After five years in the country and 29 years in South Dakota, this gal has learned a few things, and shall pass my learnings unto you, especially good if you plan to live in the country some day.
Or, if you live in the country now, you should probably start doing this. It will make your life easier.
- Get to know your neighbors: Fortunately for me, I married a neighbor, so my last name was familiar and was therefore accepted and trusted quickly. If you’re name is not a known one, follow step 2.
- Change your last name: Take note from the dominant culture in your area. Dutch? Add a “Van” to the beginning of your name. German? Add a “ch” to the end of your last name, but pronounce it like “ck”. Example: Jonesch said like Joneck. Say it fast. The more awkward it is to pronounce, the better off you are. Ok, I’ll be serious now.
- Weather: Always a popular topic of discussion. If keeping up with the weather is a weakness of yours like it is mine, it’s safe to say something like, “Well can’t be worse than 2009, hm hm.” (Sip coffee)
- Always bring food: Never forget this. And if you’re invited over for an evening, never ever forget to ask, “What can I bring?” If they tell you not to worry about it because “there’ll be plenty of food”, bring something anyway! Jeez, you don’t want to be the only one walking in empty-handed, it just places a target on you from the beginning. And then the older ladies won’t think you cook. And then they’ll comment on how thin your husband is looking. Just bring food.
- Find fellow “widows”: These are my favorite women, the ones who understand the long seasons of harvest and hunting. Find these women, find a shared hobby, and have a good time.
- “Could I get that recipe from you?”: It’s a compliment, and in some cases, the only thing you and that person will ever talk about. I have been surprised how food conversations lead into deeper topics, like how her momma made it all the time when she was a kid, or how it’s her son’s favorite meal.
- Let them assume: In some cases, neighbors might want to know where you go to church or even that you do, and if it’s not something you want to get into, you just don’t correct them. This can go for a lot of topics.
- Start caring about little happenings, or at least get good at pretending: “Yes, I did see the Jonesch’s just reshingled their house.” “It’s pronounced JoneCK? That makes sense I guess.” “Oh yeah, I’ve heard tin is a much more durable option.” “You say you’re going to redo your roof this summer? Tin or asphalt? Solar shingles?! What in the heck are those?” (Sip coffee and listen)
- Don’t be a gossip: In the movies, small town folks like to gossip. While this is true here, too, the good ones stay out of it. We all have our problems and real neighbors look out for one another.
- Remember the real widows: Remember them at the holidays, take the time to ask her if she needs help with anything, and bring food and a hug her way every now and then.
Well, there you have it, my friends. Hope that helps you along your country bumpkin way. Let me know if I forgot anything!