First, a little of my backstory.
Moving from an urban environment to the countryside was a huge culture shock for me. I was 15 at the time. A rebellious teenager shipped from southern California to live with my father in the southeast. He had a single-wide trailer parked on 34 mostly wooded acres in the middle of stinking nowhere. There was nowhere to go, and not a soul in sight.
Life was very different in the country. No longer could I hop on the city bus to meet my friends at Starbucks on State Street. I felt alone. Secluded. Lost. A lot of my struggle adapting could be equated to the transplant shock a teenager would be expected to experience after being yanked without warning from her social life and dropped into a foreign country.
The people I did come in contact with were so different. Men with shotguns who spoke a language that sounded more like the strumming of a banjo than actual words.
I had a hard time getting to sleep those first few months. As nightfall approached silence gave way to a deafening chorus of chirping crickets, croaking tree frogs, and the haunting calls of Barred Owls. The familiar sounds of street traffic, neighbors talking, sirens, and dogs barking were two thousand miles away.
Looking back, I realize it wasn’t as bad as it felt at the time. I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the land. My sister and I had been visiting my dad on the east coast our entire lives, every summer and every Christmas break. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were also there. We were surrounded by people who loved us very much, which definitely helped with the transition. But visiting for a few weeks twice a year was very different from living there full time. Knowing that I was stuck without any hope of returning to life as normal or seeing my friends again was hard. Plus, I was separated from my sister. I had nobody to talk to who I could relate with.
Every night for the next three years I planned my return to California once I turned 18. I counted down the days ’til I could finally be freed from my prison and return home.
Little did I know, Life had other plans for me. At 18 I met the man I would marry, a local, and my destiny to stay in the southeast was sealed. Turns out, the slower pace of living had actually grown on me. I began to appreciate the friendliness, the true neighborly love, of the people in our community. Time in nature had been healing for me. For the first time in my life I’d been given the chance to just sit in quietness and reflect. I found the peace my restless soul had been longing for, and I was happy.
It was hard for me to adjust to life in the country, especially because it wasn’t my choice to move there. But after living in a rural community for many years now, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Pros and Cons of Living in the Country vs. City
Wherever you live, there will be pros and cons you’ll have to contend with. Weighing them out will help you decide where the best place for you will be. Everyone’s needs are different, so you’ll have to take your own situation into consideration.
I’ll share with you my personal observations from having lived in a very busy urban area to living in a small town in the rural countryside. I won’t go into much detail so as to save time, but if you have questions and want me to go more into depth please feel free to comment. Hopefully what I share will be helpful as you contemplate which would be the best place for you to live or raise a family.
Pros of country living:
- more space between you and neighbors.
- people are generally more relaxed and friendlier (cities are stressful).
- more privacy; you can do whatever you like without people judging or watching.
- less pressure to have immaculate landscaping and curb appeal.
- houses are less expensive in rural areas; you get more for your money.
- it’s usually much quieter.
- more nature/plants/wild animals to enjoy.
- fresher air; less pollution. You can actually see the stars at night!
- well water isn’t treated with chemicals like city water.
- more space to grow food.
- more space to raise animals.
- less violence and crime.
- small towns are generally more quaint, friendlier, and safer.
- generally safer for kids to play outside (less worries about criminals and roads).
- rural schools are typically smaller with little to no gang infiltration.
- slower paced living (less pressure to do so many social activities).
- you can usually live on less because there are less demands on your finances.
- little to no traffic to deal with (unless you commute to the city).
- you have an opportunity to form relationships with your neighbors because there are fewer of them.
- the views are cleaner and more beautiful than in the city.
- you aren’t bombarded with advertising, billboards; little- to no graffiti along highways.
- you’re likely to be healthier if you live in the country (cleaner air and water, less stress, fresher food, less depression).
- more chance of having a farmer nearby to buy fresh food from or barter with.
- the barter system is alive and well in the country!
- you can burn stuff in your yard and nobody will care.
- more opportunities to hunt and fish.
- more gun freedoms which means more armed good guys (again, less crime).
- more peacefulness; less overstimulation.
- in a SHTF or similar emergency situation you’ll likely be much safer than in the city.
- you can say hello to somebody or wave at a stranger driving by and you’ll get a friendly response.
- clotheslines are totally acceptable.
- lower taxes.
- more independence.
- more outdoor activities for children and families to enjoy.
- 2-day shipping from Amazon is still a thing (and can be a life-saver!).
- you have the option to drive to the city to take advantages of the resources there, and then return home to the peace of the country.
Cons of country living:
- resources are further away; ie: hospitals, emergency responders, grocery stores, shopping centers, entertainment, museums and culture, and services.
- no trash pickup; you have to haul your trash and recycling to the dump yourself.
- when your water comes from a well you lose water when the power goes out unless you have a non-electric backup in place.
- you might have to pay a lot to have power run to your property.
- internet speed is generally slower.
- cell phone service might be spotty.
- kids might not have friends close enough to walk to (depending on how much land you have and where it’s located, of course).
- rural schools might not have the same resources or funding that city schools might have.
- the roads might not be well maintained; gravel roads are common.
- if you live on a gravel road expect your vehicle to stay dirty!
- if you live near fields expect them to be sprayed with chemicals that could be dangerous to your health (I would NOT recommend buying property next to corn, tobacco, or soybeans).
- be aware of chicken houses or cattle farms nearby- they smell terrible in the summertime!
- expect your kids’ clothes and shoes to get super dirty!
- you might be too far out to order take-out or pizza, and you definitely won’t get grocery delivery.
- don’t expect to find public transportation.
- more wildlife to watch out for when driving; more roadkill.
- people let their dogs run loose so you might have problems with them coming on your property.
- field mice might be a problem in the home.
- might be harder to find a job (then again, it might be easier if you’re the only one around who can provide a specific service).
- you might not hear a tornado siren if you’re far out in the country.
- roads might not be passable in winter weather.
- you might hear random gunshots in the distance (neighbors target practicing or hunting).
- you probably won’t be able to walk or ride a bike to get around (unless just for leisure).
- less diversity (although this could be seen as a pro in some cases).
- not much chance of having a successful yard sale or lemonade stand.
- neighbors with four wheelers or dirt bikes are noisy (but if you get to know them and even ride with them you can actually gain an appreciation for the fun they’re having).
Some myths that need dispelling.
“People are more prejudiced in the country.”
You might have heard it said that there’s more racism and prejudice in the country than in the city. This is a myth. The truth is, ignorance can be found in the city just as much as in the country.
Growing up in southern California, I’ve been called “pinche guera” (“f-ing white girl” in Spanish) countless times with the same venom that a white supremacist would spit the n-word. Did I cry “racism”? No. Almost all of my friends were Hispanic. I knew that one hate-filled person wasn’t a reflection of an entire population.
It’s true that there are people out there who will form opinions about you based solely on how you look, skin color or otherwise. In the country and in the city. Fortunately, most people are good and kind, and will be friendly if you are.
“It’s boring in the country.”
People who are used to constant stimuli might at first confuse the peacefulness of the countryside with boredom. Your mind might need a little time to decompress and detox before you can truly appreciate nature and all she has to offer.
You will quickly find there is no shortage of things to do in nature when you get outdoors and start exploring. Particularly if you have a job or hobby to attend to. Homesteading will keep you busier than you could ever imagine! (Boredom? What’s boredom?!) From sun up ’til sundown I am working in the kitchen or in the garden, tending to the animals or to my family and household. It’s fulfilling, satisfying work.
Having kids in the country definitely makes it more enjoyable, and busy!
It’s true that not everyone is cut out for country living. If you’re an extremely social person you might feel isolated in the country unless you purposely surround yourself with loved ones or like-minded people.
We drive into town frequently so that our children can enjoy activities there. Four days a week the kids participate in organized sports; we have homeschool STEM co-op classes, Anime club, youth group, and group field trips to plays, museums, nature centers, zoos, aquariums, lectures, roller- or ice-skating, etc. We’ve never felt like our options are limited just because we live in the country. We just might have to drive a little further.
I feel very blessed that my dad and my sister live very close by. We also have awesome neighbors who we enjoy getting together with regularly. Our extended family is only 15-20 minutes from where we live, and the city is a 30 minute drive away. It’s nice being that close to everything and yet far enough out that we feel very secluded and private. I think it’s a good balance of both worlds. Although, sometimes I wish we were further away, especially as I see developments moving closer to our woods.
“Country people are ignorant and backwards.”
Country people are definitely different from city folks in many regards, especially if they’ve always lived in the country. There are glaring cultural differences, neither good nor bad. We should be careful not to allow stereotypes to form prejudices in our mind.
When I first moved to the country there were a couple of things that immediately stuck out to me about the people here.
Country people are in no hurry to get through a conversation. Words form slowly on the lips, and much more information is given than is necessary to convey the message. As a teen, I used to get so impatient listening to people talking. I was eager for them to hurry up and get to the point! (I’ve since learned to appreciate the quaintness of lingering conversations.)
On the inverse, I talked so fast people couldn’t understand what I was saying. I had to consciously slow down so that I could be understood. I was also so short in my replies that they often asked a lot of questions, which made me feel like they were prying. (It’s funny for me to look back and reflect on my initial impressions.) It took a while for me to learn that people weren’t being nosy, they just genuinely cared and wanted to know me better.
Also, people talk to you as if you know everyone they know. They’ll use names in conversations without any explanation regarding whom they’re talking about, as if they assume you already know. Or, when you tell them where you live they’ll ask if you know so-and-so, or if you’re “kin” to so-and-so. Like you know everyone who lives in your town by name. This can make an outsider feel even more like an outsider. What I’ve come to realize though is that they don’t really expect you to know everyone around. Likely they’re just looking to see if you have any common acquaintances. I’ve never had anyone look at me funny for saying that I didn’t know the person they were referring to.
There’s also often a different dialect to learn, and perhaps an accent to train your ears to. It might be tempting to equate improper grammar with a lack of education, however I have found this to be naive and prejudiced thinking. Where one might have book smarts, another might be more mechanically inclined. Ignorance in one area does not mean ignorance as a whole.
If you are of the opinion that country people are backwards and uneducated I would counter that you might be surprised by what you could learn from them yourself. Rural dwellers continue to embody the practical wisdom and values of previous generations, knowledge that is almost completely lost in the urban environment.
“There’s no internet in the country.”
It’s true that internet speeds are often slower in the country than in the city, but how much internet access you have is relative to where you live. Don’t automatically assume that living in the country means foregoing access.
When we first moved to our land, admittedly, our internet speed was on par with dial-up. But over the past few years it has improved dramatically. We just got fiber optic installed this year. We can watch videos online on multiple computers at the same time without any delays. The only thing I still have trouble with is live streaming.
All in all we don’t have any complaints, nor do we feel we’ve had to sacrifice technology by living in the country. Sometimes I wish we didn’t have the internet at all, to be honest. Too many ways to get distracted and pulled away from the things we should be spending our time on.
Living closer to nature has changed me to my very core. I never would have envisioned myself being happy in the country. But once my mind had time to clear and the constant noise that I was used to was hushed, for the first time in my life I was able to slow down long enough to find peace and clarity of thought.
In the city I felt stressed out, anxious, angry, and rushed all the time. In the country my days are still full, but they’re full of the things I love instead of things that are pushed on me. Life has more beauty, more meaning, more depth. It just took slowing down for me to find it.