I can order my 'weird' groceries online. What else can we do, mentally as well as physically, to help me adjust and stay sane? The move is still nine months to a year out, but I'll feel better if I'm prepared.
posted by sorrygottago to Human Relations (29 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should mentally commit to much longer than the three years starting in mid 2016. Your comment about custody being revisited in four years makes me assume the child is 14 and under. The child may not leave the area right at 18 for school or work, and the father may be reluctant to leave the daily contact (I'm actually really shocked that dropping from daily contact to biweekly contact was even considered a viable option). Having a longer time frame may make it easier for you to adjust and move your head as well as your body. My experience has been that boundaries and eccentrics are tolerated in small communities (when out running or shopping wear headphones and don't break stride when someone starts to talk but smile and wave). Run along the backroads instead of town, and wear shades and the headphones. Find a community of like-minded people to rotate dinner parties or cocktail night at your different houses, and get involved in the community events that match your values.
posted by saucysault at 4:06 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Could you share the geographic area with us, if not a specific town then a general region? Where are you living now, and how far away are these locations?
posted by smorgasbord at 4:17 PM on June 5, 2015

Response by poster: USA Midwest; i currently live 3 hrs away and he is at least 1.5 hrs from an urban area
posted by sorrygottago at 4:20 PM on June 5, 2015

I think finding a way to work cooking & shopping into your lifestyle will help -- any interest in gardening or canning? Small animal husbandry -- goats, rabbits, chickens, for milk, eggs, & meat?

Other ideas; planned long weekend culinary weekends?
posted by tilde at 4:26 PM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

As for people stopping you, I wonder if headphones won't do the trick.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:26 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

We moved out of Portland (Maine, not Oregon) a few years ago. Even tho' I had grown up in the country, it was a big adjustment for me. It's isolating, and yes, people know you in small towns. But you can also do things like get involved with your community. For instance, I know the gals in Portland do an Ikea bus trip every year. We make going to the mall a semi-annual event.

The upside is: I really don't have to lock my doors if I don't want to. I'm in a small city, in a good neighborhood, and the most noise I hear is the old fellas on either side competing with their lawn mowers. When I lived in Portland, it was some kids on the other side of my wall playing video games and having a mosh pit at 2:00 a.m.

Those same people who stop you? If you ever have a problem, they will be there to help you. Flood, fire or hail, they have got your back. Pick up the local free paper that is probably in the mail box and look at events. We have a college here with an art museum, for instance.

On update: I have also lived in the Midwest, so I get an idea of where you are coming from, as I have relatives there too (and have lived in the Midwest). Yes, I resent not being able to buy my ingredients, but I do like the farmers market (Maine is kind of like rural Wisconsin, for example). I got myself some hobbies and I clean the heck out of my house.

I guess I have found my peace with not having to be "on" all the time. A lot of women here don't wear make-up, fashion is whatever you want it to be, and there are a lot of friendly people, who are also involved in the arts, but they just aren't as pretentious as those in NYC.

Explore the community, a little at a time, have an open mind, and frankly, it's so good for your guy to stay near his kids. That, if you are willing to do that, is so great, and I commend you. Country people aren't as all bad as you think, and a lot of them aren't as conservative as you might think either. You just have to settle in, explore, and give them (and yourself!) a chance. Every month, we take a trip to either the mountains or the sea shore (or in you case, the lake shore). If there is a group that does something you are interested in, go to it.

What I do is find places we can go: Maine farm days, places to pick gems, state parks, etc. All stuff you could do with the kids as well. And restaurants: we went to a farm-to-table restaurant on Mother's Day, and it was the most elegant place you could ever imagine, in the middle of rural Maine. So seek out the gems, you will find them.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:37 PM on June 5, 2015 [24 favorites]

Thanks for sharing the region. For starters, I think it's really important and awesome that your partner is staying close to his child and also that you are being understanding of this. The confidence that you're doing right by Child in this way should hopefully get you through some of the harder times of doubt.

1.5 hours each way makes for an easy day trip: you could easily plan a few nights a month where you go to a show or shopping or a meal, by yourself or with others.

3 hours each way makes for a do-able weekend trip, as you know, of course!

I think you're going to find many things that you enjoy: life is the country is different from the city but has its own set of joys and pleasures. When possible, I'd try to have a mindset of discovery for new things rather than a mindset of disappointment because things aren't how you're used to anymore. (I don't think you would have that negative attitude, I'm just mentioning it as something to be aware of as someone who also moved from a big city to a small town many years ago. I still consider cities to be my, um, "spirit location" but find myself equally happy and at home here.)

As saucysault said, small towns have a tolerance for -- or even openness to -- local eccentrics. As long as you're friendly or at least polite and respectful, you should be set! People may take awhile to warm up to you but I think it eventually can work just fine. You may find yourself having to travel farther to meet up with "local" friends or making great friends who are different than you but with enough shared interests. (It's easy finding people with the same age, values, interests, etc. in big places but it can mean a social isolation of its own. In smaller places you truly can branch out in new ways, if partially out of necessity at first.) As Marie Mon Dieu said, you may find yourself happily surprised by unexpected people who have views more similar to your own than anticipated.

I'd try to take people up on their offers when possible. Of course, you can always say no, like to attend religious services that don't correlate with your own, but saying yes in general may open new doors.
posted by smorgasbord at 4:41 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

smorgasbord beat me to it, but yes, 1.5 hours isn't that terrible, and it'd be a perfectly reasonable request to schedule in city trips on a regular basis, both day trips and maybe weekend ones if you want to get some nightlife stuff in too.

As for dealing with small towns, oh, man, I do not know. I've spent some time but not lived in truly rural areas, and the one big benefit I can think of is that you've got space. So if you have any kind of interest in big, messy hobbies, this might be just your opportunity to take them up. Pottery, silkscreening, carpentry, things like that.
posted by ernielundquist at 4:48 PM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Regarding privacy, you'll find that in small communities where everyone knows everything about everyone, people practice constructive ignorance. Like, they partition off a part of their brain where they just don't even think about things they know about you that you'd rather have private.

You will get used to knowing everyone. Sometimes it will feel stifling, but often it will feel comforting. Once they've gotten to know you, you won't ever have to explain your backstory or justify your eccentricities ... people will just know that you should not be spoken to before 7 a.m. because you need time for the coffee to kick in. In fact, people will see you in the grocery store and be like, "Oh, gottago! I just saw a notice for a 5K two towns over and I thought of you! Here, I grabbed you a flier!" I was in O'Hare airport earlier this year, for the first time in years, and it was making me so anxious and I couldn't figure out why, when it finally hit me: I hadn't seen a single person I knew. That literally NEVER HAPPENS to me anymore. Even if I don't know people, I at least recognize people, who shop at the same grocery store I do or whose kids go to the same dance classes as mine. On the way home, I let out a sigh of relief when I got to the regional bus terminal and I immediately knew which bus was to Peoria ... I didn't actually KNOW any of the people, but I recognized them from around town. And before I said anything or definitively approached the seating area, one of them glanced at me and was like, "Peoria bus is running ten minutes late, they said." I find watching the news in Chicago so boring now because when I watch it at home, I know at least 50% of the people reporting the news, being interviewed on the news, or committing stupid crimes on the news. It's MUCH LESS ENTERTAINING to watch terrible local news when you're not texting someone you know from church to be like, "DUDE! YOUR HAIRCUT IS TERRIBLE!" when they're on the news. I never thought I would like this, but I like it. I like knowing everyone around me. I like that the librarian I run into at the grocery store says, "Oh, we just got a new book in that you'd like, come by tomorrow!" And when I want to be anonymous, St. Louis and Chicago are not far away.

There will be liberals out there ... associated with nearby colleges, or organic farmers, or doctors at the hospital or engineers at ADM or whatever. (Actually, a lot of downstate Illinois community hospitals -- the little bitty ones -- are hiring doctors from India and so on, because it's hard to get American-born doctors to move to rural Illinois for a low salary, so they're sponsoring visas for immigrant doctors, you meet a lot of really interesting doctors from really interesting places, especially at teeny ERs and urgent care clinics!) Join the county democratic party -- there'll be one, even if it's so small they want to make you precinct captain at your first meeting!

The other thing I really like and value about living in a small community is that culture is participatory, and that everyone goes to everything. In Chicago you could go hear live classical music every night of the week; in Peoria, you're going to have to join the orchestra and actually MAKE the classical music. A friend of mine started an "alternative music" series in local parks in the summer. The park district was like, "We do not know who any of these bands are and your music is weird, but hey, cool, people using the parks!" and even gave him a grant to help put it together. He gets to meet all these up-and-coming bands in a genre he loves. If you want a cultural experience, you're going to have to make it happen -- which, to me, is much more fun than just ATTENDING it. And if you create it, people will come! Convince a local church to let you use their basement as a gallery for a show of local artists -- everyone in the town will come. Because there's not a lot going on, so everyone goes to everything. When I would go to the Renaissance Faire in Chicago, it's all nerds. In Peoria, it's everyone I've ever met because, hey, there's not a lot going on this weekend, ooooh, a Ren Faire, let's go to that! (This is why people stereotypically go to high school sports games, but really, they'll go to just about anything on offer.) And they enjoy things unironically. Who cares if the Ren Faire is cool or not? If you're too cool for it, you're the loser sitting at home. I go to corn mazes and high school basketball games and community band concerts and local theater productions and it's all a great deal of fun, and nobody is standing around disdainfully sniffing, "Oh, I guess it's OKAY, but if you want to see a REALLY good show ..." We're at a high school play! Of course it's fourth-tier! It's still fun! (And there are actually a number of REALLY GOOD, first-tier artists who work in more rural areas and show in Chicago, because the rent is much cheaper downstate ... keep your eye open in your rural area for artists, I promise they're there.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:53 PM on June 5, 2015 [77 favorites]

I don't mean to be woo woo about it but the reality is that you control a lot of this with your attitude. Which isn't great. "Survival" and "misery" are not great ways to frame this; you are not being shipped to a war zone.

I have found that it is helpful when moving into a new culture to note the differences but not judge them, to observe and to learn, to be curious and to be respectful. You are moving into a new culture, but one where you are fortunate enough to have Amazon Prime so it's pretty much going to be OK if you decide it will be.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:59 PM on June 5, 2015 [15 favorites]

I want to second what everyone is saying about participating in the community as much as possible. Again, you don't have to do everything but volunteering is a great way to interact with people and see life more from the inside than just the outside.
posted by smorgasbord at 5:06 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I moved from a large city to a small town a few years ago, not rural, but still a huge change. I hugely miss being in a big city, but I do enjoy more quiet and space, and find I have much more down time, and was really surprised to enjoy having time to do less, and therefore concentrate on myself more. A lot of small projects I kept meaning to get to? I'm starting to get through the list.

Also, Idk what is available in the area you are moving to, but I've been able to meet a lot of people online through local FB groups, that has been super helpful.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:11 PM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Commit to blooming where you're planted. Shed the big city expectations, and embrace the small and local: you can order kalamata olives online, but wow, nothing beats the homemade whoopie pies by the grocery's cash register. No symphony? Go take classes in canning and herb-growing from the local ag extension office. Volunteer at the public library, and make a friend of the librarian responsible for interlibrary loans. Read the local free circular and go to estate sales; it helps with learning about how people live in a particular place. (When I moved to the country, I read a lost-and-found ad for an escaped cow and I LAUGHED. Now my neighbors help when my livestock escapes and I'm not laughing anymore.) Go to the fairs and eat all of the terrible, wonderful fair food, and really look at projects done by 4-H kids and the flower arranging skills of your neighbors; this will not only give you something to talk about with these folks, but will also help you appreciate what people still do by hand, for love of it. Let your heart fill back up a little when people at intersections wave you through, patiently, unlike city drivers. Watch the land change in its seasons. Learn the sky and the winds and how to give the two-fingered rural salute from your steering wheel. Start a book group; if you need an activity and it's not there, form it yourself. Decide to take an interest in what may now seem impossibly constricting and parochial because it may teach you something. Not least about yourself.

Worry less. Do more. Absolutely keep those scheduled days or weekends away, because you will need to refill your cultural well. (Make sure to have the BEST internet service you can get/afford. Find online communities where you can discuss Fauvism or foreign policy or something. Write to your friends a LOT. Complain to your Away friends.) But when in Rome, Ohio, be kind and cheerful; learning to kinfolk successfully means recognizing folks and drawing out their stories, and remembering to ask about them next time you meet. Asking questions is an underrated way of guarding your privacy a little bit, too.

Go. Learn. Do. Bloom.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:51 PM on June 5, 2015 [21 favorites]

Best answer: I've done the rural, small-town thing, and came to like many aspects of it: I miss being able to safely walk anywhere at any time of day (I'm a nightowl who used to like a good midnight ramble; not so much now that I live in a bad neighborhood in a city, alas); to not worry if I'd locked my doors; to walk to a kickass farmer's market (the highlight of the Saturday morning social scene, it's true) and become a true regular at the local restaurants and cafes. You'll get used to factoring in more time at the grocery store because you have to have a conversation about your purchases. And having that chat with the checker every damn time you just want to grab your groceries and go will totally payoff that time you forget your wallet and she saves your groceries for you in a refrigerated unit while you run home and get it or even lets you agree to come back tomorrow and pay! (Both things actually happened to me!)

I got back into many outdoor activities: hiking, canoing, berry picking, etc. I sort of got into landscape photography and birdwatching, now that there were gorgeous rural sunsets all the time and way more birds than just pigeons to see. I almost got a dog because it felt like finally there'd be enough room for it to run. I made great friends among the close-knit liberal community from the local college, the retirees who'd moved for the climate, the hippie farmers, etc. Great people, many of them involved in nonprofits doing great work in the region which raised my social awareness about many new causes and made me feel like I played a more direct role in supporting people when I volunteered with them or donated to their organizations.

And yes, when that all felt a little too claustrophobic, many days I drove out to the next town over just to sit at a Starbucks in peace without seeing anyone I know. And we'd regularly drive the hour to the Big City for an evening or even a weekend of ethnic foods, fancy shopping, artsy movies, etc. It was very doable.
posted by TwoStride at 6:18 PM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Another liberal city girl (well, suburban anyway) who transplanted to a pretty conservative rural area to say that it's not nearly as bad as I feared. Everything's still here, it just tends to be more hidden to an outsider since we don't already know everything like everyone else does.

It took me awhile to find my feet. But most things I liked in a big city I found here. For the few things that aren't around? Well, a two hour drive quickly becomes pretty normal, and no big deal.

I go to a city about once or twice a month to go to the Fancy Frou Frou grocery, or bookstore or whatever. But I also joined a CSA and get a half bushel of organic fruit and veg every week, and I explore the roadside stands and tiny pop-up markets (just got the first of this year's strawberries today and they are amaaazing) on the roadside stands. There's good butchers here too... there have to be since people get their own livestock or deer they hunted processed there.

There's a good yoga studio and a few good coffee shops. There's a restaurant that looks like a total dive, but turns out to do amaaazing all-you-can-eat lobster boils. (In the midwest! They get a truck and go all the way to Maine to pick it up and haul it back overnight) There's a few surprisingly good bars tucked amongst the awful ones.

Give it time. You'll find things you love. And you'll have your Partner to support you too.

Honestly when I first moved here I thought I'd made a terrible mistake. But now work's sending me to a big city for an extended assignment and I can't help think of all the things I'm going to miss here, and the things about a city I'm not looking forward to anymore!
posted by Caravantea at 6:19 PM on June 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Tip for avoiding people you know in a small town: get groceries at 10:00 on Sunday morning. Busybodies will be in church.
posted by almostmanda at 7:04 PM on June 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, and please keep them coming. I realize I came across as snarky in my title, but I really am trying to have a positive attitude. This will be my home, after all, for (as saucysault pointed out) probably more like a decade. At least. But it is doable! And you guys are being very helpful.
posted by sorrygottago at 7:11 PM on June 5, 2015

My experience with small town grocery stores is that you'll lose serendipity but you'll gain customization. Your local market will be happy to special order non-perishable items for you (as long as you let down your guard to ask for them), and you'll probably gain a whole lot of local produce at prices that don't include transportation and warehousing on the way to the big city (or, for that matter, markup to account for damage and spoilage in transit). So, yes, the manager of the grocery store will know your taste in peanut butter, but he or she will also make sure to keep it in stock for you.

On the one restaurant, though: I sympathize and I'm sorry. My parents have a lake house where it's a half hour to any restaurant, and they all serve fried catfish – and I don't like fried catfish. Definitely schedule dinners in the big city at least once a month. Maybe learn to cook all the things you like to eat out? Start a supper club?
posted by fedward at 7:32 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

our local market will be happy to special order non-perishable items for you (as long as you let down your guard to ask for them),

Yes--you know how the checkers, even in urban stores, are trained to be all, "Did you find everything today?" and normally (if you're me) you blow off this question? Once in my small town I finally did mention that they didn't carry something I was obsessed with at the time (I can't even remember; I think a flavored water or soda of some kind). Within two weeks, they'd added it to their shelves and it became part of their regular stock!

And while I couldn't get the broad range of ethnic foods I enjoy here in a bigger city, my small town had some truly excellent restaurants and, delightfully, an amazing food truck culture (lots of trucks doing the rounds with meals for blue collar workers on various sites) that I dearly miss now.
posted by TwoStride at 8:16 PM on June 5, 2015

One thing to keep in mind is that it can often take a year or even two to start feeling at home in (and fond of) a place. Often it's only after you're well settled in that you start finding out about features of a place that you actually enjoy. So try to take the frustrations you'll almost certainly feel in stride, and hold off on definite conclusions about how much you like the place until a year or two have passed. (You might also experience the dip where, after you've become appreciative of a place, you start getting bored of it. It can help to think of that as a passing phase as well.)

On that note, making constant small talk with people can get more interesting once you get to know them better and the talk becomes less small. You might be able to steer these interactions in directions that feel more interesting to you.
posted by mail at 12:15 AM on June 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've moved a lot, including the city-rural thing, and live overseas now. We are also planning to move from the city to a very small town in the vague near future. You've gotten lots of good advice above.

What TwoStride says it totally true: my grandmother lived in a small mountain town outside of Yosemite and even big chain places like Vons would special order things for her (and all the cashiers knew her!). Also, I've heard and had lots of people confirm that it takes about 5 years as an adult to really integrate into a place. I've lived here three years, the longest I've lived anywhere since college, and I'm going to agree with this.

I was always a big proponent of the go-back-and-visit advice, and I am still, but with a few caveats. The first two years I lived here I ended up going home for weddings each summer. This year, we had a baby instead - ain't no way I'm taking a one year old on a long airplane ride! But this lack of a plan to go, and the not going, has forced me to learn to love my new home and adapt in a really good way. So I would caution against going back too often as it becomes a crutch to not really make a home in the new place. You can't really get involved in things if you're gone every other weekend, and it's too easy to spend alternate weekends killing time. You can't learn to adapt and find substitutes if you're constantly going back to the old place to do all your old things in the old way. I'd think about pacing yourself (every 4-6 weeks, at most), tapering it down over time (every second or third month), and doing (maybe an initial? and/or occasional) visit ban - no visits for the first six months, or whatever.

Also, read up on culture shock. It may very well apply here too.

I think assuming it will be 10 or more years is very wise. If it's earlier, you'll be pleasantly surprised; if it's longer than three you'll be ready.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:24 AM on June 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

You worry about the isolation, then worry that too many people are stopping & talking to you which implies to me the opposite of isolation. I worry you have a mindset that the countryside is going to be like xyz so you are seeing it though lenses tinted with expectation.

The amount of awesome food available in the country will blow your mind, so it's not neatly packaged in a grocery store, but Neighbour x has too many blueberries here take all you can pick, neighbour y just killed a steer would you like a freezer full of the most delicious grass fed beef at a price to make city folk weep with envy.

I live in where the fuck Indiana, I moved her from even more where the fuck South Australia, in both cases everything is there. You want good places to eat, hunt out that hole in the wall place that makes amazing food, withing half an hour of where I live now is sushi made by a Japanese trained sushi chef, bbq so succulent you'll cry, Pho made by some Vietnamese immigrants. They still exist in the country, you might have to drive further to find them but they are there, you say you like hunting up . Are there farmers markets in the area, check online about CSA's if you want delicious fresh produce once a week, stop at the roadside stands for strawberries that leave supermarket ones in the dust.

Those chatty neighbors you hate, I hated them too right up until my father was dying of lung cancer & they came out of the woodwork with help and support. When my mother broke her leg & couldn't even bath herself, they took turns coming by to visit everyday so I could go to work, I didn't have to ask they offered, not a moments hesitation.

Approach the area with a mind of open curiosity & you'll be amazed at what you can find. My husband lived here 10 years before I got here, he didn't know half the places I found and have dragged him to existed. So don't assume that all rural areas are xyz and try & look at it as an adventure.

Do I miss certain food stuffs, yes but you'll be surprised what the heck you can buy off of Amazon, and you don't even need to put pants on to get it.

You are going to get to live with your partner & see his son everyday. You can have a whole bunch of adventures with them while you try out all the new places & explore. About 3 months in you will have terrible homesickness and at about 8-12 months in you'll wonder what you were so worried about. 3 years in you'll be chatting with strangers at the supermarket & driving them crazy.
posted by wwax at 8:39 AM on June 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

Rural folks experience culture shock when they go to the big city and everything is too fast, too loud, too crowded, etc. City folks experience the same thing when they go rural. Rural communities are not as "empty" as you perceive them to be. They are empty of things you readily recognize. You will need to learn to see with new eyes.

I will recommend you get a library card at the nearest local library and start checking out books on the local history. Start learning about what has been important to development of the area. Start learning about politics and "urban development" type subjects for the area. Start learning about the local plant life. Do a little hiking and possibly camping. Start learning to identify trees and other details important to the landscape.

My ex could not find his way around the city. He said all the buildings looked the same to him. I could not find my way around the woods. All the trees looked the same to me. You need to learn about trees and weather and landscapes and a whole lot of other subjects so you have context. There will be fewer people and buildings and businesses, but that does not mean the place is empty or boring. You are merely blind to the richness of the area. Educate yourself about the things the area is rich in.

Also, Internet is your connection to people around the world and to buying anything you can't find locally.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 10:44 AM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

If the lack of restaurant choices is a big issue for you, that's fair enough so can I maybe suggest a supper club? My dad and his partner made friends with three other couples and they took it in turns to host dinner for all the other couples. This was in Canada and the only rule was "no Canadian cuisine." Over the course of 20 years, they ate their way around the world many, many times over.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:57 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I thought of another thing, which is the lower friction level in getting a lot of things done. Some things are much higher-friction since you have to go to the city to do them (Ikea is three hours away! People DO make a whole vacation day of it!) or have them shipped in. But a lot of things become much lower-friction tasks because everybody knows everybody. I'm now used to being able to say at dinner with friends, "My property tax bill came but it had this weird thing --" "Oh, let me e-mail my sister, she works in the assessor's office, she'll sort you right out." or whatever. Need a plumber on a Sunday? Someone knows someone who knows someone who'll come out and only charge you parts. My heat broke on a FREEZING cold night, below 10 below, after 10 p.m., and a couple of frantic texts to friends got a guy sent out at MIDNIGHT and he only charged me $45 for the part. The craziest chain *I* was involved in was, a friend of a friend had a problem with her federal student aid where she fell in a super-weird situation not contemplated by the rules, but where her information would be potentially revealed to her abusive ex-husband in order for her to get the aid. Her friend said, "Gosh, I don't know what to do, but Eyebrows worked at the college for a while, maybe she knows someone in financial aid, let me give you her contact info, she's trustworthy." She got in touch with me and I was like, "Wow, that is nuts, I do not know how to help, but I know who does" and I put her in touch with a friend of mine who's a staffer for our local Congresswoman, who focuses on women's issues policy stuff. The staffer was like, "Whoa" and ran it by the Congresswoman, who was able to get my friend-of-a-friend in touch with someone senior enough in the Department of Education to get it sorted so she could go to school with her aid, without giving her address to her ex. This took about 18 hours from the time my friend-of-a-friend complained to her friend in tears about the decision from the school's financial aid department.

Just a couple weeks ago my sister-in-law's younger cousin (who is a glass artist, in college) found out where I lived and was saying, Oh, she loves a certain glass artist here and wishes she could go visit her studio but she admires her work so much, but she has never met her, and also is a broke college student. And I was like DUDE HER HUSBAND IS MY DRINKING BUDDY, e-mail me when you want to come to town, we will put you up in our guest room and get you right into her studio, she will love to meet you, she is so nice! I don't know if the cousin will take us up on it but OBVIOUSLY we will put her up, drive her around, feed her, and even throw her a dinner party with all the local glass artists we know (which is all of them), because why wouldn't we? Some of the artists we don't know so well, but we'll invite them anyway because they know people we know and we'll just be like "my sister-in-law's cousin is a budding glass artist" and they'll be like "Oh, of course!" And we will almost certainly end the night with more alcohol than we started with because everyone brings way more wine than they drink.

You tend to focus on the things that are kind-of a hassle in a small town because you have to drive half an hour to the DMV or have a grocery item shipped to you, but you forget to notice how many of your other interactions become smooth and easy because someone knows someone who knows someone who can solve your problem and of course everyone is willing to go out of their way to do so, because they're all in this tight network of relationships.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:51 PM on June 6, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think isolation and anonymity are two different things. You might be isolated... But not anonymous! :)
posted by jrobin276 at 1:14 AM on June 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

isolation and anonymity are two different things

Yes, this is a helpful and accurate observation. For me, that has meant accepting that the vast majority of people in my community don't share my interests (the kinds of discussions I get to have here on MeFi) or politics or curiosity about offbeat subjects, and conversations tend not to have that intellectual edge that I find restorative and connecting. That's what trips to see friends, and online interactions, are for. I mean, yes, there are a few people I connect with, but most of them are From Away.) Burnell down at the ag store does not want to talk about feminism. BUT I have heard terrific stories about the town as it used to be, and have spent a lot of hours listening to people talk about beekeeping, and livestock care, and the best fixes for leaking tires, and how the Legion building used to be a farm, and how kids used to be responsible for taking care of animals... and all of the small things of people's lives that they remember and feel strongly about and know how to do. I have learned a lot, listening to folks.

That small talk you mention, "Hey, Partner's Girl!," can you see it as the shape of caring and recognition, rather than as intrusiveness? Light, silly answers to these questions maintain connection -- especially if these folks are the kind to pitch in during hard times, as in wwax's comments. Learning how to smile and return the queries in a lighthearted, quick way will also help you feel less vulnerable to the frequent public greetings you receive.

I was thinking about your politics differing from your neighbors', and I remembered the bit from Bob Altemeyer's "The Authoritarians" where he talks about how projects of mutual interest can help form bridges between people of differing beliefs. "Superordinate goals" is the term, iirc; everybody wants the creek cleaned up, and politics get set aside when you're all heaving an old washer out of the mud. There's common ground, but you have to make/see opportunities to work for it. When I moved here, I was intimidated by my .mil neighbor, a good old boy who towers over me and has the ways of a semi-unreconstructed drill sergeant. We have worked together with livestock, repaired fences together, swapped machines back and forth -- and there's nobody better when it comes to cleaning up after we've spent the day processing chickens. (Oh my God, the stories he tells -- hilarious, and a pleasure to hear told.) The person I expected him to be is totally different from the person he shows himself to be when we're working on a joint project (and he thinks I'm not so bad for a feminist Democrat, and my homemade rye bread isn't too bad, either).

Anyhow: You're going to have to work at not becoming isolated, but the lack of anonymity may be a way of getting knitted into a new set (and style/quality) of relationship. In difference is the possibility of an education, and your heart may open to this place in ways that take you by surprise.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:48 AM on June 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have dealt with the culture shock of moving to a village from a city and be glad you aren't single, bc that level of scrutiny and lack of privacy really was hard for me. My advice is to be open to doing things that you wouldn't normally do and spending time with people you might not normally spend time with. When people have different values it can mean that some topics are off the table for discussion but it doesn't mean that you wouldn't mind going to the gym with them. Say yes and you won't feel lonely.
posted by Gor-ella at 6:46 AM on June 8, 2015

I am a runner and love running in different neighborhoods, on greenways, in parks.

In many parts of the US, rural areas have USFS, BLM, state public lands, city or county public land, or other public lands you can run in.
posted by yohko at 11:13 AM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

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