I’ve spent most of my life living in the Des Moines metro. Des Moines, Iowa is a bustling city of almost 210,000 people. When you add in the smaller cities crammed together in the metro, you’re looking at a population center of about 612,000 people (as of 2015). Certainly not the biggest city in the country by any means, but definitely a good-sized population.

Downtown Des Moines. PC: Seize Des Moines

Although living in such an urban area is wonderful, I recently moved from DSM to a town of less than 20,000 people. Yes, that’s still a good sized population, but you can imagine the culture shock brought on by such a downsize. I’ve definitely learned a lot.  

HERE ARE 10 THINGS LEARNED BY MOVING FROM THE CITY TO A MUCH SMALLER PLACE

1. EVERYONE KNOWS EVERYONE

Even in a town of 20,000, it seems like everybody knows everybody. All I have to do is list off a name, and even if the person I’m talking to doesn’t automatically know the name, they think it sounds familiar.

No joke, there was a sign in my town almost exactly like this. PC: LOLWOT

2. LATE NIGHT OPTIONS ARE PRETTY MUCH NOT A THING

Am I the only one that thinks it should be perfectly reasonable to have options open until 11 p.m. or midnight? One of the hardest things about moving to a much smaller place is not only have less available, but having it close much, much earlier than anything back home.

3. YOU SAVE SO MUCH GAS MONEY

Okay, definite perk-when you’re not living in the city, you save SO much gas money. Yes, there’s a lack of public transportation, but STILL. When your drive to work shortens from 15 minutes to three minutes, it’s an awesome feeling.

PC: Practical Ways to Save Money

4. BEING ABLE TO CHOOSE FROM COUNTLESS COFFEE OPTIONS IS A LUXURY

In my new town, there is ONE (mediocre at that) off-campus coffee shop. *Taps Microphone* ONE. In DSM, I have a coffee shop that’s my favorite…but if I don’t feel like going there, I have at least 10 different places that I can think of off the top of my head that I could go to instead.

5. THERE’S A LOT LESS DIVERSITY

Sometimes, I just kind of end up looking around and thinking, “I only hear one language and see people of one color.” Moving from a city to a small town can sometimes mean getting used to a lot less diversity in ethnicity, language, and food.

6. SECRETS AREN’T WELL KEPT

Word gets around. It doesn’t matter if it was supposed to be secret; soon enough, it’s going to be common knowledge.

7. HEALTH AND ECO CONSCIOUS TRENDS ARE DEFINITELY MORE OF A CITY THING

Maybe one of the more difficult things to handle is the lack of health and eco conscious trends in my new town. The only place to get your groceries is Walmart, I’ve seen maybe five recycling bins, and I’m 99% the YMCA is the only place to workout. Maybe the difference is because Des Moines is totally a city full of hipsters. Maybe not.

8. SCHOOL RIVALRY IS HUGE

I thought that there was a huge rivalry between the different schools in Des Moines, but it is NOTHING compared to small town school rivalries. After going to one high school football game, I was blown away as to how aggressively people cheer for one team or the other.

9. THERE ARE QUIRKS YOU WON’T FIND IN A CITY

Cities are wonderful, but you’ll never get the same awesome quirks a small town does. I live in Hannibal, MO — the birthplace of Mark Twain. You can find pretty much anything named after one of his characters, explore the caves he wrote parts of his books around, and enjoy life on the Mississippi ‘just like he did’. Quirky, but entertaining and great.

10. PEOPLE MAKE YOU FEEL WELCOME

Finally, people are just fast to make you feel welcome in a smaller town. I’ve become more plugged in at church and in the community that I ever expected to be. People want to know your story, how you ended up there, and simply care about who you are.

I think I’ll always be a city dweller of some sort, but moving to a small town has taught me things I never knew before. There are pros and cons to both, but getting to experience each type of living has been fascinating.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I can relate to this! I grew up in a tiny town where the only place you could go to get a coke was Hilliards Restaurant! High School rivalry was a way of life. There were only 33 kids in my senior class. When you trick or treated you would be brought into the house and fed homemade popcorn balls or doughnuts and cider and given a full size candy bar, and they all knew you and your brothers and sisters, your parents, and where they worked, and probably your grandparents! There were no stop lights in town, just the 4 way stop at the intersection of main and highway 8. The only library was the one at the high school, and if you wanted coffee you went home and made a pot!

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