Small Town Living (Questions)

As of last November, I started working at a resort located in PA (the entire county has a mix of small towns and communities) I also moved in with a friend from college who works for the same company (Vail Resorts)

Even though I like my job, I’ve never lived in an actual “small town” before, which is why I have some questions about living in a small town. My family and I used to live in a rural area surrounded by a forest and they currently live in a townhouse plan located close to a suburban area.

  1. How accepting are small towns when people move to/visit the area?

  2. What are small town bars/taverns like? Even though my friend and I tried out a few local bars around the area, we enjoyed going to the bar at the resort since it felt more “lively” to us.

  3. What’s the best way to meet new people in small towns? I’ve been told that being active within the community, along with attending local events and going to bars/taverns will help you out in the long run.

Heh. If I go to a local bar and it is “lively”, that’s a negative for me.

ETA: if you’re around Seven Springs, be sure to check out the wine thing they do every year.

I was raised in a small county of 30K in a village of about 1000 people, without kids going to school there you are always going to be an outsider. And going to the lively resort bar instead of the sleepy locals bars just makes you more of an outsider. You may get to know some people by name and they may know who you are, but you may never be close unless you marry someone there.

Volunteering may help. Do they have a volunteer fire department? Locals love firefighters. You get to make friends with good people in the community and it takes very little of your time other than training and actual fires. Training can be fun when they burn down a local building for practice. and they sponser cool events.

And your dating prospects may be very good since you are a new fish is a small pond. If you are even slightly religious I’d recommend meeting people in church and not in the bars. The locals you meet at the resort bar could be fishing for someone to get them out of there or may be the towns better known women.

My experience the hierarchy is something like:
Full time residents who have been there for generations
Part time residents who have owned property there for generations
New full time residents
New part time residents
Tourists who spend money
As for meeting people, the local Lions or similar organization may be good. If folks see you helping out at the local annual festival that will improve your social standing.(guess that has been said)


Great advice so far!

I grew up in the suburbs but my parents retired to a beach town of about 2000. Parts of our family have been year-round residents for over 100 years but most of us only spent summers out there while growing up.

N9IWP gave a really good hierarchy for how these places tend to interact with “outsiders”. I’ve been going out there my entire life but my parents didn’t become full timers until I was 19 or 20. That was 20 years ago but I still feel like I’m part of the second tier even though all of the year-rounders that I’ve interacted with treat me like I’m one of their own.

Residents tend to be more welcoming towards new residents than tourists, so you already have an advantage. It also sounds like you’re not a seasonal employee so that should help. You’re not likely to meet residents at the resort bars unless you become friendly with the staff.

I’ll also echo volunteering as a great way to get involved with the community. The small towns that I’m familiar with have some pretty cool events and festivals throughout the year and they’re always happy to have an extra set of hands to help out with things. The nice thing about small towns is that you can always just walk in and ask people about helping out if you can’t find sign up information online.

Small town bars are pretty chill and they’re great places to get to know the locals. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to chat with the staff and the friendlier regulars. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s very hard to determine the full ambience if you only pop in once or twice. I’d recommend checking out some of the local spots at the end of the work day or during weekday happy hours to get a better feel for things.

Small town bars are a much better place to meet locals than the resort bars - you’d need to pick a bar and go a few times, you can’t really tell what they’re like from one visit. I must admit I’ve always found small town bars very friendly places and quite welcoming to new people, but you need to become more of a ‘regular’ and definitely make friends with the bar staff.

As far as meeting people goes, volunteering is a great idea, and going to church activities if that floats your boat. Also, check out the local library (if there is one), you may well find a poster board in there with notices of local events and sometimes requests for people to help out at stuff.

Highly variable. Anywhere from extremely to not at all. I’d been here for all of two or three years when my neighbors started telling me to get on the town planning board.

I don’t go to bars much, so can’t really speak to this one. But as others have said: if the local bars feel different from the resort one, then going to the resort one isn’t going to help you join in with the community. If you go to bars a lot, of course, you don’t always have to go to the same one.

Bear in mind that people at the resort bar (except for the people who work there) are on vacation. People on vacation often behave differently than the same people do when taking a brief break from their ordinary work.

That’s true, except that I’d say the bars/taverns are optional.

Talk to your neighbors.

Listen more than you talk. Don’t tell people ‘how we do it in the city’ unless they specifically ask you.

There’s also probably a local diner or coffeeshop where some people routinely get breakfast or lunch. Conversations are likely to go across the tables. The people who go here may or may not ever go to the bars.

If you’re religious, join a congregation. If you have kids in the school, that’s another way in. If neither, or even if so if you have the time, find a community organization that interests you and join that. Again, don’t start off by trying to tell them how to do things! figure out how they work first. In the long run you can have quite a lot of influence if you listen first.

Come summer when the weather’s nice, have a party and invite all the neighbors. Try to pick a day when nothing big is on locally.

– I’ll also add in that in at least some towns, including some quite small towns, there are multiple social groups within the community. You’re probably more compatible with some of them than with others. And if Neighbor X doesn’t want to talk to you, that doesn’t mean that nobody does.

Small town my parents lived in:

There are multiple “tiers” of folks, in order of precedence:

  1. Old timers. The people who can say “that historic hotel? My great grandfather helped build that.”
  2. Long time residents. They can say “Right, the big snow of '72. Now THAT was impressive. Old man Henry was towing everyone out of ditches that day.”
  3. Full timers. Have not been here as long, but have gotten into how things work.
  4. Recent arrivals. Particularly the “pandemic refugees”. Some of them will settle in, and others are busy trying to tell everyone how to run things or wondering why we don’t have a world class recreation center with pool in the tiny town.
  5. Part timers. Those who spend half the time in the city in their condo, and half in the town, usually in warmer months. Some of these folks are rarely seen
  6. Weekenders. Cottage folk. Again, some are rarely seen, while others do become more known.
  7. Tourists. Valued for their money, but mostly politely ignored, except when they walk slowly down the middle of the main street, oblivious to the fact that actual cars might want to drive there.

Some small towns like the one I grew up in was extremely clannish, and very economically stratified. The Italians, the Mexicans, the Okinawan’s, etc. If you were not in a clan, then you were an outsider.

My father was the minister in a local church for 8 years. We were hired help outsiders and NEVER in the inner circle.

Vail resorts has ski areas in PA? Figures. I work in Summit County CO which is basically just one big ski resort. Summer is mountain bikers.

Resort areas are very different than small towns. Very, very often visitors in my area will outnumber locals by four to one.

We grumble about it, but know that they are basically our paycheck.

Resort areas are very expensive. At least it is here. Everyone want’s to live here until they look at housing costs.

I don’t live in any town, and prefer a life just with my Wife. Work from home now so I can’t really answer questions about social activity. But at least in my county, there is some sort of event a couple times a month. We celebrate Ullr the god of snow every year for instance. People used to make a HUGE bonfire out of old skis. But that ended up getting a bit out of hand. A huge fire of burning plastic with a bunch of drunk people around is not a good idea.

I’m not sure where exactly the OP is, but although there are “resorts” in upstate NY, it is not what I would call a resort area and something I wanted to mention to the OP is that in more than one of those “resorts” the “resort bar” was full of locals. You can tell when the bar has its own parking lot and there are twice as many people in the bar as there were in the dining room for dinner. ( I put “resorts” in quotes because the main difference between these places and motels is that two or three meals are included )

One nice thing about living in/near a resort area, is that you don’t get sticker shock when you go to a vacation destination. Hawaii did not seem expensive to us. Ho hmmm.

We bought a second home in the small town where my wife grew up so we’re kind of “full time generations” / “new part time”.

  1. How accepting are small towns when people move to/visit the area?

Outside of my wife’s parents (who live down the street) and the people who run the pizza shop we eat at all the time, we really only know our neighbors on our street. They’re pretty nice, but I wouldn’t consider most of them “small town” in the way my wife’s parents are.

I guess I don’t really know how “accepting” people are outside of our street because we don’t really interact with people in town on a regular basis. Our kids don’t go to school there and my wife and I work remotely or in Manhattan so there aren’t really people to accept or not accept us.

In fact, one of the things I felt was odd is the longer people have been there, the more insular they seem to be. My wife’s parents have lived in the same house most of their lives and they didn’t know the people who we bought the house from (lived there 17 years), their neighbors (also 17 years), the people next to them (10 years). In fact, they don’t seem to know anyone or go anywhere.

My general sense (even with our friendly neighbors) is that a lot of people live there because they aren’t interested in having to worry about accepting or being accepted.

  1. What are small town bars/taverns like? Even though my friend and I tried out a few local bars around the area, we enjoyed going to the bar at the resort since it felt more “lively” to us.

This isn’t a “resort town”, although it is close to the Delaware Water Gap National Park and the Poconos. There are only really two bars in town we frequent. One is a pretty large brewery/beer garden with food and outdoor seating and whatnot. Pretty family friendly. The other is more of a tavern with typical American bar food. Also relatively family friendly.

They’re fine places to bring the family for dinner or have a couple drinks at the bar or take a date there. If I were a single man, I would probably be looking for the bars where the “better known women” and troubled teenagers with fake ids hang out.

  1. What’s the best way to meet new people in small towns? I’ve been told that being active within the community, along with attending local events and going to bars/taverns will help you out in the long run.

I’ve been told church (even if you aren’t religious) and presumably through kid’s school as well.

I think a lot of people who live in small towns tend to work in local businesses or as tradespeople or municipal workers. So that creates opportunities for them to establish a network of locals through repeated contacts.

Just remember, a small town doesn’t have much for entertainment, so you moving to the area is going to be an exciting moment for the residents. They’re going to want to know you and find out what interesting things you did in your life.

At the same time, they’ll be watching you. If you sit in your front yard and drink a beer, word’s going to get out that you’re an alcoholic by the time you go back inside.

This varies a great deal by the particular small town.

The ones I’ve lived in, the long-term residents expect newcomers to get to know their neighbors; the people I’ve run into who didn’t want to make relationships locally were mostly out-of-towners. I remember one saying that he moved to the country from the city because he didn’t want to have neighbors, he certainly didn’t want to get to know them. The particular neighbors who he didn’t want to know were very friendly and helpful to me, another out-of-towner; and so have been most of the long-term residents here, when I moved here. The exceptions seemed to be individual standoffish people; there are always going to be some of those, anywhere that there’s more than a handful of people.

Here it’s very expensive to buy or rent along the lakefront; but, at least by city standards, pretty cheap in areas away from the lake.

I don’t know that I’d call it a “resort area”, though there are some resorts and a lot of tourist traffic. But I think of a “resort area” as a place where there isn’t much else; not as an area where most of the town is agricultural, or industrial, or year-round residential, or whatever mix, but with a resort-type strip.

IME small towns have lots for entertainment. It may just be different sorts of entertainment than you’re used to.

Yeah, I grew up in a town of 1300. I speak from experience.

If you plan on sticking around for a while, I suggest you get involved in local government. Often small towns are short of good candidates for offices; they are usually low-paying, so you will do it for goodwill, not the money. It’s a good way to show you are civic-minded (you are, aren’t you?) and meet people. Just don’t start every sentence with “we do it this way…”.

In small towns, churches are the center of social activity. As an atheist, I don’t participate in religious activities, but I am glad to help out for social events like suppers and picnics. Around here, one catholic church holds an annual fish boil and another, a fish fry. Both are the best boils and frys in the county and the most economical as well as raising money for charitable purposes.

Schools are often looking for volunteers, too. If you have kids, this makes contributing to them easy. I don’t have kids, but I contribute time and money to help the school, like donations for free lunches, to upgrade computers and improve art supplies. They also need adults to assist on field trips.

If bars are more your thing, you must root for the local teams to be accepted, so prepare. Beer is more popular than “sissy” drinks.

Most small towns are rural, and heavily farming-oriented. So act accordingly.

Well, I’m not from the US, but in my village the word going out would be “One of us, one of us!” They’d only complain if you didn’t offer them a beer, too.

The thing about a small town is everybody knows everybody because they all grew up together and went to school together. So, when you walk into the local bar, everybody in there knows the complete history of everyone else in there, as well as their family histories. So, you are never going to replicate that, don’t even try.

Yes, you can certainly get involved, and meet people and maybe even get married to a local and settle in. But you didn’t play on the peewee team with them, and know that Jeff used to throw up all the time in elementary school, or that Cassie used to pick her nose in kindergarten, or that Bill used to be the star quarterback but went away to fight in Iraq and came back different, and on and on.

You have to accept that you will always be an outsider. And the locals all have their own personal levels of acceptance or distance or animosity.

The answer to all of these are “it varies wildly.” I have lived in or near several small towns. One is a lunatic asylum which I think must have more bars than people, a large biker community and not much else except stores and services to support the farming community. Another is the complete opposite - a dry Mennonite town where everyone knows everyone else through church and outsiders can be viewed with suspicion. Yet another was a farm support town with four elevators and about 500 people who seemed to mostly keep to themselves. No bars in that town, and only a couple of convenience stores. All night life and shopping was in a larger town about 10 miles away.

As soon as you get above 5,000 people or so, the ‘smallness’ goes away and people act like they do in medium sized cities, although the chance of meeting someone you know is higher. It will be much like living in the 'burbs.

My advice: Don’t contradict people, be humble and assume they know more about their local circumstances and what works/doesn’t work than you do. Be polite, be helpful, get to know your neighbors and be an asset to them. Take an interest in the town’s needs and offer to help when you see an opportunity.

Reputation matters in a small town, so don’t piss people off because you are mad, don’t throw a fit at a clerk in a store, don’t develop a reputation as being someone who doesn’t live up to their word, doesn’t pay their bills, or who avoids their share of work. Those are core small-town values. Politeness, hard work, honesty. Nothing fancy.