It sounds like you value different things than people who live in small towns do. If you valued nature and natural beauty, not feeling crowded, having a nice house and a big yard, peace and quiet, knowing everybody, being able to run around and play outside, being able to get anywhere in town via just a short walk or short drive, fishing, hunting, gardening, landscaping, relaxing evenings at home, or being “a big fish in a small pond,” you might ask how anyone can live in a big city.
Come to think of it, we don’t either.
I live in a small tourist town and I love it. It’d be perfect if I didn’t go to school 40 minutes away.
Why I like it:
I look out of my balcony (which I would not be able to afford if I lived in a city) and I can see the Milky Way and all kinds of other stars.
My back area has a ton of birds: blue jays, hummingbirds etc.
On the day I moved in my new neighbors made us cookies and brought them over. Apparently people really did that.
I live in a small mountain town. No stop light. Population around 2000 but very spread out. As far as businesses go, we have: a trading post/gas station, a lumber hard/hardware store, auto parts, pizza, a taco truck, two realtors, a barber, a guy who does taxes and sells small gift shop trinkets, and a lady who has a mobile coffee/espresso van. We’re about 30 minutes from a grocery store or movie theater and about 60 minutes from a large metropolitan city.
We have, essentially, no crime. My house has locks on the doors but I have no idea where the keys are. I don’t lock my cars, my kids leave their bikes out, and our dogs run loose. We live on six acres and the back side of our property backs up against a very large (10,000+ acre) cattle ranch. My boys’ (they are 8 and 10) favorite game is called “exploring”. We have guns and bows and arrows and a burn pile and horseshoe pits and a Jeep.
As far as why we prefer to live in a small town… I think it mostly boils down to the fact that I dislike most people.
Yes! When it’s time for the Perseids, I take an air mattress out to the back yard and enjoy the view. I never saw stars (let alone meteors) when I lived in Seattle
We just started feeding hummers this summer. Aren’t they something? We had four regulars and by the end of the summer, we could sit on the deck and they’d hover in front of our faces. “Hey! Thanks for the grub!” A friend who lives in the boonies in Oklahoma has up to a hundred at a time. (They have a lot of feeders.)
But I wouldn’t have liked living here as a teenager. There aren’t many kids in town – maybe 20 from toddlers to teens. The kids are bused to school so I suspect it’s a hassle for them to spend time with friends. We have two parks, a tennis court, and a ball field, but that’s it. And there’s no public transport. Kids get their driver’s licenses at 16 and it seems that not a year goes by that one or two of them don’t have a serious accident. When we lived in Seattle, a kid with a car was rare.
My first day here I went out and bought a hummingbird feeder. I filled it up and I went outside when I realized I needed a chair to stand on, so I put the food on the ground. By the time I had come back with a chair (10 seconds at most) there was already a hummingbird feeding. That’s when I knew I’d love it here.
The nearest town to my house is 11 miles away and has a population of 600. Why do we do it? It’s incredibly peaceful for one thing. At night you can go outside and see thousands of stars. Many nights it’s dead quiet, something you never get to experience in big cities. Other nights you can hear the wind roaring through the trees. Since we live at a lake, you can often hear ducks quacking or see geese flying overhead in the moonlight. It’s very cool. I had a friend and his wife visit from Vancouver. When he got to our house, he asked the same question, “Why would anybody want to live here?” After 2 days, he understood and didn’t want to leave.
In town, you REALLY do know everybody. You know their kids. The kids know that if they act up in front of you, you’ll tell their parents. Their parents will do the same for you. It’s much more of a true community than I ever experienced in Dallas. I know my banker, grocer, doctor, general store owner (yes, we still have one) and mechanic on a first name basis. Dishonest business people don’t last. Word of mouth spreads too fast.
Most importantly, at night I can pee off the porch and there’s no one around to complain.
Like others, I just frankly don’t care about the stuff you bemoan the lack of in small towns. I shop purely out of necessity, except for fabric and craft supplies. We cook together at home, it’s cheaper and healthier and a good time for us to bond. Why would we need public transport when we’re at most a 10-minute drive from anything in town? And frankly, I’d rather be bludgeoned to death than sit through most forms of “nightlife,” which typically involves someplace crowded and smoky and so damn loud you can’t hear yourself think.
No thanks, I’ll stick with my beautiful mountains, my lack of traffic or crowds, my room for the dogs to run and play, and my woods to toodle around in.
I grew up in a small town: 1500 year round residents and maybe 7000 in the summer. Now I live between Prague (1.2m), Dubai (1.2mil) and (just for visits) Reno, NV (300K). Yup - smaller is better.
Add me to the list of people confused by the concept of 100,000 people being a “small town.” That’s a “small city.”
I live a few miles outside of a small town of 2,300 people (which is actually the largest town in our county). Partially, I love it here just because it isn’t a city. I enjoy visiting cities now and then, but I hated living in one.
Here are some of the things I love about it out here:
[li]The view. I look out my window at aspen trees, cattle, and mountains. The only sign of humans is usually some people on the ski slopes, which I can see with binoculars.[/li][li]The quiet. I hate the constant noise of the city. Out here, I can actually hear the beavers slapping their tails in the pond behind the house, the elk bugling during the rut, the cattle lowing, the songbirds chirping, the grasshoppers flying, the crickets singing.[/li][li]The darkness. I can see the sky! The milky way spreads out above us, and the stars feel close enough to touch. We spread out a blanket and lay on the back lawn for the Perseids, and see dozens (sometimes hundreds) of meteors. The cities I’ve been in are so lit up you can’t see the stars and you need blackout curtains just to get to sleep.[/li][li]Driving. I can park within a block of my destination here anytime. I live four miles from town, and it takes me five minutes. There isn’t a stoplight in the whole county. I’ve never been flipped off by another driver out here. If you get stuck in the snow or your car breaks down, someone WILL stop and see if you need help.[/li][li]The low crime. Any given cold day, there will be a dozen cars in the post office parking lot unlocked with the engines running. Most folks living around the outskirts of town don’t lock their houses, and leave their keys in ATVs and tractors. If you lose your wallet, someone will track you down and give it back.[/li][li]The privacy. I can go out in my hot tub and nobody can see me. I can play my music without someone banging on my floor, wall, or ceiling telling me to turn it down.[/li][li]The open space. My dogs can go out and run. There’s plenty of room to ride the horses.[/li][li]Lack of crowds. I don’t think I’ve ever stood in a line of more than ten people in this town. People aren’t bumping into me on the sidewalks or bars.[/li][li]The people. Folks here are mostly very nice, whereas in most of the cities I’ve lived in or visited you can’t go a half-hour without running into a rude, obnoxious jackass. I’m comfortable with my 22-year-old daughter walking down any road or alley in this town in the middle of the night (as long as she watches out for bears).[/li][li]The wildlife. I love the wildlife here! Just on my own property I’ve seen foxes, moose, mule deer, whitetail deer, bald eagles, beavers, skunks, raccoons, and more. Within a few miles of home and work, I’ve seen wolves, elk, coyotes, bears, porcupines, and all kinds of other critters.[/li][li]The freedom! Nobody out here cares whether I park my fifth-wheel trailer in my driveway, or whether I own a gun, or whether I mowed my lawn this week. There are few restrictive laws and ordinances. As long as you’re not bothering someone else, you’re generally okay.[/li][li]The food. I do sometimes miss the gourmet restaurants, but we can get meat, vegetables, eggs, and other staples straight from the ranch or farm. It tastes ever so much better than the food that spent a week or more in transit from some other country.[/li][li]The cleanliness. There’s no graffiti on the walls, no trash on the streets, and the alleys don’t smell like urine.[/li][/ul]
I could go on and on and on. I understand why people work in big cities, and visit big cities for recreation, but I can’t conceive of why someone would want to LIVE in one.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere- the nearest gas station was 5 miles away and the nearest supermarket was 20 miles away- and I would never do that again. However I like most of the small towns I’ve lived in.
The worst thing about small towns is finding a decent paying job, but when you do they can be quite nice. Like people each one has its own personality and some are distinctly unpleasant*, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed a couple of the college towns (around 20,000 each) I lived in.
-Rents are cheaper than cities
-No traffic jams
-You can [usually] leave your doors unlocked without worrying
-It’s a lot easier to meet people and make friends
And most tend to be convenient (within an hour’s drive) of larger cities for better shopping, chain stores, etc…
The most inconvenient things in my experience were:
-Medical: there’s usually a doctor shortage so it can be damned near impossible to get to see a dentist or a GP as they’re not accepting new patients, meaning that even for a routine check up you have to take several hours off work to go to another city. The hospitals tend to be understaffed and the staff there are overworked and the doctors are usually third-worlders or kids (both can be good but I’d rather have someone I can understand and or who has some experience) and for any kind of specialist you’ll probably need to go to said larger city.
-Movies: the small towns I lived in each had theaters but to put it mildly they weren’t exactly state-of-the-art surround sound/stadium seating variety, and the probability of them showing a movie directly corresponded to the number of explosions or car chases. For anything that wasn’t summer-blockbuster, or even to see summer-blockbuster in stereo/stadium, you’d need to go to town.
What was surprisingly unnecessary to go to another city for was good food. The small towns I lived in had excellent restaurants and not just the mom&pop meat&three type places but fine dining places. Also regardless of the reputation the people are often more open minded and even more educated than the average person you meet in larger places, and there tends to be a more “live and let live” feeling.*
My two least favorite places that I’ve lived (apologies for any offense) were small cities- specifically Tuscaloosa AL and Albany GA. Each had a population of between 75,000-100,000 and each had few of the benefits of small towns but many of the disadvantages (traffic, sprawl, homogenization, etc.) of larger cities. (Plus Albany was just weird.)
*Pardon the Hijack, but it’s an interesting tale, and very atypical of most small towns:
A major exception is a town in Georgia where everybody I knew who had lived there had a horror story to tell. The worst encounter was a friend who was a preacher’s wife.
Preacher was a young recent seminary grad who grew up in Nashville and then got positions as junior pastor in Birmingham and Atlanta, and Wife was from Savannah and met him in Atlanta, so though southern neither had ever experienced small town south and both had Andy Griffith-ized/PLEASANTVILLE notions of small town living. His dream was to become pastor of a small town church, and he got that in a place I’ll call ‘Shermanville’ (because I won’t identify it other than to say it was burned to the ground by Sherman and most newcomers regardless of where they and their ancestors were from wound up longing to be Civil War reenactors for the Union side just so they could torch it again).
The couple had a special needs child- mild CP but a severe speech impediment- so he required therapy. The insurance the church offered was not good and so Wife worked outside the home to make more money to get better medical insurance and to make money to help pay back student loans and the med bills. A first sign of things to come was the ladies of the church making numerous comments over this: “We’ve never had a preacher’s wife who worked before… most are content to stay at home and be a preacher’s wife which is a valuable position to the community”. She explained, very politely, that she’d love to do that, but as preacher’s wives are not paid positions it wasn’t an option due to their son’s medical bills. “Well perhaps you should try praying!” (It should be noted that ‘Shermanville’'s previous pastors were mostly old men whose wives were retired or whose husbands were well-to-do from lucrative previous careers.)
The house was the church owned parsonage that adjoined the church on one side and the cemetery on the other and was relatively private even though it was on one of the town’s main streets. Their little boy (about 5 or so) was a big NASCAR fan and his bed was one of those racecar shaped beds and his whole room was decorated in racing toys and NASCAR theme. Another early indicator of things to come was when she ran into some church ladies at the supermarket and they told her “We just absolutely love how you’ve decorated your son’s bedroom! It’s so cute! My grandson loves NASCAR too… where’d you get that bed? We’d like to get him one. And those cars on the shelves he would love too!”
What’s wrong with this you ask? The ladies had never been (invited) inside her home, and the son’s bedroom was on the back of the house (i.e. the windows were not visible from the street or even from the front yard).
It’s a much longer story than this, and one that I told her would make a great movie that could either be HARVEST HOME or FUNNY FARM depending on which way you want to go. She offended them by doing such things as wearing pants, working at a public and secular college, or by admitting she’d drunk beer (gasp!) in college, and other such things. She was told in an anonymous letter that she shouldn’t allow her husband to walk around the house naked as this was not only sinful but horribly embarassing for the community. (Per her: he didn’t walk around the house naked but sometimes walked around in his underwear- around the rear of the house where the windows faced the back yard and on the other side of which was the church and it was closed- there’s no way anybody could have seen him [he was hot incidentally] without deliberately spying.)
Lot’s more minor stuff, but the big 'un was when she arranged for a physical therapy assistant to come from a medical college 70 miles away three days a week as part of his internship. This was no small achievement- he only did it because he lived between Shermanville and the medical college anyway and because he was a Christian and knew she needed help and it’s hard to get in the small towns (which was where he intended to make his living). Wife was an attractive young blonde, and PTA was a middle aged, very chubby black guy.
The first time he came to their house her husband got several phone calls one after the other advising him to go check on his wife because she might be under attack as a “suspicious negro” was seen entering the house. Explaining that suspicious negro had ‘broken and entered’ after Wife had opened the door and said “please come on in” didn’t exactly make it better to them. Explaining that the guy was a PTA who was coming there for their son did not help much either: ‘can’t you get a white one?’ or ‘why’d he come in the front door?’ and 'In the future he should come in the back door!"; even for small town Georgia, these are a generation or more out of date views.
Being a PTA, Suspicious Q. Negro the Polite and Helpful Home Invader often wore loose clothing- it’s necessary when you’re going to be demonstrating and assisting motions and stretches and exercises for your client. This being Georgia, when it got hot in summer he came to the house wearing shorts and a tank top. Preacher gets a call that “He’s over there naked and he’s sitting in your son’s bed and playing with his legs!” (Again- the son’s bedroom is at the back of the house, Suspicious was hardly naked, and ‘playing’ with the son’s legs was what he was there to do.)
Preacher gives a sermon on the sin of gossip and prejudice and spreading false witness. Perhaps he’d expected a golf clap that would build into applause or teary eyed “mea culpas” from the Church Ladies and others. Didn’t exactly happen, but he did get a lot of “What are you implying?” and “It’s not false witness if it happened!” Fed up he told them “I don’t think I’m the right preacher for this church and I want to tender my resignation as soon as I find another job”; he was told “That’s a good idea… we’ll accept it effective immediately. You have two weeks to clear out of the parsonage.”
Caused a major ordeal for them; I was one of several of her co-workers who helped them move and stored a lot of their boxes and belongings in my apartment (because they had to move so fast and had little money they couldn’t even get storage houses on such short notice. Preacher and Wife found a new job and last I heard they were very happy; he’s a youth minister—
in Miami. He’s officially finished with small towns for now.
Where I live has a population of 26,000. You drive five miles from the city limits in any direction and you’re surrounded by farm fields. (I’m less than an hour from two major metropolitan areas, though.)
But it’s a small college town, which makes a huge difference. There are amazing cultural resources here – a symphony orchestra, a chamber music series that brings in the likes of the Emerson String Quartet, a professional summer repertory theater, an arts center that offers all manner of classes and has some really interesting exhibitions in its gallery.
There are other things you might expect in a college town – a cool little downtown with shops and restaurants and bookstores and an independent movie theater.
And we have “the north end” where all the box store development has been relegated by zoning, so we also have that kind of stuff.
Add this to many of the things other have said about the benefits of small town life, and it’s a pretty durned good place to live.
I agree with many here.
You live in a small town when:
A major factor with small towns today is the Internet and cable. I think that makes them a lot more liveable and very different from the way it would have been in 1976 or even 1995. If I’m bored but don’t feel like reading a book I can web surf or channel surf there as well as I could in Chicago, if I want to look at nekkid people I go to the Internet or pop in a DVD or turn on TRUE BLOOD, with email I communicate with my friends as much as I do when I live near them, for books I go to Amazon (or half or one of the others) even when I’m not in a small town and as for any shopping if you can’t find it on the Internet (where even when you tack on s&h it’s usually cheaper anyway for anything over $25) it can’t be found.
I don’t know if it’s fair to say that you live in a small city. Sure, Albany proper may only have 100,000 people, but the entire area defined as the Albany-Schenectady-Troy metro area is 851,000 and feels like it and an even larger definition of metro area is about 1.15 million. I grew up in Albuquerque, with a population of the time of 400,000 to 500,000 (it’s now at about 521,000 with a metro area of about 846,000) and in a lot of ways this area feels like Albuquerque though with worse food and traffic. I’m still not convinced that these are really separate cities and counties. The way I see it is that if you don’t have to spend an hour driving through nearly-empty desert (or whatever the local geography), they’re not separate towns.
I live in a town with a population that is less than that of the high school I went to. We have two stoplights, but both of those connect to the highway that runs along the edge of town.
It’s great. Friendly people, nice neighborhoods, quiet and peaceful. The housing costs are cheap, as is the shopping.
We happen to be quite lucky in that the local grocery store has a top notch deli/meat department and good produce at very nice prices. There’s also an awesome, award-winning restaurant right downtown, where everybody knows my name.
All of that, plus we’re only 1/2 hour or so from Mpls/St Paul - so we have access to all the perks of the (relatively) Big City.
A misconception I’ve noticed some people (not necessarily anybody here) has about small towns is ‘the people are poor and untraveled’ or that they don’t know the difference in Louis Vuitton and “Lulu’s Vittles and Pocketbooks”. Certainly you can find some who are poor and or know nothing of the world 5 miles outside where they live just as you can in NYC (some studies indicate that people who live in big cities are more ignorant of the outside world than those in smaller towns), but many people are amazed how well to do and how cultured-to-the-point-of-snobbishness some folks in small towns are.
My brother for example: he’s a pharmacist in a town of about 8,500 people in south Alabama. He lives in an enormous house that would sell for $1 million in metro Atlanta but he bought for a quarter of that where he lives, and he makes tons of money and drives new SUVs and convertibles that he pays cash for, and vacations wherever he feels like (might be a cabin in the Ozarks, might be Paris).
When his daughter was being toured around various Ivy League colleges she was told “One thing that might be strange to you being from a little town in Alabama is that a lot of the kids here are from rich families, you know, like vacation homes and driving new cars and all that.” The she-snob telling her this had no idea that my niece got a $50,000 SUV for her 17th birthday and when she went to Harvard for a class paid about $100 per week for floral deliveries (which didn’t cost me anything but I’ll admit it jerks every neuron I ever inherited from penniless and or stingy Scots and dirt farmers).
While certainly not everybody in small towns is rich, they travel just as much as other people do, and many are ex-military who have lived all over the world and thanks to CNN and NBC they’re on top of all the latest news and fashions and trends. I went to high school in a place so rural there was a cow pasture next to the football field and before cable and the Internet were widely avaible in the county, and yet (dating myself here) half the girls were dressed in FLASHDANCE style and all were playing with Rubik’s cubes. Provincial now ain’t what provincial was.
I moved from DC to a small town in Georgia, and I’m thrilled at the availability of parking and the fact that I could drive everywhere. Also, I can travel a mile in less than fifteen or twenty minutes. I guess I’m just a bad environmentalist, but I HATE public transport.
Although, I’d happily do all my errands on a bike in good weather, so maybe I’m not raping the Earth too much