Culture shock: new country AND small town

(19 Posts)
HoneyStepMummy Tue 20-Aug-13 19:20:34

I have been in a somewhat same situation. I have lived and travelled all over the US, and can say that New York is like a different country compared to the rest of the US.
You need to put all of your energy and focus in learning to drive. This will open up a whole new world to you!
It will take you quite a while to adapt to your new surroundings so don't give up quite yet. You didn't say where in CO you are but there are lots of Europeans in the Denver area. Have you joined any MeetUp groups? That's a great way to meet people. There's a lot of those things you mentioned that you like in CO, I'm wondering if you just haven't found the right places yet? You should do lots of online research to see what's close by. I agree that country music is quite awful so I don't blame you for being frustrated is that's all that's on offer.
Every time I've moved somewhere new I've tried to start off by finding one thing that I really like and can relate to. One place I lived in it was a nice coffeehouse, another place the library...and so on. In addition to all the outdoorsy stuff CO tends to have a lot of brewery pubs and restaurants that are pretty cool, and quite a few coffeeshops host art exhibitions and band nights etc.
Good luck, I hope things work out for you!

thewarmestowl Sun 18-Aug-13 14:36:55

OP, not much advice as we have just made almost the opposite move - small (very small) northern hemisphere village not very near anywhere (except beautiful, deserted, cold beaches, mountains, forests, lakes) to a very large, cosmopolitan African city. I have not a frigging clue how to amuse myself and my children in a city, beyond wandering around like hapless tourists. Now give me a rucksack and a trail and I'd be fine. Want to swap?

In all seriousness, I am using it as an excuse for a bit of self improvement - learning a new language, maybe doing a Coursera course on something that interests me, trying just to appreciate the experience and mumsnet ting too much. Best of luck!

Want2bSupermum Sun 18-Aug-13 04:15:34

For shopping the internet is your best friend. My cousin lives in the middle of nowhere Northern BC, about a 4 hr drive from Alaska. She does all of her shopping online. When I came to visit arrived with one suitcase for myself and DD. The other one was packed with things for her family.

You must get a drivers license and a car. With young children I don't often get to go out and I find there are lots of things online. I got a kindle with our cablevision package and I use that to listen to Radio 4 in the kitchen. PBS also have some excellent broadcasts that are very enriching.

My cousin uses a credit card that collects airmiles and uses them for flights to Vancouver/Seattle/San Fran during the school holidays. The flights are normally $800+ each but they pay about $100 in charges. They spend three to four weeks getting their culture fix.

mummytime Wed 14-Aug-13 15:27:32

I'm totally jealous! That is then kind of place I would love to live.

But first of all have you read about the stages of relocation? Here.. It can be helpful to remember the stages as you go through them.
Next for each negative, there is a positive side. There will be galleries (maybe just the one at the Uni) and museums. There will be gigs and concerts, and it could be a good idea to try new things with bands you haven't heard of. There will probably also be some kind of "alternative scene"'which might even appeal if the London alternative scene wouldn't.

Try the outdoorsy stuff, you might like it, and camping in an RV can be a world away from a millets tent in the UK.

If all else fails come on here occasionally to whine annonymously.

Saltedcaramellavacake Wed 14-Aug-13 15:08:03

I have been saved by telling myself over and over again - "Bloom where you are planted".
It gets me through many days when I wonder why the heck I moved from gorgeous London to a tiny island on the equator.

SquidgyMummy Wed 14-Aug-13 07:42:08

I moved to rural France after 20 years in london. (have been here 5 years). I felt unhinged the first winter grin and was constantly heading back to the uk to stay with my parents and get a "fix" of london life
Things improved significantly once DS came along and especially when he was a toddler and i take him around to various groups and meet other mums.

Most important was a change in my mindset; appreciating the space and the freedom and general slowing down. It takes time. Also are you in the US for good, or do you have an expat mindset, that you will be moving on, so are not going to try and put down roots?

anyway, start with the driving lessons, grit your teeth and try and make friends with "small town". so much friendlier than Londoners!

Nandocushion Wed 14-Aug-13 07:16:10

Oh - I assumed a different university town! I think I know now where you are, and I have no idea what it's like up there.

Don't worry about all the outdoor stuff. Every week someone asks us enthusiastically how much we've been skiing since we moved here, and every week we have to disappoint someone - we don't like being cold.

I think you may be at that difficult age (ha!) where your DC is too young for you to do interesting outings which are all about them, but the outings you'd like to do for yourself won't entertain the DC because they're too young and there's nothing there for them. It won't last much longer, I promise. In the meantime, try to enjoy the endless sunshine and get those driving lessons done so you can head down to the city and tour the art gallery (which isn't bad for a city this size, and has at least three different kids' areas) and the nature & science museum (which is fantastic and varied).

BabCNesbitt Wed 14-Aug-13 06:47:21

Thanks, all. I'm embarrassed now by how much of a metropolitan snob I've been - it's so much easier to claim that if I find it hard here, it's the fault of the town, rather than because I'm too antisocial/lazy to make an effort! And there is stuff going on here, it's just different. Everyone I've spoken to here tells me enthusiastically that it's a great place to live, and I can't in all fairness assume that they've all been replaced by aliens in some strange sci-fi plot. grin (*Nandocushion*, it's the town with a surname in its name. smile )

And I will take some driving lessons! shock

Barbie1 Wed 14-Aug-13 06:07:21

Op,
You know net a porter deliver don't you? wink instant shopping fix and you can pretend you are shopping in London grin

I have lived in Dubai, Paris and London. Just recently (6 weeks) we moved to an island off South Korea.

Now that is a culture shock shock

There are two very small towns in which most people live, accessible by one main route going through them both.

We are all here for one main project, like you I hate the goldfish ball living. Everyone seems to know each other even within the short amount of time we have been here.

I miss shopping, yes shallow I know blush I miss doing a supermarket shop and recognising what I'm actually buying. I miss the fast pace of life...

We have three years on this island. I will just have to make the most of it and embrace it all. Like you I'm not very outdoorsy, but this place is beautiful (the natural beauty of the island not all the neon!) I might just be convinced to explore outside more. I signed up for the London marathon so I have something to focus on and to force myself outside.

Just focus on the positives, and learn from the negatives. Good luck in your new venture.

Nandocushion Wed 14-Aug-13 05:38:19

Hi OP - we're in the same state, but in the "big" city. I think I can tell from your description where you are - my DH would love to live there, as he's a cyclist. We've been here just over a year and on the bright side, there are a lot of great places to visit here, both in the city and in the mountains (I lived in London for 10 years and know what you're missing).

I note that you don't drive yet - my DH has been a non-driver all his life, but took 5 hours of lessons here and was then given a 20-minute driving test and now has his licence. It's a LOT easier to do here than in the UK and with a bit of help with childcare you can get it done - it will make your life a lot more fun, believe me.

I haven't been to your town yet and my DCs are older than yours, but if you need any more general advice about CO then let me know.

SconeRhymesWithGone Wed 14-Aug-13 05:19:58

Bab I live in Florida in one of the larger cities (pop 900,000). I have little experience of the Western US, but I do know that being less populated, parts of it can seem pretty isolated.

I have been pretty lucky to have lived mostly in very interesting places (New Orleans, Altanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and my favorite Edinburgh) but I did spend several years in a place where I felt a bit marooned. We had moved there for DH's job, and I had left a job I really liked for the move, and I did not like the community we lived in. Our children were in college, and I could not find a job in my field. I felt lonely and isolated. I am a bit ashamed to admit that the first year I spent a lot of time traveling to visit friends in other places. I finally made friends and became involved in some local projects, and then we did eventually move back to the city where we live now.

Also, on the "small town" front, I do understand that after London and New York (both cities that I absolutely love), where you are now is by comparison likely quite a culture shock. And I understand about missing the convenience and the shopping, too. We cannot live by culture alone. smile

But smaller places offer their compensations; you can really make a difference in the community if that is your interest; you will be able to give your daughter the best of both worlds-the smaller city experience plus the greatest city in the world experience (with trips back to London).

It sounds to me like a real adventure. Oh, and it will probably be much better when you are able to drive. Unfortunately there are very few places in the US where it is easy to get around without driving.

DayOldCheesecake Wed 14-Aug-13 05:13:09

snurk We're moving from a busy town of nearly 100,000 to a massive area with a population of just 19,000. grin

But it's what you want isn't it?

Get cracking on with your driving lessons and give yourself some independence. A friend of mine moved to the US (rural New Hampshire) without a driving license... never needed one in London, Edinburgh or Frankfurt and found rural US quite a different kettle of fish!

I hope you settle in soon and can start enjoying ski season!

CoolStoryBro Wed 14-Aug-13 04:29:27

Well, reading your OP would suggest you're completely screwed.

However, the reality is its all down to you. Nobody is going to change just because you regard them as somewhat provincial. Just put yourself out there and find some friends. They may not end up being exactly what you're used to, but invariably that's a good thing.

BabCNesbitt Wed 14-Aug-13 03:55:58

Thanks for your replies! Scottswede and Scone, you're right, I'm probably being a bit of a bumptious arse using the phrase 'small town' - it's just that it feels so much smaller than anywhere I've lived before, and I definitely miss the convenience, too. (I'm kidding myself if I pretend it's just the cultural stuff I'm missing - I miss the shopping, too! grin ) Scottswede, how are you managing in finding the positive?

Scone, whereabouts are you? Most of my inlaws live in ND, so I had some idea of what a smaller US city might be like, but it's different when you actually get to a place! We're in Colorado - there's no public transport between cities and I can't (yet) drive, so it feels impossible at the moment to get to a bigger city without waiting for driver DH at the weekend.

I'm a bit of an anti-social git and have been crap at making new friends since DD was born (she's nearly 22 months), but I know I need to make an effort. And Master, you're right - this will be a good place to raise DD and at least she can stay with her uncle in London on a regular basis and I'm not going to make anything better going around with a cat's bum mouth all the time.

MasterOfTheYoniverse Tue 13-Aug-13 14:21:02

"And books of course" ….of course!

Just back from a family road trip west coast. whereabouts are you? met some fascinating people. Very grounded. very genuine.
we started out the trip as a social safari. Very humbling learning curve for the whole family.

SconeRhymesWithGone Tue 13-Aug-13 13:36:31

And just to add, be sure not to use the term "small town" with your neighbors. Pop. of 150,000 is considered a city (a small one yes) in the US. The capital city of my state is about that size.

Having said that, I also prefer large cities, and have lived in some pretty boring places in my life, but I find that if you can develop a good circle of friends with similar interests, that goes a long way toward finding contentment pretty much anywhere. And books, of course. Good luck and wecome to the US.

Another thought: you might have the opportunity to get involved in projects that will enrich your community. In one place I lived, a group of friends became interested in local history (uncovering some of those layers mentioned by Master above) and helped organize a historical society that later opened a museum.

MasterOfTheYoniverse Tue 13-Aug-13 12:00:12

I soooooo know how you feel!
Never lived in a small town but after Paris, NY or London, I found even Amsterdam and Singapore very provincial in the first few months!!!
I like the nitty gritty feel of a big metropolis. The layers.

However these places worked just fine as they were much better suited to raise small children, have more, return to work part-time with small children, have reasonably affordable child care, access to outdoorsy things and good travel opportunities.
In a few words, great life work balance. Do you have a young family or planning to start one? Now would be a -- Soul destroying given your state of mind-- good time grin

In the end, its all a matter of perception. You need to remember why this was a good decision to make for your family, at this particular time.
Then let the layers unfold. There is always an after and beyond. That's what I learnt in a lifetime of expatriation (as a child and adult) problem is this becomes an addictive way of life

With every move, we weighed everything in the balance and it was a matter of what works best for your family at that particular time in your life.
Was very lonely at first then I decided what the hell, no need to be all neat and proper to fit in, just be myself and tbh that has worked just fine and attracted the right kind of people.
Don't fight it, embrace it. If you send out the message that this is Oh so boring, you will make yourself miserable.

scottswede Tue 13-Aug-13 07:11:41

Hi Babs. I could totally relate to you until you mentioned the 'population of 150,000'. I moved to a small village too. Population 1 800.Nearest townhas a huge pop. of 3 500.
I also have lived in the States as well as the UK. The whole convenience aspect of living in a larger town is what both dh and I miss. Going from having everything on your doorstep to nothing is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I always thought I was a quiet country girl at heart, turns out I'm not Laura Ingalls after all. Not quite Carrie Bradshaw either but somewhere in between.
No advice really as I haven't sorted it out myself. Been here 3 years, loved the first year, hated the last 2. Trying to find the positive at the moment. Good luck.

BabCNesbitt Tue 13-Aug-13 04:05:40

OK, not an entirely new country, as we spent a year in NYC, but after 3 months back in London (where I had previously lived for 12 years), DH, DD and I have moved to a small college town out west (two weeks now). DH has a tenure track job at the university out here, and he'd have difficulty finding anything as stable and well paid in the UK (plus he's a US citizen), so we're going to be here for a while. But after living in big cities for most of my life, I'm finding it really hard to adjust to being in such a small place. (The population's about 150,000.)

We know a couple of people here already, and I know I need to make an effort to get to know more people. But I'm already feeling like a goldfish going around and around in a tiny bowl, and I miss the cultural opportunities in London - I like to go to galleries and museums, arthouse cinemas (sorry if that sounds wanky!), eat out at different places, go to gigs, and these things just don't exist as much here - there's only so much blues and country rock I can listen to. hmm People here seem to be more into outdoorsy stuff instead, and I'm not an outdoorsy person at all (I like my indoor comforts too much!) Plus, I just miss my friends, and the view from the top deck of the 68 over Waterloo Bridge...

Has anyone else had the experience of dealing with a new type of town as well as a new country? How did you cope?

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