City folk often take for granted the friendships they have with their neighbors. But if you move to the country, you may find it’s not as easy to make friends as you thought. You can do a few things to make friends in the countryside, and we’ll talk about them in this blog post.
What Moving to The Countryside Means for Friendships
On balance, there is an exodus from the cities to the countryside. In Britain, the Office for National Statistics says that the countryside will grow by more than half a million people over the next decade.
In the United States, in 2020, half of all adults said they would rather live in the countryside or a small town than in the city.
This potentially means that there will be an increase in loneliness because the city and rural life cultures are very different.
People moving from one to the other may feel adrift, at least at first. Not least, in most cases, they will be leaving friends in the city behind.
Why It Is Harder to Make Friends in the Countryside
It can be harder to make friends in a rural area than in the city because you meet fewer people during the day. It can be harder to find a new friend.
New arrivals face challenges: the countryside has established networks and circles, sometimes spanning generations. They can be the feeling that you will never break into the local community as a full-fledged member.
This can be very frustrating for new arrivals. After all, it’s not their fault they moved to the countryside. It can make them feel like an outsider or a misfit, even though other aspects of country living might be enjoyable compared to the city life they had before.
Additionally, people will bring their habits and attitudes from the city.
Here’s What You Can Do
As a new person, you will often need to go slowly and exercise patience. You will not know the local gossip, the local jokes, and the local traditions. These are things that you will absorb slowly over time.
It’s often best to be unobtrusive and not thrust yourself too vigorously into the social scene. You may also need to make a real effort to attend clubs, get-togethers, and parties.
Keep a good disposition, have some faith, and things should go well.
Believe That It Is Possible
When they first move to the countryside, many people will think that making new friends is impossible. However, this is not the case: there are ways and means of making a local friend.
You can transfer some of the techniques you use to make friends in the city to the countryside, even though the circumstances are different.
In the countryside, friendship is often about activities and sharing a similar interest with others. All around, you will be able to find societies and activities. Not quite what you’d find in the big city, but very enjoyable and different nonetheless.
You’d be amazed at how many local societies exist. For example, in a village close to where I live, there is a very active archery club, a writers’ circle, a cooking club, and more. It’s surprising how many of them have quite good websites.
Joining a society is not difficult. You may even be able to do so locally. In many cases, one can donate or join for free. Having said that, some societies do charge a small fee and only pay their dues between meetings.
In the UK, you could join something like the local Rotary Club. You may have something like a country club that you can join locally.
If a believer, your local church or religious congregation will be a very solid form of support and networking.
The local library can be a very important place to gather and learn more about the community in which you find yourself.
It’s worth remembering that even the internet or social media can be an excellent means of getting to know people in the vicinity and joining the local conversation.
Go to Local Events
My local village of Porlock has just started to do monthly events; it’s a brilliant way to meet with local people and support the local community simultaneously.
Local events, as much as anywhere, are a great way to meet people and those who live in the area.
You’ll probably need to get to know some of the local people and businesses and learn about the quirks and peculiarities of your community or village life.
A church or a temple is likely to hold events related to faith, with free food, services, and worship.
Your local school, or something similar, may have events on a more regular basis, and you might get to know people who live near it.
You can even find events not connected with faith in the village; it’s worth researching them on the internet.
Especially in the summertime, most countryside areas have all sorts of local fairs, festivals, and fetes. They are the perfect place to hang out and chat with local people. Some of them run small and usually friendly competitions. Make sure you take part in these crucial events in the local culture!
Join Sports Clubs and Hobby Enthusiasts
In most rural areas, most of the principal sports are represented in some way or another. What makes these clubs different from city-based ones is the emphasis on ensuring everyone finds a place. Everyone plays, and everyone enjoys it.
Football, rugby, cricket, archery, swimming, golf, photography, and horse riding are just a handful of popular local activities that you will find.
You should ask your local shop, post office, or library for local sports clubs, and the free press will tell you about any of your local sports teams.
If you happen to live in the West Country in England, you might be able to join the local skittle Club. Think of this as a slightly chaotic tenpin bowling. Usually accompanied by a pint or two of cider.
In my local country town, an active sea swimming club posts pictures of their exploits on Facebook. They are very friendly people.
The local ramblers are another good idea; you will get to know the local countryside and engage in something healthy and make friends along the way.
Remember that the activity might join could be completely fresh and new to you. This will usually be a good way to expand your social circle. People love to teach people something, especially complete beginners.
Those are just a few of the many options for making local friends.
Buy the Local Newspaper or Magazine
It’s incredible how much information these local publications carry. Including all the information about local events and people asking for local connections.
Be sure to read the local community notice boards, and you will almost certainly find something which interests you.
You can also advertise yourself in these publications or in local groups.
Don’t Fear Introducing Yourself
One of the biggest mistakes people make is to avoid talking to the locals. This can be so frustrating. You don’t have to stand out as an alien in your village.
The main advice is not to be shy. Providing that you are not arrogant, you will find that most local people are interested in who you are and why you have come to the countryside.
While it is true that some rural areas can be quite off-putting and even resistant to outsiders, this is quite rare in 2021.
A very good advice I heard is not to talk about your job title, but if asked what you do, instead to talk about the current thing you were doing. For example, instead of saying, “I am a writer,” think about saying, “I’m currently writing a romance novel about…” (and say something about it). This way, you open the door for the person listening to engage in the topic more than if you give a headline description of yourself.
Remember to keep the contact going. City friendships can be quite fleeting, often due to the pressures of time and the burden of commuting to see friends in the city center. The countryside is different, in my experience. A good friendship in the country tends to be deeper and longer, partly because people move away less than in a city.
Support the Local Shops, Services, and Cafes
Do a job or volunteer where you have contact with locals. This can be anything from adminning a local association to helping in the local library.
If you work with people, you are significantly more likely to integrate into community life than if you don’t.
Start a Facebook group for your community, or participate in the existing one.
Go to the pub! Joining local pub quizzes is a really good idea. If you live in the UK, you can consider joining CAMRA – the Campaign for Real Ale.
Sometimes, the local music scene can be really good. Often you will find local blues bands, country music, Irish and Scottish music, and so forth playing in the local pubs. If you are lucky, there may also be some open mic evenings going on as well. If not, why not start one up?
One of the locals is very active in forming a local writers’ circle in my local area. Which meets in the local cafes and pubs.
Walk the Dog!
The countryside is very different from the city; saying hello to people as you pass and stopping for a quick chat is normal.
Having a dog is the perfect excuse to share the beautiful countryside and have conversations with people! If you don’t have a dog yet, then it’s time to consider having one!
It will help if you are relaxed, smile, and have a good disposition. Don’t overdress; that would be my advice. Most people in the countryside dress casually and comfortably. People in the countryside are not usually impressed by high fashion!
If you have a child, chances are you will quickly make connections and the local community at the school gates.
Similarly, if you are interested in taking on the task of childminding, there may well be some local parents who would be willing to let you mind their kids in exchange for yours. This is a very common practice in a rural community.
Send a Christmas Card to Everyone on Your Street
This happened to us on our very first Christmas in the Exmoor area. A neighbor on our street took the car to send a Christmas card, or rather hand-deliver it, to every house on the street. It was a nice touch.
Be Prepared for Small Talk
Over time, you will be surprised at the backgrounds of the people around you. They may have had relatively senior or high positions in various parts of life. Don’t make any judgments just because they live in the countryside!
To start with, though, small talk is the gateway to trust. It’s a way for people to assess your personality, how you react to things, your openness or otherwise, and whether you are someone they would like to spend time with.
People tend to trust what is familiar. If you only ever appear on the street or the village green, you are unfamiliar and less trustworthy.
Allow people to see you as part of the local scenery and life, and your integration into the local community will probably be faster.
If you can do a favor for someone, grab it with both arms. That will be a great way of generating goodwill with your new community.