A lot of people are happily abandoning life in the city in favor of rural townships. This may sound like a wonderful way to live more peacefully and authentically, but small-town life has its ups and downs, just like any other living environment.
If you’re thinking of ditching urban existence in favor of a more pastoral setting, be sure to weigh the pros and cons before taking the leap.
It’s easy to romanticize small-town life. Just look at the Hallmark Channel. But the reality might not be as fantastic as you think. Still, life in the big city isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Before you make the decision, understand the good and bad on both sides.
Pros of Small-Town Life
There are many wonderful things about living in a small town that are cause for celebration. The aspects listed below are certainly appealing to many people.
As someone who’s spent the past decade living in a village of about 700 people, I can attest to how great these aspects can be.
Peace and Quiet
Anyone who’s lived in a city knows how loud it can be. In the cities I lived in, I got used to hearing police and ambulance sirens day and night, not to mention car horns, trains, buses, random yelling and screaming, and the ever-present hum of activity all around.
Small-town life is a thousand times quieter than you might imagine. If you’ve been overstimulated for years and yearn for some peace for a change, then moving somewhere rural is one of the best options available.
I haven’t heard a siren in over ten years. When I open the windows, all I hear is birdsong and the rush of the river nearby.
There’s the occasional crunch of tires or hoof clops on our dirt road when my neighbors pass or a dog barking in the distance, but other than that? Just the wind, rain, and local wildlife. The tranquility that this offers one’s mind and soul is unparalleled.
The Joy of Nature
Many city dwellers look forward to the few occasions they have to go away on vacation during the year.
Those who get away to cottages for a weekend (or a whole week, if they’re lucky) talk about how amazing it is to spend time outside, breathing fresh air, swimming in lakes and rivers or cross-country skiing, and so on.
Studies show that spending time in nature is tremendously beneficial to our well-being. Just spending a couple of hours outside in a forest or by a lake can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Alleviate depression and anger
- Improve cardiovascular and metabolic health
- Strengthen immunity
- Make people happier overall
If you live in a city, you only get to spend a bit of time in a forest a few times a year. Trying to read in a crowded park while being accosted for spare change or waiting in line to drive through a National Park doesn’t count.
In contrast, most small towns and villages are surrounded by woodlands, offering you the joy of nature on a daily basis.
As a bonus, significantly lower light pollution means you’ll be able to see the stars properly at night. That means you’ll also be able to enjoy meteor showers and possibly even the Aurora Borealis, depending on your location.
Significantly Lower Cost of Living
This is one of the greatest benefits of small-town life versus city dwelling. Current housing crises all over North America and Europe are making city life pretty much unlivable unless you’re quite wealthy, which is one of the reasons why many are eyeing rural life instead.
The average rent for a 3-bedroom house in Chicago is around $2,200 USD right now, and rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Toronto is $2,800 CAD (that’s just over $2,000 USD).
If you want to buy a house in most North American or major European cities, you’re looking at an average cost of close to a MILLION dollars. Even smaller cities like Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon average $500,000 USD for a starter home.
In contrast, you can buy a decent-sized home with acreage for $150-200,000. Depending on your deposit, you could be looking at monthly mortgage payments of $500-$800.
You won’t be able to find houses (or apartments) to rent for that price outside of Bulgaria. Utilities are lower, too, especially if you have your own well for water and a fireplace or wood-burning stove for heat.
Slower Life Pace
Small-town life is far less frenetic than city life. Everything runs at a slower pace, which can do wonders for your stress and anxiety levels.
You don’t have to rush when bagging your groceries because there are 40 people in line behind you, giving you the stink-eye. Nobody is huffing at you for walking too slowly on the sidewalk so you can gaze in shop windows as you stroll.
Additionally, this slower pace means you’ll get more attention from various local services than in a city.
Healthcare providers actually listen to you and spend time addressing your concerns instead of rushing you along because they have another 30 patients to see that day. As a general rule, everything runs at a far gentler, more human pace than city life ever could.
A Closer-Knit Community
I’ve lived in a few major cities and never knew more than a few of my closest neighbors. Usually, it was just the people who lived in the apartments on either side or the occasional person I’d bump into regularly at the corner store.
In a small town, you get to know just about everyone.
Small towns usually hold celebrations for the local community to enjoy together. These often revolve around major holidays, but others pop up simply because of local custom.
When they occur, everyone comes out to have fun and socialize, greet new family members, pass on condolences about loss, etc.
Another great aspect of a close-knit community is that there are always people who are willing to offer a hand when someone’s in need. Generally, people in small towns tend to be friendlier and more eager to offer support than those in cities.
They know that we all rely on each other to get by, and what goes around comes around. The person who plows the snow off your driveway this year may need a hand when his wife is ill the following year, and so on.
Healthier Food, Water, and Air Quality
If you’ve ever tasted water from an artesian well and then tasted standard city tap water, you might have been disgusted by how the latter tastes.
Water quality is one of the greatest benefits of small-town life, as it often comes from a local aquifer or spring rather than being decontaminated by city processing plants. Additionally, the air is significantly cleaner because it’s not constantly polluted by traffic exhaust fumes, industrial plants, etc.
In small towns, you’re also more likely to have easy access to locally grown food—often from organic farms. People who eat high-quality food are healthier and live longer than those who eat highly processed convenience foods.
Unfortunately, these healthier options are much more expensive in the city than in rural areas, where many people buy directly from farmers via CSA programs or weekly markets.
Small Businesses Rather than Huge Chains
Another great thing about living in a small town is how people support small businesses instead of huge corporate chains.
Villages tend to have unique cafes and boutiques run by the locals, and what they offer is usually very high quality. Furthermore, these shops tend to feature products made by local farmers and artisans, so the community support is quite extensive.
Your local cafe might have its dairy products supported by a local cow and goat farm, and its bread is delivered fresh from the bakery down the road. That clothing shop on the corner has hand-knit and woven items made by local textile artisans, etc.
If you’re a small business owner, you’re likely to have far more success in a small town than you ever would in a city, provided that you can offer things that appeal to the wider community.
Greater Safety Overall
In the village where I live, we see kids out on their bikes and playing out in fields year-round until it starts to get dark outside. We don’t hear random gunfire, and there has never been a stabbing in this region in known history, nor any robberies or break-ins.
Contrast that to an average large North American city, where violent crime has been increasing at a startling rate.
This may be because small-town life doesn’t cause the same stresses as city life does, but it may also have to do with the types of people who are drawn to live in smaller communities.
People really do look out for one another in smaller towns, and that includes being protective of the village’s children and elders.
Cons of Small-Town Life
In the same way that small-town life can offer numerous benefits and joys, there are also some “meh” aspects that rear their heads. It’s important to take these into account if you’re thinking of moving from a bustling city to a smaller village.
A lot of small towns can be extremely homogenous in their cultural makeup.
As such, they may not be terribly welcoming to those who look or speak differently than they do. People who have grown up in very multicultural areas may find the “sameness” of certain small towns off-putting or even uncomfortable.
This isn’t to say that all areas are like this, so it’s best to spend some time in the area you’re thinking about moving to in order to ensure that you feel safe and welcome there.
Some areas are much more welcoming than others, so it may be a question of finding the village that’s the right “fit” for you. As a general rule, the communities that are more artistic tend to be more welcoming to people of all walks of life, so bear that in mind.
Limited Culinary Options
Depending on where you’re located, you may have a difficult time getting culinary ingredients that aren’t favored by the local community. Small-town life is great but it usually offers limited dining options.
For example, my local grocery store is the only one for over 100 miles, and its “ethnic foods” section is about three feet wide.
In it are nice, safe, North Americanized versions of international foods and spices, such as the ubiquitous jar of mild butter chicken sauce (exotic!), taco seasoning, and Sriracha, but very little else. As such, I order bulk spices online so I have decent ingredients to work with.
The same goes for restaurants and takeout or delivery options. Every small town has at least one restaurant or diner, but you’re unlikely to have much in the way of variety.
They aim for menus that please as many locals as possible, which usually entails the traditional fare for that region. If you’re accustomed to being able to order a wide variety of foods day and night, you’re likely going to miss that.
Learn how to make as many of your favorite dishes as possible so you can prepare them at home instead.
Fewer Job Opportunities
Although there are a lot of employment opportunities in any large city, small-town life offers far fewer job options. If you’re hoping to find a job in a small village, you’ll either need to have experience in a field that’s in demand there or be self-employed on some level.
If not, you may be relegated to taking a position you really don’t want, like septic system maintenance or part-time cashier work.
A lot of small-town dwellers work remotely or do some type of work that supports local businesses. For example, a graphic designer can make arrangements to do the restaurant’s weekly menu and the Church bulletin or community newsletter.
It’s good to sort out your options ahead of time so you can have financial security from day one. A sad reality of small-town life is that many people end up on welfare specifically due to job scarcity.
Everybody Knows Your Business
There are very few secrets in a small village. We touched upon how everyone knows each other in a smaller village, and well, most of them like to gossip. After all, small-town life can get a bit boring, so any time something gossip-worthy comes along, it spreads like wildfire around the entire community.
Additionally, you may find yourself associated with a particularly embarrassing event or situation for the rest of your family’s life there.
When your grandkids introduce themselves to your neighbors, they might say “Oh, you’re Norma goat-kisser’s grandkids! Nice to meet you,” and so on. You get the idea.
If you live in the central hub of a small town or village, you’re expected to be pleasant and sociable with whoever wants your attention, at any given moment. Neighbors will chat you up when you’re trying to get home from the store, and you may have to deal with people randomly “stopping by for a chat” at any given moment.
Many community members will feel entitled to your time and energy simply because you live in “their town,” and as such you’ll be expected to get involved with and/or support whatever noble cause they’re pushing.
If you don’t take the time to talk to them, then you risk being labeled rude or unpleasant, which can lead to…
Potential for Ostracization
In a city, you have countless different social circles to choose to spend time in. When you live in a small town, your options are limited. As a result, if you don’t behave within certain parameters, you run the risk of social ostracization.
While many people are quite accepting of what they would call “eccentric” or “quirky” traits and behaviors, others are far more hostile about those who don’t look or behave the same way everyone else does.
As such, certain types of bigotry and phobic attitudes can run unchecked and make some people’s lives quite uncomfortable.
If there’s only one grocery store or pharmacy in town, and you have no option but to go to that one for your needs, you may run the risk of bumping into someone who dislikes you simply because you aren’t like them.
Less Specialized Healthcare
If you’re older and considering small-town life, then it’s important to be aware that you may have limited options as far as specialized healthcare goes.
Whereas in the city, you have thousands of specialists and therapeutic options available to you, there may only be a tiny clinic in your village, and maybe a hospital within an hour or two for real emergencies.
This can be daunting to people who have complicated health issues, which tend to accumulate as one ages. As such, if you’re thinking of moving to a rural location, it’s good to plan ahead so you can age in place safely and securely.
Cars are Required
If you aren’t a fan of car culture, you know that city life lends itself to a car-free existence. Not so much in the country. You will absolutely need a vehicle to get around unless you live within walking distance of the village and it has everything you need.
That means medical care, food, social opportunities, and shopping, all within walking distance. That’s a tall order. Rarely, you might find a small town with good public transit, and if you do, consider that a huge bonus.
Cars are an additional expense and worry that you’ll need to factor into small-town life.