Everyone Knows Everyone

22 Dec

small towns quote via The Smalll Stuff Counts

Part of my job at our chamber of commerce includes leading community orientations with new employees at our companies, and during each orientation we ask them to jot down challenges they faced when considering working and/or living in our small town. Most people list things like finding a decent apartment or wanting more shopping options, but a couple in the latest stack of comments listed “lack of privacy” as a challenge they faced when moving here.

At first, the comments actually made me laugh a little inside because, to me, that is just something standard with small town living. But to a few of these new hires who had moved here from huge cities, it actually freaked them out. Let’s face it: in a small town, everyone know everyone AND everything. I like to think of it as a lack of anonymity, not necessarily a lack of privacy. But whatever you call it, small town newbies can find it very overwhelming and intrusive.

So a word of advice to you newbies: you won’t go unnoticed here. Everyone is paying attention to you and we will surprise you with the vast amount of things we know about you. That sounds very creepy to some, but it’s just a fact of small town life that you will probably come to appreciate after a while.

You aren’t just a number here in small towns, you are our new neighbor. Word travels fast, so we probably already knew quite a bit about you before you ever started your new position or moved into your new house. If you accepted any sort of public job (or any job in a tiny town), then your bio was likely even published in our newspaper so we all knew your entire background the minute you accepted the job or maybe even when you first interviewed. And be prepared that the locals will probably always refer to your new house by the family’s name who lived there years ago.

Your neighbors will learn your schedule (and check up on you if you’re not home when you should be), the shoe store will have your size memorized, you’ll be handed your usual coffee without asking, and the whole town knows what car you drive. Some people call that nosy. But I look at it more as a blessing. I am flattered everyone cares so much about getting to know me, and I know that they will notice and be there for me if I’m ever in need of help.

What do you think? Is the ‘everyone knows everyone syndrome’ a good or bad thing? What are some of the other pros and cons of small town living?

I hope you are able to spend time with family and friends this Christmas week. I have a holiday decor tour planned for later this week and then the usual High Five For Friday. Happy Holidays!

4 Responses to “Everyone Knows Everyone”

  1. Jill B December 22, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

    Having moved into two different “small towns” — after having grown up in one — I would say there is also a flip-side to this. Some people move into small towns and can feel very isolated — despite feeling like everyone is looking at them. It can be hard to break into established friendship groups (aka “cliques” in high school).

    My interpretation: it is not a conscious thing at all. In general, my guess is that people believe that because it’s a small town, obviously “someone else” has reached out to the newcomer(s). But the newbies may not realize the various activities (i.e. school events, church events, community events, etc.) that are the heart-and-soul of the community — and the places where people meet each other and relationships are built.

    NOTE: from a marketing perspective, I always advocate using a street address when advertising an event; that way NEW people and/or people from other towns can *easily* locate the event. I’ve been “outvoted” by other committee members who state: Oh, everybody knows where the [Methodist Church/Courthouse/’Red Roof Church’/etc.] is located… ACK!!! No. No, they don’t!!

    My top tip as the Newbie: Getting involved in the community by finding a church family, or having children involved in extra-curricular school activities, or through a civic group is one of the best ways to “meet the community” half-way and begin to build positive, lasting relationships.

    • emilylcounts December 23, 2013 at 6:59 am #

      Great points, Jill. It’s tough to be the newbie and can be difficult to find ways to get involved when you feel like the only outsider. Breaking into established social circles can take time. That’s a thoughtful marketing tip, too. You can’t assume the entire area knows what you’re talking about.

  2. Angie Schultz December 22, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    How true Emily, I agree completely! I see it as an acceptance and find it warmly securing that the community cares and is looking out for me and my family.

    • emilylcounts December 23, 2013 at 6:55 am #

      Accepting and caring – great descriptors. It’s awesome to know everyone is watching out for you.

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