What (if anything) is good about rural America?

The view of many these days is heavily negative of rural America: Opioids, taking in more taxpayer income from the blue states than vice versa, Trump country, “clinging to guns and Bibles,” coal-mining jobs lost, and this article that went viral after Election Day 2016: The Dark Rigidity of Fundamentalist Rural America.

So what I wanted to ask (as someone who’s lived almost entirely in urban or suburban places): What - if anything - is good about rural America?

I did live briefly in rural western New York and noted the natural beauty of that place (and the beauty of rural Pennsylvania) - although that, of course, isn’t to be credited to humans. It did seem safer; friends would comment on how they could leave their front doors unlocked without fear of crime.

Do rural Americans have a more sedate, slow-paced lifestyle and mindset?

Are they more friendly than urbanites? (taking race out of the equation)

Are they likelier to have better hands-on knowledge of handyman skills like fixing cars, survival skills, outdoors, etc.?

I’m afraid I can only speculate - unless Boise, ID is considered rural, which by some standards it is.

But I bet traffic and noise pollution are better.

I live in rural West Michigan. I rarely see my neighbors, and I like having a lot of space around me. I’ve lived in the suburbs (suburban Detroit) and urban (Chicago). I wouldn’t go back to either after living here.

I would say I do have a more sedate lifestyle and mindset. I run an organic lawn & garden company, but take November through April off. I could probably expand my business to include snow/ice removal, but I like my winters off with my family to travel, relax, etc.

Am I friendlier? Probably not. I don’t really like people and have been described as “crusty.” And that’s from my wife who presumably both loves and likes me.

I am not at all handy, I’m sorta outdoorsy (I like to hike and “camp”), couldn’t fix a car if my life depended on it, and my survival skills consist of having a lot of candles, food, bottled water, etc stockpiled in the basement pantry.

I enjoy living here because it’s quiet, I can see a whole lot more stars at night than I ever could at my previous addresses, and I like not having to maintain a “suburban manicured” property.

I’d say, as a rural American, I’m sorta like most other people. I just vote like an urbanite.

I doubt Hawai’i counts; it is too different from the mainland. But my island - literal Hawai’i Island, aka “the Big Island” - is pretty rural in the sense that there are no big cities, the population is pretty small, and there is a lot of space and uninhabited land.

Yes, I’d say we have higher amounts of characteristics like natural beauty, safety, and sedateness (sedation?). It’s not perfect - you can still get murdered or robbed here, and Og help you if you are in a car crash because the medical care is pretty shitty - but overall it’s pretty fantastic. I have no intention of ever living anywhere else.

For me, a shooting enthusiast, I like that I can take a .22 and some empty cans and blast away on my own property without anyone objecting. Also, I enjoy sitting by a bonfire on cool weekend night. That’s restricted within the city limits (officially) but I did it when I lived in town as did many others. I get all the firewood I need from my own property. I’m not really all that rural, the area I live in is rapidly becoming more suburban. I’m outside the city limits and the people in my area vigorously resist attempts by the city to annex us.

I can’t say anything about rural America. But I have lived in small towns and small, medium and large cities. They all have advantages and annoyances.

The good (about some small towns - they vary a great deal, maybe more than cities):

  • cheaper real estate
  • charming “historic” architecture
  • lower taxes
  • fewer long lines
  • more civic pride
  • more quiet
  • often more polite
  • often more laidback
  • more likely to know/help neighbours
  • with Internet availability of goods improving
  • often restaurants improving over time
  • people may be kinder/ more generous
  • often much more educated than you think
  • generally safer
  • may be more religious

The bad (same disclaimer)

  • less privacy
  • longer drives
  • lots of folks with same last name/nepotism
  • cliquish if you move there
  • big variability in good governance
  • big variability in whether nice spot to live
  • may be more religious
  • less to do, so more gossip
  • fewer services mean harsher winters, etc.

We live on 15 acres in rural Ohio. There’s a lot I love about it:

No neighbors
No city taxes
No city ordnances
Clean air
Lots of privacy
Beautiful scenery
Very little crime (We’ve been here for 20 years and have had never been the victim of a crime on our property.)

I don’t know how any of you survive without a WholeFoods and Bloomingdales.

Main drawback during the pandemic, nobody delivers food or groceries. Also all and I do mean ALL the people around here are ultra religious and belong to the Trump cult. Gotta be real careful what you say. Saying the wrong thing to the wrong person could just piss them off or could get you shot, depending on how much Bud Light they’ve had to drink.

I’m originally from a village with a stated population of 200 and agree with all of this.

Safeway and Walmart

Nope. No. Nah-ah.

j/k - I envy you rural folks and hope to join your ranks in the not too distant future.

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don’t fence me in…

Excellent list. I would say it’s possible to have tons of privacy in Hawai’i, and of course we don’t have winter (though that right there is a drawback for some people) but for the most part you are spot on.

Yes! Very Trumpy here as well. True story, I work in a factory with about 175-200 employees. My co-worker, one of the few non-Trumpies I know, was talking about my forklift (which is a little different than most of the others) to a new employee that works at the far end of the plant from me. He referred to it as “River Hippie’s forklift.” The new employee asked “Who’s River Hippie?” My co-worker then described me and the new employee’s response was “Oh, the Democrat.”

My hometown (pop 7000 +/-)has a Facebook page. Some of us live in urban areas; some never left “home.” I agree with much of the long list @DrPaprika gave. I will contradict

  • cheaper real estate: Housing values seem to have shot up without a corresponding surge in the local economy. I think they’re turning into a “bedroom community”
  • often restaurants improving over time: this is a challenging segment in any size town. They have a hard time surviving unless they give big portions at low cost.
  • generally safer: sis who still lives there told me that gangs have moved in to sell crack and what not. It’s just that major cities are saturated and the business model needs new markets. But yeah. Sad.

The bad, when I lived there: not much to do. As the saying goes, if you ever find out you have six months to live, move to a really small town because every day there is like a lifetime. I think too that your frame of reference changes. I drive 35 minutes to work each day, which might freak them out. Nothing in town is 35 minutes away. But if they were willing to drive 35 minutes they could avail themselves of more things. Some do, but most tend to stick close to home.

The town I was born in, beautiful place, has a steady population of around 1500. We left when I was 4, so I really only remember the city, but my mother told me the biggest drawback to a small town is that everyone knows everything about everyone else (and a fair bit of what they know is wrong).

the good:

cheap real estate

I think reasonable. housing goes for maybe $60 a square foot in the rural town I grew up in.

Also keep in mind there are different kinds of rural. rural could mean no neighbors for miles, it could mean living on the main street in a town of a few thousand inhabitants.

other good things: nice and quiet. lots of privacy. there’s crime but it’s mostly property crime and drug related.

people aren’t really nicer from what I’ve seen. more insular. if you’re insular and traditional you may like it but if not it’ll feel stifled.

Also I disagree about scenery bring nicer. a lot of rural America is farmland. it gets repetitive fast looking at farms.

I visit my inlaws in rural New Jersey out by the PA border / Delaware Water Gap area a lot. One thing I complain about a lot which surprises people is HOW FUCKING LOUD IT IS.

Normally my family and I live in an apartment building that’s a converted factory. The ceilings are 6 inch reinforced concrete. I have the Hudson River on one side and a courtyard on the other. Normally I don’t hear shit. When I go to the country, I can barely hold a conference call between barking dogs, neighbors running leaf blowers, lawn mowers and weed whackers, the neighbor’s kids and their fucking dirt bikes, gunfire from what I assume is a nearby gun range, cicada bugs, and so on.

I guess what’s good about rural America is that it is a more laid back quieter lifestyle (my previous comments notwithstanding). There’s not a lot of pressure to “do” anything. You can just hang out in the yard, maybe barbeque up some dinner, go apple picking, etc. Being so close to New York City, I tend to feel a subtle pressure to constantly be “doing” something.

I suppose another advantage is that everything in the country is cheaper. Where I live, I always kind of feel like we are “just getting by” on earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Whereas I have high school friends who work as cops or nurses or teachers and can afford a 5 bedroom house.

But generally speaking, I dislike the people I encounter out where my inlaws live (including my inlaws). They tend to be very narrowminded in both attitudes and experiences. They also tend to be petty. Like last year, we went to some relative of my wife’s house for a Christmas party and my wife’s mom and aunts were going on about how “trashy” they were. a) Then why did we come here? and b) you’re all fucking bumpkins to me. That doesn’t stop me from having a good time talking to people.

Also FWIW, my wife’s family can’t fix shit. I’m the one who fixes their fucked up porch steps, garage door, swimming pool, wifi, whatever. I don’t mind. But just because people live in the country doesn’t mean they are handy.

  1. Rural covers a lot of area, so.many different towns, states and distinct regions (“The South”, “New England”…). Closer to big cities real estate will be pricey, as will good farmland in popular states. Still, on the whole cheaper than cities, sometimes much more. Sometimes demand is high while supply is limited, too.

  2. Canadian small towns often have: a pizza place, a sub shop, a place selling fried chicken, an old school “Chinese-Canadian” restaurant with horoscope placemats, maybe a few fast food chains, a bakery, a fish n chips place if lucky (more overlap in smaller towns). But places serving sushi, quality gourmet food, other Asian food, Indian food, etc. are increasing even in smaller places as Canada welcomes more immigrants (and cities become unaffordable). For the better.

  3. I didn’t really need to lock my door when I lived in a small town. Likely, things have changed for the worse. But there were no unsafe areas or gangs I knew about. Things like “mailbox baseball” were not unknown.

This, Me and begbert are sorta neighbors, in that we both live in the same area.

I think you will find that what’s considered rural and what isn’t is a regional thing. The one time I drove through Indiana, I was told that the whole state is mostly rural and that we were “out in the country”. I looked around and replied,“so the whole state is the outskirts of town? This isn’t rural, too many people and houses”

Where begbert and I are, well, me, begbert would have to drive a bit longer, we can go 30 minutes out of town and be totally cut off, no phone, no radio, etc.

And sometimes that’s just what the spirit needs