Small Town Survival Skills: Making the Most of Life in a Small Community

Living in a small town isn't always a walk in the park, but these tips will help you enjoy the benefits of a close-knit community

Credit: Flickr /waferboard

You’ll feel safe, known and probably the focus of some gossip in a small town

The perks of living in a small town range from lower property taxes to a strong sense of community to reduced crime rates. However, there are drawbacks to being a country mouse!

These tips for making the most of rural living will help you weather the inevitable storms as you enjoy the solitude and solidarity of a small community.

I lived on Bowen Island, BC, for five years. With a population of about 3,000 year round, Bowen is just like a small town, except I couldn’t leave when I wanted to because I was tethered to a ferry schedule (and not lucky enough to own my own boat!) Mostly I loved living on the island, but sometimes I got “island happy” – and not in a good way.

If you’re a country mouse (or considering a move to a small town), you may find these tips helpful. 

4 Ways to Make the Most of Small Town Living

Get a job out of town or off-island

As a freelance writer and blogger, I was on Bowen Island all the time. Before writing full-time, I worked part-time with the municipality where politics, gossip, and political gossip thrived. If you feel like an isolated country mouse, one of the best solutions is to find a job that gets you away – even if it’s for a couple days a week in a neighbouring town.

My husband commuted from Bowen to downtown Vancouver every day. It was a long trek, but it was worth it because he made friends off-island, he enjoyed a regular change of pace, and he got his fill of city life.

Learn how to redirect conversations

The conversations I had with my Bowen Island friends were full of life, laughter, and love – but they inevitably included gossip about Bowen Islanders who weren’t present. We speculated, we shared, we spread good and bad news, we gossiped.

That’s why knowing how to change the subject is essential for small town survival! You need to know how to redirect a conversation because the less you know about your neighbours (and in a small town, everyone is your neighbor), the better off you are.

Expect your neighbours to know your business

When you live in a small town and you buy a pregnancy kit at the grocery store, you can expect a phone message offering congratulations (or condolences) on your answering machine by the time you get home.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate – but you see my point, right? There are few secrets in Smallville. The best way to enjoy a rural existence is to expect everyone to know everything about your life – whether it’s true or not.

Focus on the advantages of being a country mouse

For most residents of Smallville, the advantages outweigh the negatives: friendly people, a feeling of connectedness, neighbourly support, lower property taxes, low crime rates, safe schools, peace and quiet.

You know your neighbours, for better or worse. You help them and they help you (almost always). Their chickens and llamas frolic with your pigs and sheep.

In a small town – whether it’s a small island off the coast or rural abode in the interior – you feel safe, known and like you’re part of a big family. It can be an exciting yet secure way to live, especially if you know how to weather the storms.

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen was born in Vancouver, raised in Saskatchewan, educated in Alberta, and enlightened in Africa. She currently lives in Vancouver – back to her roots! This full-time writer created the “Quips and Tips” blog series, including Quips and Tips for Money and Love.