You’ve provided some great advice for meeting new people. However, I’m wondering if the Awkward Army has any experience or advice for meeting people in a rural setting.
I live in a rural state, and in a pretty isolated area (population around 20,000…hour and a half away from from the Big City That Is Not Actually Very Big). I moved here for a job a year ago with a boyfriend in tow, and we have now just broken up. I’m realizing that I really haven’t made very many friends and my Team Me is all long-distance, except for my therapist.
People don’t really do the bar thing here, I don’t have kids so can’t meet other parents at kid events, and I’ve already scoped out meetup.com. Add to that a culture of exclusiveness among people From Here, and I’m starting to feel isolated in more ways than geographically.
Moose Tipping Is My Last Resort
I’m really sorry about your breakup and sorry that it feels extra-hard due to your location.
I’ve spent my entire adult life in cities, so I don’t know how to do this. And I’m applying to film professor jobs all over the country, so I may eventually need this advice very much myself.
Thanks, readers. Help us out.
125 thoughts on “#358: MOAR crowdsourcing: Meeting new people in a rural area?”
What do you like to do? I know it’s kinda cliche’d to say that, but find an activity that you like to do, or would be interested in doing, and then find a group that does that activity and check it out. It’s a lot easier to find people to be friends with if the first few meetings center around a shared enjoyable activity. I find this holds true for people in big cities, too!
Basically the advice I was going to give – with the additional suggestion of first stopping to look at what people in the area do. It does vary. Lots of activities that are great for meeting people in cities are hard to find or simply not available in the country, and the reverse, of course. And there’s variety among rural areas, too. What kind of rural area are you in? There’s huge variation – farm based communities, logging based, college towns, tourist areas… they can have really different people and community norms.
Anyway, keep your eyes open to find out what people are getting together to do, then pick one of those activities to learn more about. Maybe there’s a beekeeping club. Or estate auctions. Or snowmobiling. Or target shooting. In some communities practically everybody goes to the high school sport events, and it doesn’t really matter if you have kids or not, because it’s a social occasion. Or maybe there’s a volunteer fire department, or some similar service. Very small towns often have a desperate need for people willing to help keep the place functional. Libraries, parks, churches… often looking for volunteers. Do you have skills you can offer? There’s nothing like working together to get over any first hump of shyness (theirs as well as yours).
You may not find any activities going on that you think you’ll like, but in that case (try to) adopt an exploratory attitude, and head out just to learn about the place you find yourself in. I personally find it hard to strike up initial conversations with complete strangers, but most of the time it works out fine. Friendly curiosity is practically always okay as long as you don’t get in the way. And once you know a few people to say “hi” to, someone may well take an interest in helping you find what you’re looking for… That’s been my experience, anyway. Good luck!
Depending on where your rural setting is and what your feelings are about the nature of the universe… church. Which is pretty bad advice if you’re not especially church-inclined, but…
I recently moved from a very large city over a thousand miles away to a small town in the U.S. South for grad school (though at least I’m from the South and had some idea of what I was getting myself into), and the number-one smartest thing I did to meet people is get affiliated with the local Unitarian Universalist congregation. They’re tapped into the university community as well as with local interfaith compassion ministries, so they know people who know people, and they like to do things together socially. If your local parks and rec department has rec league anything, that’s a good way to meet people as well.
I’m sorry things suck right now, and I really hope it gets better soon.
I’d like to second the UU suggestion. Even if you’re not looking for a religious haven, churches of any stripe form a basis of community (including anything from potlucks to group volunteerism) for folks who have no other anchor. The demographics of attendees are everything from young singles to grandparents, and the UU’s specifically are very all-inclusive in their approach to things, and no matter what faith or lack thereof you were brought up with/without, you can find like-minded folks who flock to that sanctuary for the communing part of community – interacting and sharing and meeting and greeting. Don’t discount the long-distance friends in the interim – I know they have gotten me through big isolation periods (even in my big city). Skype and email and texting can bring them closer than they may seem.
I am very sorry for your breakup!
PS if you do join a moose-tipping club, please send photos!
The thing about small towns and places like this is that unless you can go out and make a huge impact that gets people to both notice and like you, you sort of have to make an effort to fit into whatever is going on. Because there isn’t much of an alternative since there aren’t a huge number of people to pick and choose from.
I would start by chatting to people at your workplace and finding out what they like to do and what sort of community events are going on. Because it is such a small place, there will be things that the community like to get together to do such as supporting the local sports teams.
There is also the option of joining the local church. Now, before anyone shoots me with “but what if LW isn’t religious blahlah,” it’s more about the social connections you can build up because church goers tend (I say tend, not are) to be more accepting and inclusive, that and it’s a place where a reasonably large group of people will go to congregate. You can then try to meet people who share interests with you and again, just because someone is religious and you aren’t doesn’t mean that you can’t share a common interest.
Look out for working bees, local charity groups or anything where people get together. In smaller towns there also tends to be town meetings and things that you can attend as well so keep your eyes peeled.
Good luck! I hope everything gets better for you 🙂
Gee, LW, it sounds like you live in Vermont, specifically, Rutland. ^_^ Rural state: check. Isolated area: check. Population around 20K: check. 1.5 hours from Burlington [population ~42,600]: check. If you do, please send me a message via my blog: http://blogofstench.livejournal.com . I live in Vermont too, and I’m always looking to meet new people, especially ones I have things in common with.
Perhaps I can share my personal experiences. I moved to Vermont a little over a year ago, knowing the 3 family members who lived nearby, and that was it. I needed a social life. I used the following methods:
1) OKCupid and Seven Days personals. This may or may not apply to you, but, when I arrived, I was looking for a romantic relationship. I met a few people through these sites, one of whom is now my partner. I don’t recommend OKC and Seven Days personals for non-romantic relationships, but they can be a source for romantic partners.
2) I found groups that matched my interests. If you’re from a more populous area, please note that your current location will have much smaller groups that may be less conveniently located, but they may exist. I found these groups by Googling the activity, along with the name of the nearest “big city,” and I found their Web sites and went from there. I specifically found a few groups that explicitly welcomed people without partners, so I think that these groups were more welcoming than other insular, pre-established ones.
3) I started my own groups. My sister and I tried to do a writing group, for which we advertised on craigslist and some other places that I forget. There was too little interest, so this did not get off the ground, unfortunately. I also started a doll club, for which I aggressively recruited members from a message board I belonged to. We just celebrated our one-year anniversary in August, so we’re doing pretty well there.
While I’m here, I should mention that it may be difficult to find free or low-cost places/events to meet people in rural areas…
However, libraries hold talks/book groups/conversation circles.
Community centers based on a shared location or identity can be great places to meet people through volunteering or attending yourself.
Classes at a local arts studio or university may also be a place to learn something new AND meet people.
I hope that some of this helps, and, if you are in the Green Mountain State and so inclined, please look me up!
That is so funny — I grew up in the Rutland area and from the LW’s description thought the SAME EXACT thing. I was also going to suggest an arts-based activity (theatre, music, dance) if the LW enjoys such things, because Rutvegas actually has a decent bit to offer in that area for a town of its size. (There’s also, following on all the go-to-church suggestions above, a nice UU congregation.)
Of course, the LW may be in, say, Montana, in which case, well — I am sure Montanans also like community arts?
I’ve actually had luck meeting platonic friends from OKCupid–sometimes by accident (a couple dates showed we wouldn’t work romantically but we got along well as friends), sometimes on purpose (my current profile stipulates that I’m in a currently monogamous relationship but would love to make some new friends). Not everyone has such luck, but whether you’re looking to date or not, it can be a useful site.
I don’t suppose you’re religious? Even if you’re not a True Believer, could you could get through services for the sake of meeting people? I’ve lived in a lot of rural areas and I’ve found that churches tend to be a central part of rural social networks. Many people meet and bond there, and even secular (or at least not specifically religious) groups often meet there.
Do you do any crafts (knitting, cross-stitch, etc.)? Crafts are really common in the rural areas I’ve lived. You could maybe meet people at stores selling said craft materials (or at church) and put together a craft group. Another common thing in small towns / rural areas are holiday bazaars (often held at churches – sensing a theme here?), where people sell their crafts. This is a really great way to meet people – either going there to shop or selling.
Do you ever see people out walking – walking for exercise, walking their dog, etc? You could start going for walks in areas where you see other people walking, bump into them, and try to start up a walking group.
Good luck! It’s a lot more difficult to meet people in rural areas, but once people see you sticking around for a while, they’re more likely to open up to you.
Craft stores usually offer classes too. Great place to meet people and start a new hobby.
Ha! Yours posted while I was typing mine and we had almost the same things to say about church, right down to True Believer. And I forgot crafts — great idea.
I’d just say if the poster is not a believer, I disagree strongly with the church suggestion. Sitting through services is likely to leave you very frustrated if you don’t meet someone, because the day was an unpleasant waste. I’d stick to doing things you might conceivably enjoy — which can certainly be attending meetings that take place at a church — that way if you don’t meet people the day still won’t have been a complete waste. But actually attending services as someone who doesn’t believe them in the hopes of making social connections strikes me as a self-destructive idea.
Thumbs up for craft groups and walking though. Sometimes harder to find “walking groups” rather than other individuals who might join you for a walk, but scrapbooking and knitting and the like seem to lend themselves to social gatherings.
I guess it all depends what one finds “unpleasant” and “a waste.” I’m not a believer, but I go to church every other week for the social aspects of it, keep my mouth shut about the aspects of the church that I disagree with, and enjoy listening to the readings and occasionally the sermons. Regardless of whether one Believes, there’s a lot of wisdom, interesting stories, and history in them. I’ve even started helping with the readings to give me practice speaking to large groups. There’s coffee after church, we get access to the church’s community garden, there’s a social activity associated with the church every other month or so, etc.
I agree, Gadfly. Sitting through services of a faith one actively disbelieves, or dislikes, is not a good way to make connections. There’s going to be a big difference in worldviews, and that doesn’t srike me as a good basis for beginning friendships. For me, it’d feel like I was having to hide or lie about my beliefs.
Just FYI, I grew up in a Unitarian Universalist church.
Which if you are liberal and not a True Believer, is a really great way to meet like minded people. Typically attenders do not believe in Jesus Christ, but they still have choirs and potlucks, and bible study classes.
I second this idea. Watch out for hippie music, but otherwise, my experiences with UUers have all been happy ones.
I was thinking uu as well but figured the town might not be big enough.
(LW here) I also grew up in a UU church! I checked out the one here when I first moved here; this is a good kick-in-the-butt to go back. It’s a much older crowd, and I’m finding the most problems in making friends my age, but as someone else said, I need to be open to all kinds of friends!
When I moved to a country town for work I had trouble making friends my own age too, and also friends-like-me friends. All of the young people left -who didn’t move away to the city- seemed to be heavy drinking heavy living farmers, or they worked in the factory where I was a manager. It sounds snobby but I just had nothing in common with them, and they mocked the way I spoke and the things I enjoyed.
The best thing I did was embrace rather than hide my nerd- I started knitting baby clothes for premature baby’s born at our local hospital (often parents aren’t quite prepared when the baby comes too early). There were a group of retired woman who had been doing it for a long time – all in their 70s – who I made friends witg. Cake and coffee followed. And there I was at 28 with 78 year old BFF. It was great- they lived in the town all their lives, and their acceptance made it easier for me. Also, they were all “people like me”, they liked art and literature and opera. And they all had grandchildren who came to visit from school on the holidays 🙂
I think you bring up a good point: the “people like you” may not be “people with the same demographics as you.” They will be people who share your interests and values, and they might not look like you, and that’s a good thing!
I came down here to recommend church, too, if the LW is so inclined. UUs, Episcopals and ELCA Lutherans all trend liberal for church folks – at the very least there might be some volunteer things or classes you could get get involved in through a church even if you don’t actually attend service. I live in a 20kish person town in a pretty rural state, too. It isn’t easy to make friends if you’re not a parent and not into church! The only other thing I can think of is local politics? Lw, you could see if there’s a campaign that needs help door-knocking or putting up signs, you could volunteer to work a polling place, etc.
Methodists can also skew pretty liberal, although sometimes the leadership is more liberal than the churchgoers, and there should be lots of volunteer opportunities available.
Oh, and United Church of Christ can be quite liberal too (I went to college with two gay UCC’ers who are both in seminary now), just be careful and check the website because the plain “Church of Christ” is very conservative. Quakers are also generally awesome.
Seconding the UCC as a good backup to the UUs. They co-designed the religious education program with the focus on sex ed together, and when none of my nearby UU churches felt right, I ended up pretty happy at a UCC church. The minister is Christian, but not all the congregation is, and people are mostly open and curious, rather than evangelical.
True. My grandparents are Methodist and super conservative, so I didn’t even think of them. It definitely depends on the congregation – theirs is a stodgy old person congregation and not so friendly but I periodically went to a friend’s youth group at a Methodist church in high school and it was really great.
Rural creature here! An area of 20,000 is downright prosperous compared to my own home. But I’m sorry you’re having such a tough time, LW. Here’s what I’ve done in the past:
1. Cultivate some lovely Internet Friends with shared interests. Commit to spending quality time writing emails, Skyping, or making plans to visit each other’s homes. (I am really, really bad at this.) Sometimes Your People just don’t live in your town! Quality human interaction with lovely folks you care about beats sitting awkwardly in a bar, in my book. Of course, it’s wonderful to hang out with people in person, but it’s also wonderful to connect with people who are from Your Tribe.
2. Then redefine Your Tribe. Some of your Amazing New Local Friends won’t be from the same social circles that your Fun City Friends were in. If your previous circle of friends were predominantly from college classes or office coolers, broaden your horizons to include the beekeepers, the lumberjacks, the organic farmers, the stay-at-home parents, the foxhunters and the foxhuntprotestors.
3. You can totally go on dating sites just to look for friends.
4. It really is okay to start conversations with people in the grocery store, if they look interesting and seem receptive. Incidentally, this is how I met the Beekeeper – I asked him why he was buying ten gallons of chocolate syrup at ten pm.
5. In my limited experience, people who live in populated areas center their socializations around public places, such as bars; people who live in rural areas prefer to have friends over for dinners, movie nights, game nights and such.
6. Pay for an activity – find a class or take lessons somewhere. There WILL be horseback riding. There WILL be hiking clubs. People DO knit.
7. MOOSE TIPPING IS A PERFECTLY FUN ACTIVITY OKAY
8. SO ARE MOOSE-DECORATING, LOON-BOTHERING AND LOW-GRADE WOODCHUCKING. STOP JUDGING!!!
9. If you own/rent land, or have access to it, gather up all the acquaintances you’ve made and have a barbecue-bonfire. (Call the Fire Department first.) Consider what you can do with the land (sheep? garden? Bees? workshop? studio?) and find things to love about having space.
10. Have two+ jobs. I know you’re tired when you get home from work, and your weekends are precious, but if you have Extrovert Needs then it’s very good to get out of the house and see new faces. Can you tutor? Craft?
11. People from your area will think nothing of driving 90 minutes to go to the City. Adopt some of this attitude! Big spaces make distances less relevant. Make a point of Getting Out once a week; go into town, browse the bookshops, start conversations, drink coffee, look at the bulletin boards.
12. Plenty of people love the rural lifestyle. But it is a lifestyle. It might not be for you – and that’s okay.
“7. MOOSE TIPPING IS A PERFECTLY FUN ACTIVITY OKAY 8. SO ARE MOOSE-DECORATING, LOON-BOTHERING AND LOW-GRADE WOODCHUCKING. STOP JUDGING!!! ”
Have to agree with this here.
Another suggestion is to see whether they have a Grange. You don’t have to be a farmer to join, and most of them are very welcoming to new people, and there’s all sorts of Grange activities right up to national conventions you can attend.
Um… What is Moose Tipping? I have to know!
Don’t leave us hanging! Why was he buying ten gallons of chocolate syrup at ten pm?
Sadly, it wasn’t for the bees. Nor was it for anything intriguingly kinky.
Happily, it was for the disadvantaged children that he mentored, so that they could have as much chocolate as they could possibly want on their sundaes the next morning.
10 pm is a red herring if you live in the Upper Valley – time doesn’t make sense there, and clocks never really meant much to beekeepers.
Now *that’s* a sweet story.
I see what you did there!
Volunteer. I’m in a rural area myself. My town only has about 6000 people, our “big city” an hour away only about 42,000. The way I’ve gotten to know most of the people I know other than neighbors and parents of my kids’ friends is by being on boards and committees and participating in local politics. I helped found our local Conservation Commission, started a committee to replace our grim community playground with a decent, handicap-accessible one, have served on our library’s board of directors, stand up in town meeting to say “let’s increase the town’s contribution to the food shelf this year, shall we?” Amazing how many people I know through these things. I never go anywhere without seeing people I know, and while we’re not all tight buddies some of them are real friends and there are lots of people I’d get to know better if I only had time to pursue those friendships.
Rural areas, especially, do a ton of things on a volunteer basis that richer, suburban/ metropolitan areas do by hiring people, so no matter what you have to offer there are groups that will be incredibly glad to have you… a lot of the time a warm body who is willing to form and express an opinion is all the “special skill” they’re looking for. I’m constantly being asked if I could maybe be on that board/commission. Talk to someone at Town/City hall about what’s going on that you could get involved in. (I bet there’s a town/city website, too). Recreation committees, planning commissions… you name it, they want you.
Also, you may have heard there is an election coming up? Throw yourself into that.
And, of course, rural areas have everything from cycling, hiking, kayaking clubs (check in with local gear shops) to book groups and writers’ groups (ask your local library) to cooking clubs, martial arts studios (which tend to become little community centers),community colleges offering classes (including either “academic” subjects or arts), animal-oriented groups like 4-H, etc. Libraries are good places for info., even about things that have nothing to do with libraries (people post notices, and library staff/volunteers are members of the community themselves, with friends and activities of their own, and they *live* to share information with people).
I totally understand the feeling that you’re getting shut out because you’re Not From Here. I felt that way at times, but I’ve come to understand that what I experienced wasn’t so much that as it was that people here are busy — they have their friends and activities so they’re in an “I’m all set” mode, not actively looking for friends. What you have to do is get involved in things where the other people have gone not looking for friends, but to do the things they enjoy — and there you’ll find they’re as happy to do stuff with you as they would anyone who’d been born there. In time, you’ll find people you click with as individuals, and you’ll gulp and invite them to join you for a cup of coffee after — it may help break the ice if you have something specific you want to ask them about.
Whoops! We cross-posted. 🙂 I agree, volunteering is key!
Looks like a lot of us have similar ideas XD
The library may also have classes/groups that meet regularly for activities (which will likely be free) — book clubs, knitting groups, whatever.
I’m glad to see that someone(s) already posted about volunteering.
As someone who supervises volunteers, I’d like to add a couple of things:
1. Pick an activity you enjoy or a group whose goals and methods you support. It is a great way to meet people, but you also need to feel good about the tasks you are doing.
2. Be realistic with yourself and with any groups you approach about how much free time you have. If you are working full time, you probably don’t want to offer a full day every week, but you might be able to do a half day, or once a fortnight. Or something that takes up an hour or two after work.
3. Make sure you can manage the physical and emotional aspects of the work. I had to stop volunteering at my current job for nearly a year after I had abdominal surgery, because I couldn’t unpack boxes or climb ladders. (I started as a volunteer, I’ve been a paid staff member for the last 4 years. I REALLY like and believe in the org I work for.)
4. Know your rights. This can vary from country to country and even state to sate. But volunteers do have rights, and groups that use volunteers should have documentation.
I really second Alphakitty’s comments about doing activities, whether that’s volunteering, or joining a club, because you like do them, and maybe meet some new people in the process.
You might also want to think about how you spend the rest of your free time now that your are not spending it with ex partner. Are there some things you liked to do that he was never very keen on? Now is the time to start doing those things again, whether it’s a sport, or a hobby, or seeing movies, just having Sunday brunch at a certain place.
You don’t say anything about your friends or family, and while you don’t live near them, you can do things like set up dates for a catch up over instant messenger or skype. I have moved cities a few times, and one of the greatest gifts the internet has given me, is that moving no longer means loosing touch.
Meeting new people is important, but it’s also important to have some people in your life who already know you and love you, even if they are not local.
Are you comfortable in religious communities? If you’re not particularly religious (of any faith), there’s the Unitarian Church, which could give you a community to feel like a part of. They also often have young people’s ministries, which could give you an instant group, and get together regularly for service projects and potluck dinners. Of course, that depends on there being a community near you that you feel comfortable in.
I’m not trying to proselytize – I just know that from my experience, liberal congregations have been helpful in giving me a sense of place/home, but I’m sure part of that is that I grew up in a church growing family, so it feels familiar to me.
Hey LW! Sounds like you live in Rutland, Vermont. Isolated: check. Population 20K: check. Rural: check. 1.5 hours away from Burlington [=”not that big a city,” population 42.6K]: check. If you are in Vermont, and you are so inclined, send me a message or something through my blog: http://blogofstench.livejournal.com I live in Vermont too and am always looking to meet new people.
I too moved to an isolated, rural, insular area from a metropolis about a year ago, knowing only 3 local family members. I needed a social life! This is what I did.
1) I looked for a romantic partner. This may not be applicable to your situation, but, when I got here, I was seeking a relationship. I used OKCupid and the local alternative weekly personals. I wouldn’t recommend these for non-romantic friendships, but I did meet someone through OKC whom I am now partnered with! Woo hoo!
2) I looked for groups based on my interests. I searched for my interests, as well as the name of the nearest large city/town, and went from there. I specifically looked for groups that welcomed single people, and that proved to be helpful, as I think these groups made a special effort to reach out to newbies.
3) I started my own groups. My sister and I tried to organize a writing group, which we advertised through craigslist and some other place I forgot. That was a bust, not enough interest. I then started another club, recruiting heavily from members of a message board I frequent. We just celebrated our first anniversary, so it’s more successful!
Other ideas off the top of my head: Libraries hold conversation circles, book groups, lectures, etc. Community centers based on a shared location or identity can be a great place to attend events or volunteer. Local arts studios or colleges provide classes where you can learn something, meet new people and automatically have a subject in common to talk about!
Good luck. Even though I’ve been here a while, I’m still working on making friends, so don’t get down on yourself if you’re the sort of person who expands their social life rather slowly. We’re not all extroverts!
It can be hard to find activities in rural areas. I grew up in one and as I recall most evenings involved chores and then watching tv, especially if you’re in a place with long, dark, cold winter evenings.
Is there a coffee shop anywhere around? Where I grew up, there was one place (the local store) the locals hung around when they had spare time to gossip with the neighbours. It was also the place where people posted announcements about dances, clubs, volunteer activities, etc. Those would all be good places to start meeting peple, but take a close look at the volunteer activities. They often involve hard work – revitalizing a park, updating the fairgrounds, painting the community hall – but the best way to fit in with a bunch of rural folk is to show that you care about the things they care about and aren’t afraid of hard work. Talk naturally flows when you are working together.
There are probably more clubs for kids than adults, but if you have any skills you’d like to show off, take a look at the 4-H programs. Most clubs are looking for adult volunteers to mentor kids. It is a lot of work, but there are 4-H clubs for animal husbandry, crafting, gardening, etc. You don’t have to have kids to volunteer with a club, and you get to meet the adults that way. And again, you’re showing an interest in something that is important to the community. 4-H is huge in most rural communities.
You can even start your own social club, if you’re inclined and there isn’t anything already on offer. There is usually a community hall that you can rent for a nominal fee. You could set up an evening or two a month where people could gather and play cards or board games and so on. Everyone could chip in a few bucks and potluck the refreshments. You could drop the suggestion down at the local gathering spot or post a notice and see if people would be interested in such a thing. Someone did that when I was a kid and a lot of adults were glad to get together and play cards regularly over the winter.
seconding the coffee shop hard core. I recently moved to a rural area too (though not quite as rural as LW’s). Does your town have a centralized downtown area, LW? Is there at least one coffee/tea shop? Consider becoming a regular there. Just get some tea and check email/read/knit for a half an hour there a few times a week. It’s so much easier to meet people once you’ve become a familiar face in the downtown scene.
Thirding the coffee shop idea! In addition to chatting with strangers until they become acquaintances (respecting everyone’s boundaries of course!), and then chatting with acquaintances until they become friends, look for events in coffee shops. Just because it doesn’t look particularly cultural or intellectual (whatever that means) from the outside doesn’t mean there isn’t stimulating conversation to be had there. Near my mother’s family in rural Michigan, the coffee shops (and stores containing coffee shops, like larger bookstores) in strip malls sometimes have poetry readings and guest speakers.
Does your community have a community bulletin board or even better a rec center?
If they don’t have a bulletin board, start one (with permission from the governing board). I’ve never started one before, so I don’t have a lot of advice on how to, but I think you could wing it.
Take an exercise class, if there’s a rec center. Join a walking group. Lots of chatting going on in those groups.
Also, street festivals (although they probably only happen once a year in a small community, if there is one) are awesome. You might get to see grown men chase a greased pig or a bunch of kids eating as much watermelon as their tiny bodies can stomach or folk dancing. Lots of good food. Enter a baking contest, those are lots of fun.
I forgot to add VFW events and spaghetti dinner or pancake breakfast fundraisers thrown my local churchs. You don’t need to be religious to go. It’s more about raising money and a sense of community than proselytizing, although they’ll probably have a prayer before eating. Just fold your hand and look down at them, if you don’t pray.
and Bingo! Bingo can be lots of fun, and a good way to meet (mostly elderly) people in a friendly setting.
I live in a rural area myself, Idaho, and worse still, I moved here from *California*. And was a *Democrat*. Eek!
You’ve already done the right thing by checking out Meetups in your area. Other things to try — and I’m throwing out a whole bunch of them because I assume you’ll go ew at some of them:
Join a church. I’m not saying you have to become a True Believer but it won’t kill you to go sit in a pew every couple of weeks and listen, and lots of churches have social activities.
What do the other people in your area like to do? You mentioned moose tipping. Do people hunt? That may not be your thing, but you could go to hunters safety class and learn about it and maybe go just for the experience. Or learn to shoot. I assume they do outdoor activities? Camping, hiking, boating, Dutch Oven cooking? Is there a conservation organization like Ducks Unlimited? Sierra Club? Is there a farmer’s market or gardening group?
Is there a cafe downtown with lots of old men who drink coffee together every morning and a bulletin board covered with stuff? Eat there regularly, check out the bulletin board and whatever flyers and papers are available, be approachable, and say hi. Once they recognize you as a regular, they’ll say hi back. And, in general, be sure to be open to other sexes, ages, races, and socioeconomic levels.
Read the local newspaper, and check out whatever local websites there are. Obviously, look for events. City Council meetings? Open houses for a new road? Some sort of visiting lecturer? A photography exhibit? School functions, whether it’s West Side Story or the football game?
Volunteer in your community. Is there a senior center that needs help serving lunch? You say you don’t have kids, but I’m sure the PTA or the school would love to have you anyway. Are there disabled people who need help? Can you take someone to that church you started going to? Is there a political group in your area, either based on party or some local issue? Planned Parenthood? Local history?
Go to the library, if there is one, and look for activities there or publicized there, other people who like to read, and volunteer opportunities. Is there a book club? Can you start one?
Shop locally, say hi to people you recognize, talk to the cashiers, etc. If you moved there from a city, you may have developed a ‘city mask’ that makes it look like you don’t want to talk to people. In a rural area, it’s considered rude not to chat with the cashier and everyone in line. As the saying goes, you know you live in a rural area if it takes you two hours to get a quart of milk because when you go to the grocery store you run into everyone in town.
Since you mentioned a boyfriend, I’m hoping that you really are talking about meeting People, and not meeting Boyfriend Replacement. It’s important in a rural community to remember that everyone is related to everyone else, that people know people you might not know, and that it’s entirely possible that the little old lady you played pinochle with last Saturday has a dreamy grandson who visits periodically. So open yourself up and become part of the community. Be friendly, be approachable, be interested, and don’t talk about “Well, what we did where *I* used to live is…”
Hope this helps. Good luck!
“in general, be sure to be open to other sexes, ages, races, and socioeconomic levels”
I considered mentioning something to this effect, but didn’t just because I saw no indication you weren’t, and didn’t want to offend. But on second thought, I do think it’s a point worth making explicitly.
In the urban and suburban areas I’ve lived before, people tended to socialize primarily (maybe even exclusively) with others of their socioeconomic class. One of the great things about where I live now is that people don’t seem to clump as much — there seems to be a better understanding that what you do doesn’t define who you are. I’ve got friends who bring home the bacon (albeit often tofu bacon, blech) in all sorts of different ways. I’ve hypothesized that it’s because economic opportunities do not abound here, so people understand that livelihoods are cobbled together in all sorts of ways, and “success” is more about happiness and well-being than status and paychecks. (Though health insurance would be nice.) So if you are at all inclined to dismiss people too quickly as “not like you” on the basis of jobs/age/race other relative superficialities, you’ll want to check that tendency. Defining “your people” too narrowly will only make finding them harder.
I joined a community chorus where I’m pretty sure I was the only member under thirty, and one of very few members under sixty. It was still awesome.
Also, if “the Big City” is too far away to easily do stuff in, you can check other cities (say within a 1/2 hour of your place) for all the stuff that others have mentioned.
Hey, I live in a town of around 20,000 and am from a village of about 2,000, and bars aren’t my scene. So here are some ways I’ve found to meet people. I second Dr McFacekick that it’s great to start an activity: it recurs regularly and gives you a built-in something to talk about with the people you meet there, something in common so people are not just focusing on how you are not From Here, and a way to hang out with them that doesn’t require making conversation all the time.
– Volunteer at something you’re interested in
– Walk into a local college or university, library, or coffee shop and check the bulletin boards for fliers and posters of interesting things or groups
– Check small local papers for activities, lectures, concerts, groups
And here are some activity ideas that may or may not have occurred to you and may or may not be in your interest areas, but are very beginner-friendly and often found in rural areas:
– Go to contra dances, if they have them where you are. Maybe you think you’re not a dancer, but you don’t need to know how to dance to contra dance (I sure didn’t). It’s hugely fun and I met many of my friends there. Here are many good descriptions: http://www.sbcds.org/contradance/whatis/
– Participate in a Crop Mob at a local farm, if there are any near you (Google “crop mob”). Or see if you can do a full or partial work share CSA (work at a farm in exchange for a weekly share of vegetables) or join a CSA and volunteer there. Small local farms and CSAs are often a good place to find nice people and pretty much always have work for volunteers to do (in the growing season).
– Find out what organization maintains your local hiking trails, and volunteer to help with trail maintenance, either occasionally or regularly.
Good luck, LW!
If you’re at all creatively inclined, I suggest starting a Tumblr, Instagram, or other web-based bloggy thing centered around your area, then disseminate to the folks in your town that you do know and like. I know this means you kind of hide behind a computer and don’t get face-to-face time initially, but it can be a good way (1) to learn to better appreciate this place you’ve ended up in and (2) meet people who have a similar outlook, who might find the same things funny or interesting but you might not ever know that just by striking up conversation at the park. The cool thing about the internet is that it lets all kinds of different people join in, so you’re not limiting yourself to a particular age range, etc., which in my experience tends to be how churches and the like self-select in terms of social groups.
You could even ask locals to contribute. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think someone, say, doing a serious restaurant review of a 20-year-old Maid Rite could be hilarious, or maybe an “Amazing Moose Tour Of Highway Whatever” if you’re into photography. Do you cook or homebrew? Post recipes!
Then later you can have a meetup, Captain Awkward style.
I love this idea but in the community I grew up in, you would have to make it a paper-in-hand-style newsletter. Not that they don’t have computers, they just have no inclination to follow blogs.
In a lot of rural communities, Internet is not as readily available as it is in urban centers. It’s still dial-up in some places or they have to get a satellite link. I think it’s an awesome idea, but may be dependent on the size and location of the rural area.
Oh yeah, that occurred to me, too. Should have mentioned it, because another thought I had was that this person (who clearly is into the internet) could join an activist-related/lobby group getting ‘net access to her area. I’ve had friends who did that in the rural parts of our state to great success.
Ahahahaha, yeah. I had internet in my apartment, then moved upstairs to a different unit in my building, and could not get internet anymore. The internet provider sort of explained it to me but I didn’t really understand the explanation. Anyway, the past few months I’ve been hanging out at all the places with free wifi – coffee shops! fast food restaurants! the grocery store! – seriously, for a tiny tiny town, there’s a lot of free wifi! It’s kind of baffling. In a good way though =p
I’m from a tiny town of about 200 people in northern Canada, so I’m going to list everything I can think of that brings people together in my town. I don’t know how many of these will apply to you, but hopefully some will help.
Curling is ridiculously popular here, as is hockey and a few other recreational sports, such as volleyball. If you can find an activity that matches your interests and skill level, sign up!
If you are religious, try finding an appropriate temple, synagogue, mosque, church etc. YMMV, and if your town is anything like mine, there might only be various flavours of Christian, but my tiny town has five churches, and most people try to go out of their way to be as welcoming and friendly as possible in order to make people feel at home there. And a lot of social events also revolve around the church.
If you’re town’s big enough, the community library may have book clubs and other group activities (and from my experience working in libraries, they’ll be delighted to see you, as some events are very under-attended). They may also have a bulletin board where all sorts of community events are advertised. Likewise if there’s an actual community centre.
See if there are any locally produced newspapers etc. Some of them are always looking for new writers.
Is there any kind of local music scene where you could start going to concerts?
There are probably local clubs too, like a branch of Rotary or something like it that are focused on bettering the community. In Nearby Slightly Larger Town, it’s the Royal Canadian Legion, the Elks, and the Royal Purple. Odds are they love new volunteers. If there are 4H clubs, and you have a skill you could teach, you could volunteer as a leader.
You could take lessons in something, like an instrument, dancing, anything for which you can find an instructor. Any lessons I’ve taken have had some sort of gathering for all of the students at some point, and you could also gain a friend in the instructor.
Depending on what your town is like, you could also try to get involved in a local specialty. For example, have a look for someone who gives riding lessons and sign up. Or skiing, boating, whatever seems to be popular. Or at least making a point of finding something our about the area’s primary industry etc. Making an effort to fit in might help get past people’s exclusiveness, and give you something in common with some of the people there. Also, in my little farming town, unless you know at least a little about agriculture, there are going to be a lot of conversations that you’ll feel completely left out of, because people talk about it a lot.
Obviously, and especially with that last one, only do what you actually want to do. Warping yourself into someone else, or consistently forcing yourself to do something you hate is not going to help at all. I can only tell you about some of the things that might be available, you get to decide which ones, if any, are actually right for you.
RE: the local music scene (if there is one)
Be prepared for awful. That way you can be pleasantly surprised if it isn’t. I can remember going to an Octoberfest one time where everyone was getting all hyped up because this year, THERE WILL BE BANDS!!!!
Holy shit, my ears bled. I had no idea that the musicians in my community were so terrible. But everyone was really drunk (OCTOBERFEST!!!) so it was fun anyway. We started a drinking game where every time this one lead singer jumped up on the amp or swirled his mic alla Mick Jagger, we would drink. Terrible 80s cover bands ruled the night and the Mick Jagger wannabe ended up breaking half his equipment. Good times.
The next year they switched to acoustic only, so it ended up being a bunch of bluegrass and folk music.
I was going to say, the county library is often the last redoubt of nerds in cornfield country. If nothing else, the librarian herself is probably From Somewhere Else and might be able to give referrals. As far as churches, depending on the area, if you can stomach a Christian denomination the Episcopalians are often a good bet, and if you can’t handle that at all there might be Unitarians within driving distance.
I grew up in cities, but my first job after college was in a tiny town in the mountains. Based on that experience:
– Definitely seconding Sasha’s suggestion of joining a religious community, if that doesn’t go against your values.
– In my little town, believe it or not, the Jaycees were where all the hot young singles were. You could try visiting a meeting of a service agency like that just to see whether it attracts people you can relate to.
– High school sports were the biggest social activity in town, and churches and clubs would hold tailgate parties that were open to the public.
– Is there still a newspaper in your little town? Small-town newspapers seem to have more local content than city ones, including social events and social service opportunities.
– Most little towns have one public noticeboard that everyone knows to look at for information. In the town I lived in, it was at the hardware store; in the town one of my friends lives in now, it’s at the grocery store.
A good plan, though not without pitfalls, is to spot one of those Busy Women and ask her for help. Look for a woman who’s old but not infirm, with a purposeful gait and one or more overfull tote bags. (If you were here, I could give you the names of five or six of them.)
The advantage is that these women know everybody and everything; the drawback is that if you don’t watch out, they’ll organize your life, make you a detailed career plan, buy you a house, find you a husband, and name all your children, all while you try to decide whether or not you’re bored enough to learn to play Bunco.
I second and third the Jaycees, only members between age of 18 through 40 are allowed to be active members and serve on the board. Every itty bitty rural towns and bigger cities I’ve moved to the first organization I search for are the Jaycees (and then churches and libraries). The Jaycees I’m currently in are really good about pegging would-be creepers and booting them out before the women notice or get scared off. No rape culture in this group! The creepers do try to come back when the older Jaycee members cycle/age out of the group, but their behavior are the same and they soon get booted out *again*.
You’ll mostly meet people through people; once you’ve got the kernel it will build from there spontaneously (parties, social occasions, friends of friends). So you need to focus on the kernel (or three). Be bold, be honest – tell your existing acquaintances that you don’t know many folk. People loooove to be helpful (so long as you’re not pushing their boundaries).
So ask ’em:
– what’s good fun around here? Have you heard of any good sewing circles / book groups / rock climbing societies
– you see, I’m interested in trying new things out at the moment; what sorts of things are fun to try?
– what do you think are good ways of meeting people?
Also hold parties and invite people (“feel free to bring along a friend or two – the more the merrier! There’ll be fondue!”) – some will reciprocate invites, but it’s not so required that it constitutes favour-sharking.
Be upfront that you’re looking to meet a variety of folk with the hope of hitting it off with some. Ask for people’s numbers, then text them a friendly but innocuous follow-up. If they return a few times, ask them if they fancy grabbing a coffee sometime.
Finally, a rule I set myself when I moved to a new place (though that was a city): Never Say No To A Social.
I mean, god, obviously if you’re working, or have food poisoning, or are already going to the movies with someone then, or genuinely don’t enjoy that group’s company. But if you don’t have a positive reason to say “no”, but just aren’t sure you really feel like it today, you know?…
Go. People who come when invited get more invites. People who make themselves a known face in a group get more invites. People who beg off stop getting invited back – and the critical mass for that is smaller with New People. When I was in London I ran into someone I sort-of knew, got a duty invite to a party, and begged off. Never heard from him again. If I’d gone, he might’ve invited me again. I would’ve met other people. It was the wrong call.
If you can muster the time, fake the enthusiasm, and spare the spoons, then always say yes. It’s the best habit I’ve ever developed for my social life – better than good hygiene! (well, maybe)
That’s a very good point about not turning down opportunities. I should also mention that when I first moved here, my major social outlet was Tupperware parties and the like. You don’t have to buy anything, but you can still go and be regretful that you just can’t do it right now but isn’t that silicone cookie sheet *neat* and the lemon Scentsy is the one you like best and so on.
Indeed, don’t turn down an opportunity just because of being a bit off or whatever.
However, if it turns out that once you get to the thing and you continue to feel off, you can leave early. Do what socialization you can, say goodbye to the host, and anybody else you chatted with, thank the host for the invitation.
If necessary, you can make an explanation or excuse, here are some examples.
“I really wanted to come and enjoyed myself, but I have work early in the morning so I have to get going. I would love to do this again.”
“I’m sorry if this is awkward, I have a stomach/headache from earlier in the day and I thought it was getting better but it’s not, so I’m going to go take care of that.”
And the direct
“I was glad to meet you guys and I’d like to do something again, but today just isn’t my best day.”
Making an appearance goes a long way, even if you can’t stay for the whole event. And then invite back whoever invited you (if you like them)
Seconding all of the above, and adding – look into your local theatre/performing arts. You may not want to get up on stage, but there are plenty of backstage jobs. Stage managing (great for anal-retentive types!), sewing costumes, running lights and sound, painting sets… Even if you ‘only’ audition you’ll still meet people.
Even that’s too much on-screen time for you? What about joining the board of the local arts thingy? Board of the humane society? Volunteering at the humane society?
Your local library probably has a Friends of the Library group – they’d love to have you. Speaking of the library, are there any reading groups looking for members?
Adult education classes – does your town have a community college? Any classes you’re interested in? Heck, is there anything you’d be willing to teach?
Making my first post to second the community theater suggestion, and wanted to add that many theaters also need people to work box office, usher, and do other front-of-house duties. It’s usually a smaller time commitment, and you may be able to stay and watch the show for free!
If there’s more than one group in your area, you might want to see a show at each to see which one feels like a good “fit” for you.
Do you enjoy sports/working out? I found a nice group of lovely people in the gym two villages over. Most of these I wouldn’t call “friends” exactly but at least good acquaintances who’d come help me out if need be or have a nice meet up sometime.
I’d also suggest what sasha brought up above (maybe only without the “bumping in” thing, but that might just be me). I cycle the same route almost daily – to work and for the grocery store – and have met quite a few people while doing so. Of course it’s no garantee but often in rural areas when you meet people once while going somewhere you’re likely to meet them more often, maybe even daily. Going from randomly greeting to smiling to stopping and have a chat and finding out if you and that person “click” isn’t that unlikely really. At least it’s happened to me (and I’m kind of a big introvert so yeah).
If all else fails (FABULOUS advice, from the Awkward Army!), AND you’re a little gregarious, you can always start A Thing on your own steam.
My advice is to find Local Public Location and arrange Your Thing with them. A coffee shop, cafe, library, bar, church basement, whathaveyou. Advertise it as a thing that will occur on a regular basis (every Tuesday at Time, every third Saturday, etc).
Board game night
Folk singer circle
Storytelling (consider the model of The Moth where there’s a time limit)
Then, whenever you meet someone new that you want to see again, you can say ‘Hey! There’s [thing] at [location] every [time], you should come to that! I’ll be there.’ The fact that it’s a regular occurrence instead of a one time event means that if they miss it this go round, they can catch you later. Plus, since you’re running the show it will definitely be something that YOU enjoy. The whole process would obviously run best if you can rope in a local or two to run it with you and give you background on the best location and time and people to start, but if you keep it up you can make yourself an institution in your town and gather a fair number of friends in the process.
I knew someone who was one of the best veterans of multiple small-town moves I’ve ever met. She also worked a third-shift job that made it incredibly hard to meet people. Everywhere she went, she started a shape-note singing group that started at 4 pm on a weekend day, when people were around and she was awake. She would make some snacks, and people would bring things to munch on, and it wound up being a really nice support network for her.
that is a lovely idea!
Shape-note singing is a great idea! There may already be a sing in your area. Look for the list of local singings at fasola dot org.
One of my friends who’s currently living in a tiny town goes to a local bar that hosts trivia once a week. She’s made some awesome friends by showing up and awkwardly asking if anyone’s team needs an additional member (and now is on a regular team who she hangs out with tons).
Oh, and I have one other tip for living in small/rural communities: Do not Badmouth People. Do not flip out in your automobile, or rant in line at the supermarket, or frankly Anywhere At All. Ever. Because you can not even begin to imagine the extent to which everyone is interconnected. It’s not six degrees of separation, it’s more like two or three.
That person you bitch out hysterically for cutting in line in the supermarket, or having 20 items in the 14-item line? You will see him/her again. That’ll turn out to be the only person you can reach when your vital-utility goes out on a weekend. That person you kvetch to about your ex? Works with his new girlfriend, who’s her cousin, and thinks he’s great. The person you flipped the bird to for tailgating? Receptionist at your doctor’s office. Lord, everyone is cousins or siblings or ex’s or neighbors or ex-neighbors with everyone, to a truly astonishing degree. You will encounter people (and/or their friends and relatives) over and over in different contexts, and some of them will casually mention you in conversation.
For example, I met Meredith when our kids went to the same preschool (which was a real community center, too, because of all the volunteer work and fundraising associated with that). Years later, Meredith and her kids also went to the martial arts studio my son went to. I wound up being on the library board with her for a couple of years. Her husband delivered the pellets for my pellet stove this week, and was chatting with my husband at the grocery store the other day. I don’t even know how they know each other… can they really remember one another from preschool days? Or is it soccer sidelines (my son and hers play together) that have bridged the gap? Dunno, but James (Meredith’s husband) was chatting about the pellets with my husband, so they obviously knew who went with who.
It can be claustrophobic — there’s no goldfish bowl quite like a small town goldfish bowl. It can be wonderful. (It’s awesome in the “takes a village to raise a child” context.) But you DEFINITELY want to be sure it is working for you, not against you.
Ohhhhmygod…that is so very very true. Excellent advice.
I’m de-lurking to second who ever suggested maybe getting into hunting. If guns freak you out like they do me, take up archery/bow hunting. I’m originally from a wee town in rural north-central Illinois, just too far from Chicago to be a suburb. Tons of people from home hunt. They also fish all. the. time. Talking about farming and livestock is another good one, or horseback riding.
Almost two years ago, I moved up to Wisconsin. I live in Madison these days, but know a lot of people from the small towns around here, and the BF is from way way far up nort’ eh. Being able to talk about that stuff helps out. Most states these days will even let you do most of your hunter’s safety online. I just completed mine last week, and on the 4th of next month, I do my field day/test, so it was super easy to coordinate. There’s no test required for a fishing license, and you can talk to the bait shop people, other folk you see out on the lake/river/creek/pond/water body. I would say maybe motorcycling if you’re cool with that? With a biker dad, and a biker boyfriend, motorcycles are instant conversation starters, and people with motorcycles can bond over their machines SO FAST. Or maybe find people who like to ride ATVs? Those are big out in the country.
I’m not a fan of it, but maybe line dancing? Depending on where you are maybe people get together to do that. Maybe home brewing? It’d give you a chance to talk to the folks at the brew shop, who are, in my experience, extremely chatty and helpful. Gardening club, maybe? Lots of people out in the sticks garden, too.
This is getting disjointed. I need more coffee. I got up at 5am to go goose hunting this morning, and spilled my coffee cup on the dock :(.
And if you’re not interested in hunting as such, archery and/or gun ranges for target practice are usually much more available in rural areas. That’s the downside of being in a city–no setting up an archery butt in my backyard. Sigh.
Funny, where I live 20,000 is one of the bigger towns. Great suggestions so far. Most of my suggestions have already been said, but I will add what worked for me.
– Church- yep even as a so/so believer there is a tremendous social circle here. I volunteered for the youth group and that helped with some of my conflicting belief issues. I had no problem telling teenagers, “hey be a good person, here is what most of these church people believe, but the most important thing is to just be good, kind and loving.” Kept me away from some of the more dogmatic areas of religion.
– Jaycees – this is big in the communities around here. My group did beer sales at the fair (fun!) to raise money for Toys 4 Tots and a camp for disabled adults (very rewarding). This was where the single/professional people got together.
– Hobbies/Sports – I joined a co-ed rec volleyball league. Loved the activity and met my husband here!
Those were the biggies for me when I was single. Now that I am married, we have four or five couples that get together. Make sure to wander through the big community events, street dances, fall festivals, holiday concerts, etc they are a great place to be seen and find out what is going on next.
I know the poster didn’t specify a liberal bias but I am sticking with things I have a really specific experience with so I am sticking with those.
I know others have suggested it but my parents ended up joining a Unitarian church when we moved out to a very small town. They were super liberals humanists in a very conservative county. The church was a great way to meet people, Unitarian churches are almost always full of obnoxiously liberal people (which I am one of), and are very welcoming of homosexuals/bi-sexuals/transsexuals, and typically do not believe in Jesus as a Christ figure.
But if you love Jesus or Allah or whoever, another religious organization would probably be best.
I also joined a group called ‘Drinking Liberally’ when I moved to a conservative college town and was having trouble finding like-minded friends. I know they have groups all around the country, we would meet in a great pizza place and they would drink alcohol and I would not. And we’d talk about current events and complain about whatever was going on in politics that we did not like. (I’m sure there is a similar group that caters to more conservative political view point.)
I also volunteer with a non-profit store called ‘Ten Thousand Villages’ which is a fair trade organization. It helped me meet a new people of all ages and backgrounds.
My sister had some luck posting to the ‘strictly platonic’ section of Craigslist, and actually met a woman she worked with but had never really spoken to.
If you like playing games, look check a comic book store for a tabletop game to play. I don’t play D&D anymore but a lot of the people I met there are still good friends.
I assume you have a job, are there co-workers you can invite out to do things? Even though I do not really hang out with mine, I met some cool people through them and actually still hang out with friends of some ex-coworkers.
My boyfriend recently joined the ‘Theatre’ scene in our small-ish town, he does stand-up and acting but I’ve done some volunteering to help out also. If there is a local theater group or comedy club they are almost always willing to take volunteer to paint sets, or take tickets, or stage manage, or whatever you are into.
And I know the thing that really sucks about small towns is the distances. You will probably have to drive a lot longer to a lot more places. But soon a 45 minute drive to get to the movies or the pizza place will seem totally normal. And this may sound silly but I offer to give friends a ride whenever it’s convenient. You will have to meet people first and have the same destination. But the extra minutes in the car of one-on-one time can really help you get to know a person, even if you just talk about which radio stations you like to listen too, or how annoying traffic is, and you’ve endeared yourself to them for doing the favor. (After a couple times there’s a good chance that THEY will offer to drive.)
If all else fails the internet exists! Find a message board to join, or start a blog, or write those fan-fictions. Good luck, I’ve been in that isolated bubble of loneliness before. It sucks, but then it gets better if you put any amount of effort into it at all.
I tried the craigslist Strictly Platonic section. Tread carefully, because surprise surprise, I met many people who were not actually interested in keeping things strictly platonic. I started by emailing a few women back and forth and never met anyone that I wanted to meet in public. Try indicating in your post that you want to hang out with a group of people you meet through the ad. That way you’re safer and you get the others interacting with each other so it’s less like a date.
This is really funny. People keep saying things like “But soon a 45 minute drive to get to the movies or the pizza place will seem totally normal.”
I grew up in Major Metropolitan Area and a 45 minute drive to get anywhere outside my immediate area was considered a quick drive.
I grew up in a tiny rural town so my experiences are all more kid-centric than you’re probably looking for, but…
+ Definitely ditto the earlier comment about crafts, whether your’e currently into them or mildly curious about them. My mom, in a tiny rural isolated upstate NY town, has at various points been involved with a knitting circle, a quilting guild, and a spinning/weaving guild. The nearest craft store (which is a ways away, alas) does host classes for beginners, which might be a way to meet other people, too.
+ How do you feel about various sports/athletics/etc? Again, upstate NY, so things were pretty cold and there was tons of skiing and ice skating, etc. There were definitely classes for adults who wanted to try things out.
+ Your local school might welcome volunteers, too. There will definitely be sports boosters, and there might also be various arts boosters. Those groups tend to be largely parents, but you don’t have to have a kid involved in whatever the activity is to get involved. More volunteers are always welcome. There’s also something like girl/boy scouts. My town was always desperate for troupe leaders, so if you’re interested in kids/tweens you might look around and see if there are local GSC troupes and if they’re looking for leaders/assistant leaders. Again, it’s pretty kid-centric, but you’d certainly end up meeting the other adults who are involved, and tons of kids’ parents.
+ If you’re someone who’s at all medically/emergency/etc inclined, my town also had a tiny local fire/rescue station that welcomed all volunteers. My dad was a volunteer fireman for ages and attended the weekly meetings, which was a great way to meet basically everyone in the town at some point. Everyone loves the fire/rescue folks.
Hi! This is an awesome question! I just moved to a tiny rural town a year ago, and on the whole I think the making-friends-thing went pretty well, so here is what I did:
1. Joined the community choir – choirs are awesome! And here, people often go for a drink after, which helps a lot with getting to know them.
2. Went to church – I am not super christian – actually kind of more pagan – but I grew up going to church, so it didn’t bother me. YMMV but people there get super excited when new people show up =)
3. Invited people to do things – people I met at work; people I met randomly and had a brief chat with; pretty much anyone I met who I thought was cool. Depending on the circumstances (ie, someone from work vs random stranger) I would say something along the continuum from, “I’m having people over for a games night, want to come?”, or “I want to go hiking this weekend, want to come?” to, “I’m new to town and trying to make friends, want to meet up for coffee some time?” People mostly responded really well to this, so even if it doesn’t end up in a beautiful, close friendship, it helps build a reputation as someone who likes people and who has stuff going on.
4. Helped people out – I actually just realised this, but in retrospect, two of the people who became my friends started out as acquaintances I helped out when the opportunity arose. One girl, I gave a lift home to when she was feeling sick because I didn’t think she should have to drive, and the other, a colleague, I went to visit when she was in hospital with her new baby in a different city, and brought her presents from people at our office. I was going to the city anyway, it wasn’t out of my way, but it really seemed to help bridge the gap between acquaintance and friend.
5. Joined facebook groups for my town – “Buy and Sell [My Town]” and “Girls’ Hiking Group [My Town].” If you meet people in person who are active in the group before joining it, so much the better, but you can also just search [Your Town] on facebook and ask to join whatever groups come up and post some messages so that people are used to seeing your name.
6. This is the big one! Acted like I wanted to stay forever. I’m actually moving back to my college town in two weeks, which I’m both sad and happy about, but this whole past year, before I knew whether or not I’d be staying, I tried to act as if I would be staying for life. People in my town really respond to that kind of outlook, because a lot of people come here for short contracts and then leave. It’s a close-knit community, so if you act as if you assume you are going to be part of it for a long time, then people respond to that, and then if/when you end up leaving, they’re sad to see you go instead of just thinking that the inevitable finally happened. Or at least that’s my experience.
One thing that’s been a bit difficult for me over the past year has been trying to expand my friendship base outward from people in my age group. My town, for a very small town, actually has a pretty strong population of twenty-somethings, but they’re almost all parents of young children, which makes them short on time and harder for a childless lady like myself to get to know! So especially early on, most of the human contact I was getting outside of work was with people who were not of my generation. And not of my political views. But really, super friendly and kind, so even though it didn’t satisfy my need for close friends I could confide in, it DID satisfy my basic need for human company and feeling like I was part of society. Then as time went on I managed to make some closer friends here. Also I had many, many skype chats with my long-distance friends.
Small towns can be the most awesome places – I think I want to move back here some day even though it is super far from all my family and friends (except the ones I made here, obvs). I know a lot of the things I outlined above can be really intimidating, but I have some pretty strong social anxiety and I give myself points for just making eye contact and smiling at people I pass on the street. The more you try reaching out to people, the easier it gets! People want to like you! Good luck!
I recently moved back to the “big city” (read: 66,194 people) in an otherwise pretty rural state, where most people I knew growing up moved away as fast as humanly possible, so I’m eating all of this advice up.
People’s mileage may vary on this, but I’ve also met some pretty cool people through okcupid over the years, either through ticking that I was only looking for friends or through meeting someone for a date and the two of us realizing we had absolutely no romantic interest in each other. That’s harder in this state, because you tend to have to travel to get to people (and might not be something you’re interested in, given that your relationship just ended), but you never know!
LW, I don’t have much in the way of practical advice for you, as I only have a few friends here and they came from either high school or randomly realizing that someone in an online RPG I was playing lived in the state, but if the “Big City That Is Not Actually Very Big” is mine (and I’m wondering, with the references to moose and people’s You’re From Away attitudes, if it is), I would totally meet you! I know I’m one person and not a whole support network and if we’re in the same state we’re at a distance from each other, but us Awkward Army folks have got to stick together, and I’m also feeling isolated and would love to meet new people.
(LW here) If your state starts with an M and ends with aine, then HECK YES. You can email me at revolverklc [at] gmail.com…I am squee-ing with excitement!
I spend a couple weeks in Maine every summer and I swear by the Down East Coastal Press. Go to farmers markets, festivals, church dinners, rummage sales…
I’ve been to the Down East Folk Festival a few times, and while I don’t know a lot of Mainers (Mainiacs?), the dance community up there seems very welcoming. LW, if you’re interested in social dancing, I recommend checking out a contra dance:
De-lurking because, LW, I am suspecting that you live near where I grew up! How exciting! Let me see, tips on how to fit into small-town Maine community.
#1 – accept that being From Away will never ever change. My family says I’m From Away because I was born out-of-state, even though I spent my entire childhood/adolescence in ME.
#2 – get interested in farming, gardening and outdoorsy stuff. The Common Ground Fair is this weekend, you should go! Farmers are nice and also prevalent and there are always markets and farmstands and festivals happening.
#3 – as a follow-up, talk to people. Mainers can seem cold to outsiders because we’re not effusive or overly friendly (as you’ve discovered) but once you’re “in,” we are fiercely loyal. Introduce yourself to the cashier at the gas station, the librarian, etc.
#4 – from now on, you (publicly) love your life in Maine, don’t know how any other state could possibly compare, and never want to leave. Everyone *says* they love Maine (for a week in the summer), but Mainers are really truly in love with our state and it has nothing to do with the lobster. Playing on state pride will never hurt.
#5 – we’re really into community suppers and breakfasts, usually put on by churches and fire stations – go! They’re delicious!
I’m actually kind of jealous, I love and miss home and wish I could get a job that would allow me to move back!
Are you in the southern coast or lake country?
I am in central Maine — not quite officially lake country, but definitely not coastal.
In the Take Up An Activity vein: If you’ve ever thought about a garden, start one, and then hang out at the seed and feed store. Ask them there about who has a really nice garden that you could ask for advice.
An amazing number of people hang out at feed stores in many rural areas. Practically a community center. I used to do it when I rode horses in high school, and my area wasn’t even that rural.
LW here – I knew I could count on the Awkward Army! Thank you all for your awesome advice. I’m starting to feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Okay, this is a bit of a novel–I hope it’s helpful.
A la limegreenwhisk… you’re not in a state that begin with V and ends with T, are you? (I think it probably starts with M and ends with E, but hope for an Awkward meetup springs eternal.) Like you, I’ve found the Meetup around here pretty sparse.
I’m relatively close now to our little “big city”, which makes life easier (thank you to those above who mentioned that if you’re truly rural, internet, especially high-speed internet, is NOT a given). I used to live 45 minutes out in the country, but wasn’t trying to be as social back then. So YMMV; also because I have small children and that makes social connections much easier.
Things I have learned:
When living in the much more rural area, and also now, I made some of my best connections just by getting to know my neighbors. To do this you really need to be out and about–in your yard or walking the dog around the block–then you start chatting and get to know one another. But if I didn’t get out to do some yard work, I didn’t make any of those connections. I realized I was missing opportunities when my husband would come in and announce that he met or talked to so and so. So that’s a good side to shoveling, stacking wood, or raking the leaves!
For the big city area where internet isn’t usually hard to access, Twitter is fairly active, and you have a good chance of making connections or finding out about particular types of groups or resources if you use the local hashtag (the one that everyone uses to mark your particular region).
The local newspapers are a big deal. We have a local weekly paper that is stuffed with info about what’s going on, and they actually have some good news analysis too. But there’s also this dinky little town newspaper, and although it doesn’t look like much, if anything’s happening in my town, it’s put in there. Sometimes important events (like kindergarten registration!) don’t show up anywhere else but there.
Similar to a comment above, if you have a particular interest, find a relevant store or shop and see what’s posted there about events, classes, etc. For example, the other day we made a visit to the local gaming shop and I discovered a board full of information about gaming groups, people seeking to start new groups, etc. I haven’t seen anything about those groups anywhere else. Coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, and town halls may also offer similar resources. Also explore community classes taught at local schools. (My experience with these is limited to parental stuff, but I’ve seen many people I know at these.)
I’ve made some of my best connections via a few “medium fish” in my small pond–that is, people who have lived here a while and know a lot of people due to their line of work. In my case many of these work with the birth/young parents community, but there are also people who seem to run in the holistic health and the college professor communities, for example. They tend to offer invitations to group events where I can meet a ton of people who are more less like-minded. It’s serendipity to meet one of these people, and I am not calculating about it, but if I do I try to prioritize those invitations.
In my small rural town, I worked at the town hall for a while, which I do NOT recommend–I learned all kinds of ugly and depressing stuff about small-town politics and gossip. These days I volunteer on a city hall committee that I’m interested in.. The latter has been good, but it’s been closer to a pleasant-work kind of connection than a hang-out social connection.
Many people around here are very outdoorsy and active, and that is a good “pick-up” activity to be ready for–“Hey, I’m going cross-country skiing/for a walk/to go swim at the gym, do you want to come?” You don’t have to be good at it, but it’s a good way to fit into the local culture.
Hey, L. She’s not from V…t, but I am.
I live in V—–t too!! I think all of us in V—–t need to get together!
The idea of putting anything into the calendar between now and the end of Dec. makes my brain curdle — but maybe we should throw together a meetup at Ben & Jerry’s in Waterbury in the gray days of late winter/early spring? Or, of course, there are lots of cool places in Montpelier or Burlington; B&J just seems philosophically appropriate (and centrally located)… or if somebody wants to do it sooner, I can promise to try.
Sad truth: I am so wrenchingly homesick for V——t/N– H——— that I would try to come to this meetup even if you had it in WRJ. Or Nashua.
This is very true for me too, as a former (and I hope/plan future) V——–ter currently living in that Big City Southwards. I don’t know if I would make it, and definitely don’t shape plans around a wistful expat, but I’d try.
Oh wow, I’m from NH! I never realized there were so many awesome peeps around me!
(Not to be exclusionary, Tosca… even if you do live in the Live Free or Die state, whenever we do it feel free to come on over!)
Ugh, believe me, I do not love that motto!
I wonder… would they let you white it out on your license plate? To be consistent with the motto, they should!
Oh, alphakitty, a long time ago (70’s?) there was a free speech issue about exactly that! And the outcome was that NH can’t actually force you to display the motto if you disagree with it, so you’re within your rights to white it out! Oh, look, I found the link: 1977, apparently. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wooley_v._Maynard
The hilarious thing being that New Hampshire tried really hard to make the guy display “Live Free or Die,” taking it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. “Live Free or Die, Dammit! Or we’ll throw your ass in jail!!”
You’re from NH? COME TO MY BOSOM, WE SHALL TALK OF THE IDIOTS THEY’RE TRYING REPLACE LYNCH WITH.
Force yourself to make small talk whenever you’re out and about in your community. Do you have a town dump? Make terrible recyclable jokes to the person at the bottle return area. At the hardware store? Ask for location-specific weatherizing advice. Historical Societies are the best, for well-connected old timers who might appreciate the help of a younger buck once or twice a month. Seriously, concentrate on speaking to the elderly in your area. They will be a wealth of information, and if you pass muster with them, they will help signal to the rest of the community that you’re okay, at least for being not “from here”.
Volunteer at the library, since you’ll see much of the town there. This is a good time to catch younger adults with children. Remember the children’s names, and you’re halfway to a potential friendship with the parent.
I have attended a Baptist church as a fairly militant atheist, made a bunch of good-hearted friends, and managed to never discuss politics or gender roles with them for whole months at a time. They never asked if I was religious, and were very welcoming to me (and this is where I met all the young men). I enjoyed the weekly theological arguments I could make in my head during the sermons.
As others have said, this is a great opportunity to befriend people way outside your age group, class, background, faith, language, etc etc.
I come from a “large town” of 20,000, so I don’t know how different that will be from your “rural area” of 20,000, but anyway, where I’m from, it’s all about the library. There are several churches, of course, each with their own community, but if you’re looking for concerts, dance classes, book clubs, or really anything that can go on a flyer, it’s on the library bulletin board.
I lived in a small town for about a year and a half–didn’t enjoy it much, but I’ll share some of the things I did, in case any of them sound good or spark any ideas.
As alphakitty mentioned upthread, small towns often need volunteers where bigger cities would have paid staff–I’m thinking schools, hospitals and libraries, if you have the time and interest. This is also a great opportunity to do something/learn a skill you’ve never tried before. I volunteered at the local public radio station–I went in there to ask if they’d put on Whadya Know? and ended up with my own weekly radio show! I also did the occasional ad, and eventually did paid shifts as a substitute board op.
You didn’t say what your job was; I worked in a public position and was often asked to participate in various charitable events, like the yearly Fourth of July party or (my favourite) something exactly like Waiting for Guffman, where we all put on a show! I was Little Orphan Annie, and sang ‘You’re never fully dressed without a smile’! See if you, or you as part of your work group, can get involved in local charitable events.
And yeah, a good portion of my socialising was through church. I was brought up Catholic, and at the time was happy to practice my religion; in addition I spent a surprising amount of time with the local evangelical community because, as a big-city girl, I’d never been exposed to them and wanted to find out what it was all about. This was well before they reached the political and cultural prominence they have now.
There is other excellent advice in this thread, but in addition:
Even if it seems like an event isn’t up your alley/in your area of interest, if it’s something you can mosey about and explore without committing to an activity, go anyway. I’m part of an activity group in a small, ruralish town (roller derby), and we show up to every single event in the county that will let us in hopes of raising awareness and potentially drawing new recruits. Summer concerts, ski hill Octoberfests, fourth of July fireworks shows, arts and crafts fairs, the rodeo, everything. We’re not the only special-interest group in town that does that, by far. While we’re there we catch up with every other group of oddballs hoping to attract like-minded oddballs, local politics, and basically everything else that’s going on in the county. We also meet lots and lots of people who are new in town and looking for activities and more importantly friends and connections. Through the league I’ve also discovered all sorts of things in town I’d never have otherwise heard about, like trivia night (it’s run out of a series of basements) and gaming groups.
Second the advice to check out your local library. One of our roller girls is a librarian, and through it and her we basically have an informal newswire on absolutely everything that happens locally that we could possibly care about and then some.
I used to live in a tiny town far, far away from anything anyone could call a city, and I kind of feel like aside from a few hints that really are specific to smaller towns (other people have already said this, but these are: read the local paper and community bulletin board), there wasn’t too much that was different for me about finding and making friends in Tiny Town versus the city.
I met most of my friends at work.
Or doing stuff I was interested in (which for me was writing groups).
Or just by being there for long enough. After five years of seeing someone every week, you eventually figure why not say “Hi”?
This is not to say that cities and small towns have the same social dynamic. (In fact, not all small towns have the same social dynamic (of course).) I tended to get a lot more flak for stuff I did (or purportedly did) in Tiny Town. People had long memories. Word got around. Etc. I found myself both being more cautious in some ways (not wearing pajamas to the store, f’rex) and feeling free to be more outspoken in others (publicly standing up for someone who had been wronged, because what better way to announce my presence to like-minded neighbors?).
“Your people” may not look exactly the same as “your people” did in the city. In the city I can generally (not always) tell if someone is my type of person by what they’re wearing or their glasses or whatever. (Which is not to say that I dislike people based on their clothes, but — there are just so many potential friends! If I chatted with everyone I see in the city to suss out whether they’re my people, I’d have no time for anything else! Hence the imperfect cool-glasses filter.) In Tiny Town I found soulmates in people who had none of that external indicia, and in fact looked like someone I absolutely assumed I would have nothing in common with had I not been able to eventually see through the cowboy hat/ski gear/age gap/whatever. So, it’s to your advantage to be more open, I guess I’m saying.
In Tiny Town, people (including myself, after my many years of living there) didn’t automatically trust people who were new — and not for the reasons I first thought. (“City Girl, eh?”) Basically, it’s difficult to make friends with someone only to have them move away after a season or two. After they’ve shown they’re not leaving right away (by not leaving), then you can be friends with them. But before that point, it’s a little bit of a waste of time.
Of course, not all small towns are the same, but that was how I’d describe the social dynamic of Tiny Town. Good luck, LW! Hope you start finding your people soon!
I’ve been in the LW’s situation, and I disagree quite strongly with the suggestion that someone who’s not religious should seek friends at church, or should try to join groups that aren’t of much interest to her.
Yes, the point of the exercise is to meet new people, there will be people in those locations, and people with different views and interests can be friends. However, there may be fewer compatible people at those functions, and (more importantly) it’s very hard to come across as an appealing potential friend when you’re doing something that bores or offends you. Your better qualities are more likely to come across when you’re doing things you enjoy at least a little bit, and when you have the opportunity to talk about topics you like and are knowledgable about.
So I’d suggest looking even harder for activities that are a little more in your comfort zone, or at least an interesting venture out of it. I’ve had some luck with book clubs and gym classes, and with volunteering for an organization that has goals I support. Make sure to check out bulletin boards and flyers at the library/coffee shop/other social spaces – smaller town clubs often don’t use the internet to organize. And remember there will be other people looking to make new friends – you’re not the only new person in town, and some of the long term residents outgrow their old friends and want to make new ones.
I agree albeit with less vehemence. I tried joining our Episcopalian church, a place whose morals I agreed with and where I found at least something of a spiritual home. But I could never get to the point of thinking of Jesus as a Being instead of a metaphor, and in the end I felt like something of a liar for that reason; and although I met people I liked well from there, I similarly couldn’t feel like my true self with them, quite.
A lot of people with less “conventional” beliefs find a home with the Unitarian Universalists. The UU churches vary widely but I find the majority of them too afraid of being spiritual–I do like a little talk of the divine or deities. But, if a person is a serious agnostic or atheist or secular humanist, the UUs might be worth exploring.
I’m from fairly backwoods New Hampshire, so I know that feel, bro. May I recommend libraries and book stores? They’ll often have events, some of them not even book related, and can be good places to meet people. Also, look for things like dance classes or ski lessons – things where everyone’s at the same level of skill and are just meeting people. And holidays are good times for people to gather, so events like a Halloween/Harvest festival, Thanksgiving community supper, Christmas tree lighting, or 4th of July parade can be good places to meet people.
Also, that culture of exclusiveness you talk about, LW? Depending on your area, that might never change. My parents moved in from out of state over twenty years ago, and though my parents have met many people (through work, church, my school, that sort of thing), they’re still considered outsiders and newbies. That’s OK, LW. Not everyone has to like you.
Read Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time by Michael Perry and then consider the other folks advice about volunteering with the fire department or rescue squad. Make some discreet inquiries to determine your local organization isn’t a disfunctional good-ol-boys club. You would probably get to go through some training with a cadre of people on a regular basis and then poof, you are an essential member of the community.
Has anyone mentioned the local barber shop/beauty salon yet? I’ve flirted with rural existance several times and one of my favorite things to do was go to a little beauty salon, usually right next to a bar, video rental store, laundromat (or occasionally all of those things under one roof) and get my hair done. Little old ladies love to chat up the new girl and you will have the inside scoop about everything that’s going on.
I’ve not relocated to a small town, but I have relocated abroad. It has some of the same challenges, but one thing that made it easier is that there is always an expat bar or other gathering place, where foreigners go to socialize with other foreigners. I ended up hanging out with people I’d never have spent time with at home and had “nothing in common with,” because being an expat was what we had in common.
Is your town big enough that there might be other people Not From Here? If so, can you reach out to them through Meetup, or posting a notice at the library, or just asking around? They have the same incentives you have to make new friends.
Start playing a social sport. When I was living in a smaller town it was common for people to take up sport even if they aren’t athletic for the social aspect. If you contact team sports organ
They are usually happy to help out…..
I’m sorry, I didn’t read the comment thread the whole way through (bad me) so if any of these are duplicate suggestions that’s my fault.
Aside from going to church groups you could try to get involved in local politics, like going to city council meetings or school board meetings. Some of it might be interesting, and you do pay taxes so it might be worth it just to find out what they’re going towards. You could volunteer at a local nursing home or hospital, a lot of places need people to read to patients. The local animal shelters or humane society might need a volunteer to walk dogs and clean cages. Maybe the local branch of the library system needs someone to pitch in one day a week.
Maybe there’s a knitting/quilting/sewing circle that meets regularly? Ravelry.com is a good place to find people who are crafty and live in your area. You could volunteer at your political party’s headquarters, I don’t know if you are in the US but I know there are groups that help voters get registered and even drive them to the polls on voting day.
I guess all this depends on what’s available locally, but also on how much time you have during the work week. Good luck to you!
I will throw my support behind the suggestions of volunteering, joining community projects, coffee shops, and libraries–these are all really good ways to get involved in things and meet other people. I was surprised at the level of activities available once I started looking around my new home; I’d been prepared for a wasteland of maybe one or two things I might enjoy, and there turned out to be quite a lot that was interesting to me, as long as I made the effort to join in. It’s certainly not to the level of the fairly large city I moved from, but I can find things to do a couple of days a week at least, depending on my energy and enthusiasm, and I’m getting to know other people through those interests.
A comment above suggested the equivalent of an “expat” bar, and while that might not exactly exist where you are, the basic suggestion is a good one. We found a restaurant in our small area that has a terrific bar of the type we enjoy and a fantastically charming, getting-people-involved bartender, and it’s helping us build new connections. This doesn’t have to be about a lot of alcohol drinking and carousing; very often places like this are more about socializing, so if you’re okay with being in an environment with alcohol, this can be a nice option.
A few other thoughts I had:
–Talk to your neighbors. To an extent this might seem like a given, but if you’re from a large city where people tend to keep to themselves, this can be novel and surprisingly difficult. People in small communities rely on each other much more than in large cities, and they’re more likely to be helpful when they know something about their neighbors. We started chatting with our next-door neighbors the day we moved in; they spent the summer sharing produce from their garden, and have been giving us the lowdown on who’s who on our street. It’s really nice and very helpful, and has allowed us to feel more connected to where we live.
–You will need a high tolerance for gossip. Again, folks in small communities don’t have as many things to do and have a higher level of connection with each other, so gossip is pretty much a pastime for a lot of them. Someone up above gave the warning to never badmouth anyone, and that’s part of this, but beyond that people are going to gossip about each other in your presence, whether you know who’s being talked about or not. This one’s been tough for me as I don’t particularly care for this kind of thing, but I’ve had to accept that it’s part of the nature of the community. And it is useful in getting an idea of what people talk about, what their values are, and how likely they are to gossip about YOU. By the same measure, expect to be talked about, especially if you do anything that’s slightly odd or unusual or simply because you’re from somewhere else. (I have a rather…eccentric sense of fashion, and the whispering and the staring when I go out in typical regalia is fierce. People are also somewhat obsessive about wanting to hear about my background when they find out where I’m from, which is A Long Way Away and uncommon for where we are now.)
–It’s challenging to be shy or an introvert in a small community. You will have to get used to talking to people, because they’re going to talk to you, whether you want it or not. (For some reason, elderly women tend to ask me for advice in the grocery store a lot, and it would be horribly rude for me to ignore them. This never happened in the big city but it’s common here. Very high levels of chatting in retail transactions as well.) See also the note above about gossip. I’m fairly introverted, and have limited energy on top of that, so whenever I go out to do something I have to make sure I prepare myself for a fairly high level of interaction and build in the time necessary to recover from all the contact. I was not expecting this aspect (in the big city, I could run several errands without exchanging more than a dozen words with other people) and it required some adjustment of how I handle my interactions with other people. So if shyness or introversion are things you deal with, you might find yourself needing new strategies or adjustments in how you cope with it in a way that’s healthy for you.
“It’s challenging to be shy or an introvert in a small community.”
Pretty much. I hate social chitchat with the power of a thousand suns. I’ve been a bit lonely after moving to my current smallish, ruralish city on the other side of the country, missing the close friends I had there, but I just don’t have the spoons to spend in meaningless gossip and stuff about the weather (and I’m already doing all the volunteering I have in me to give, it’s just largely not in-person/not local). I just feel all stuck.
Argh. Stupid diet of worms. Maybe I’ll go out to the coffeeshop and write some poetry or something.
So I have a slightly odd suggestion that might not be relevant/possible for you but could solve your “I don’t have kids” dilemma. Have you considered hosting an exchange student? If you are in a situation where you have an extra bedroom, are financially in a good place and want to learn about other cultures/share the U.S. with someone else, I highly recommend it.
I say this as someone who used to work for an exchange agency, where my job was to organize teams of local volunteers, mostly in rural areas, who found homes for exchange students and coordinated activities for them throughout the year. If you find a good organization with a well-organized “local” group, you’d be tapped into a network of people in your state/area who would do regular activities, other people with “kids” (including single people, young couples w/o children, etc.), and you’d have a teenager to show around. It’s not for everyone, but most people who do it love it. Maine actually has some good programs, including one with headquarters in Portland: CIEE. (ciee.org) I recommend the company I used to work for, if only because I’m good friends with the person in charge of Maine 🙂 effoundation.org
All you need to host is an extra bedroom, to pass a background check, a local high school that will take the student, and a willingness to host! (you do provide food for the student, but otherwise they come with their own spending money) You would work with a local coordinator so you wouldn’t be thrown into the wilderness of “parenthood” alone, and you would pick out a student with interests relevant to your own. Students come for either a semester or a full school year.
It’s a long shot, but thought I’d mention it!
1. Holy shit that is a huge town. I mean, yeah, it is way smaller than a city, but where I come from, that is pretty freaking big. So! I do not know if any advice here will work because it is from the perspective of a townie from a town of 4000 people!
2. Church is an excellent suggestion because, in a lot of small towns, the non-service parts are less about religion and more about “holy shit this town is small and this is like the only place a lot of us can socialize”. Which means a shocking number of people in church are either not Christian or are atheists. *Especially* if you can find a nearby UU church. Stay away from old ladies with lots of perfume on and younger people who are Dressed Up For Church, because they are generally the creepy Religious people.
3. Just go hang out places. Seriously. Hit up the library and ask people who do not look scary (read: do not look like they will kill you for talking to them because they are in a *library* and there are *books* and god can’t you see how busy they are look at all these books they’ll never be able to finish reading them all if people keep talking to them) for book recs or if they’ve read XYZ book or, you know, book talk. Find the local spot where people go and become a regular there. For the town I grew up in, it was the general store, which had hot breakfast and coffee in the mornings, sandwiches and coffee midday, and things like fish n chips at dinner, in addition to groceries and shit. If you find that place, and go there for breakfast once a week, say, you’ll end up being a regular which does a lot to make you a Part Of The Community, which tends to lead to friends.
4. Volunteer the crap out of things. Libraries always need volunteers. The fire station tends to need volunteers. Festivals need volunteers. Schools need volunteers. You will get exposed to all the people! And maybe some of them will not suck!
5. My last number is to be patient if you’re planning on staying there. New people tend to cycle in and out when they realize that living in a rural area is not all they thought it was cracked up to be, so there’s no point in making friends with someone until you’re sure that they’re going to stay. Which sucks for new people, a whole lot, but them’s the breaks.
I’m from a rural area and I was like, wait, 20,000 still counts as rural?! Haha, but it’s all a matter of perspective. And one perspective that you might have to change if you haven’t already is how far you’re willing to go to do an activity. I don’t think anything of driving over an hour to hang out with a good friend of mine (although I do usually spend the night) or even more just for the day, simply because everything tends to be more spread out in these kinds of places.
Another fun idea might be finding a book club to join? My mom has made a lot of really good friends that way although to be honest I’m not sure how you’d find one since a lot of them tend to be private and careful of who they accept as members. Ask at work and at your local library, for sure.
One of the things about rural life is that a lot of activities tend to center around the outdoors. This sucks if you don’t really enjoy doing that, but if you’re open to it there are a lot of things to do. I know a lot of people have mentioned hiking and hunting but I bet there are also restoration projects happening in your area. This is stuff like pulling invasive plants from a state park or picking up trash or even in some cases cleaning old dumps. These will probably be advertised in your local paper as they always need as many volunteers as possible but maybe also check to see if there is an established group like the Nature Conservancy in your area.
A lot of people have mentioned joining a church or taking lessons. I think those are good ideas and I just wanted to add yoga or a gym if they haven’t been mentioned already. And there must be at least one college or university in your area. Find out if they sponsor lectures or seminars or performances etc that are open to the public.
Ha, yeah, the 20,000 is about 4 towns together. The town I actually live in is about 5,000 people.
I’m going to go off on a tangent here.. I’m afraid CA has skewed the advice to be solely on “how to adjust to a rural area”. With much excellent advice, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t get a clear sense of “I moved here and I love it and I’m going to make it work!” from LW.
So boyfriend is history. How about the job? How’s that working out? Is it totally the satisfying thing you were hoping for? Because a year and a half seems to be a reasonable time lapse to be orienting your search not towards new rural people, but toward potential new jobs in Big City. Granted, in these iffy economic times it may be a much better idea to look from afar than to simply go crash on a Team You couch till something comes up. But I don’t think an hour and a half is much of an obstacle, if you want to look there. While it may have been hard to find the present job, things may have moved enough in the meantime that there would now be equally satisfying positions available that don’t require you to live someplace that’s not congenial.
I tried commenting to the folks above who were interested in maybe a V—–t meetup, but the spam filter ate my comments. Anyway, guys, I’d totally be interested even if after the holiday. My only major constraint is that I’m very nervous about winter bad-weather driving, specially that stretch of 89 between Burlington and Montpelier, but other than that I’d be interested in going as far as WRJ and possibly could make it even further, since I do travel down to the Boston area to see family sometimes.
Maybe we can get the Cap to post a meeting notice for us in 2013? I would love to awkwardly meet you guys.
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