Country Neighbors, Country Life

An urban refugee relates the lessons she's learned about country life and the importance of adapting to the expectations of your country neighbors.

| November/December 1978

A move to a rural area, no matter how remote, means entering into a community of people. As an "outsider," your success or failure might well depend upon your relationships with that group.

When most folks dream about country life, their fantasies seem to focus upon "getting away from society," and "making it on their own." In fact, that's the sort of anonymity I had in mind when I first moved into my secluded Adirondack mountain cabin. My country neighbors had other ideas.

One short day after I'd settled in, a city friend decided to pay me a visit. He found his way to the nearest hamlet, and — since he didn't know the way to my place — stopped in at the town's only bar to ask. The tavern owner knew exactly who I was, and proceeded to give explicit directions to my cabin. My friend was surprised, but nowhere near as amazed as I was to have company show up at my "isolated" country home.

I had just learned that life in the city is often more private than country livin'. In town, you can "lose yourself in the crowd," but as a newcomer in a small community you'll stick out like a sore thumb. Your presence will become public knowledge immediately, and stories about who you are and where you're from will make the rounds in no time flat.

If you want to gain the "locals'" acceptance, then, you'll have to do a certain amount of conforming (yes, even "out there away from society"). You'll have to be as sociable as your new neighbors want you to be — friendly, yet discreet — and you'll have to make yourself known without being "pushy."

Country "Families" 

Most rural communities are made up of a few large families that have lived in the area for generations. Their ancestors were probably among the first local settlers, and these people feel close to (and often protective of) the land — maybe even of your land. Sure, there will be a few other "outsiders" here and there, but the ones who've "stuck" are the ones who understand the people around them and strive to be accepted into the community family. If you choose to keep yourself detached, your chances of "making it" in a rural environment can be pretty slim.

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