You can’t teach these qualities. Actually, I’ll struggle to explain it in a way you would understand, but I can tell you after only a few conversations if someone grew up in a small town or not. I did.
I’m from a farming community of approximately 8,000 people. Growing up, I lived eight miles outside of that small Missouri town. When it came time for me to marry, I found me a small town guy and gladly said “I do.” Eventually, we started thinking about having a family of our own, so naturally, we headed out of the suburbs and right back to Small Town, USA.
Without further ado, I offer you five qualities found in every small town person. Next time you meet one of us, shake our hand, tip your hat and say, “Hi.” We’re sure to return the gesture.
We are a simple people.
Quoting Jake, from the movie Sweet Home Alabama, “Just because [we] talk slow don’t mean [we’re] stupid.” I’ve known some very simple, very successful small town people. I often read online articles from writers giving various tips on how to simplify one’s life. I stopped counting how many times I read their suggestions and realize my small town friends and family have taken many of these steps my whole life.
We live under an unwritten code of “small town friendly.”
We know our mamas would have our hide if we found out you were working on something and didn’t offer to help– without being asked. If we have a snow blower, you’re likely to get your driveway cleared, too. If we have extra vegetables– from our garden or from the local farmer’s market– we’ll drop some off at your front door.
Our small talk goes deep.
The older I get, the more introverted I become; however, sometimes I wonder if that’s not just a comfort level thing. I live three states away from my hometown, and I’ve met a lot of new people over the years. It is hard for me to have casual, surface conversations, which is what you typically do when meeting new people. Tell me something more personal about you, make me feel like I know you and we have some things in common, and watch our small talk go deep.
Miranda Lambert had a popular song a while back, Everybody Dies Famous in a Small Town. I get it.
We instinctively make eye contact, knowing you’re likely our neighbor or a relative.
Friendly gestures such as a handshake, a grin, direct eye contact, come naturally to us, because all our life we’ve known one another. They say there are six degrees of separation between any two people, but if you call a small town your hometown, go ahead and cut that number in half. Here’s a bit of free advice– don’t say anything bad about anyone else, because chances are you’ll end up talking negatively about someone’s cousin.
We can spot a city slicker a mile away.
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. Just true. These days, I live near Lake Michigan’s shoreline. We frequent a number of beach towns that thrive on summer tourism. Visit any of these places in the “off season” and you’re practically in a ghost town.
One night, we went to one of our favorite restaurants near the lakeshore. It was a warmer weekend in May, so the Chicago crowd (mega big city) were starting to arrive at their lake houses. For the first time in a few months, there was a wait at the restaurant. After about 45 minutes, a host took us to our table. We asked him if he thought we were “Chicago” or “local.” At first, he maintained his professional demeanor. Then, he cracked a smile and laughed.
“Aww, we know you guys are local.” We asked how he knew.
“Your shoes,” was the reply. Apparently, when you’re from a small town, even your shoes look different.