10 Tips for Country Living

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.

  1. 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.
  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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. “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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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)
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

south dakota homestead

Well, there you have it, my friends. Hope that helps you along your country bumpkin way. Let me know if I forgot anything!


39 thoughts on “10 Tips for Country Living

  1. I’d add offer to help and ask for help. When you’re new, you have to make the effort, they’re not going to. And that when you’re new, they always know more about it than you think they do even if not all of it is correct. We don’t even live at our place yet and my getting stuck in the snow at the end of our road and getting pulled out by a neighbor, I’m sure has made the rounds… But they also know that we are there every week and last year and this year when we had over a foot of snow, the approach to our road was plowed at least enough for us to park off the road and most recently right up to the cable across the end of the road. Made it much easier for us to park, snowshoe in and get out the tractor to clear the driveway. Having an old tractor and knowing how to use it also seems to have bumped up at least my husband’s country cred.

  2. You are so wise, because yes, all of those are true!

    I married a ‘Van’, moved into the area, and have experienced pretty much all of that. And remember, they know your name because there is only 1 of you, and hundreds of them. So, you will have strangers come up and talk to you, using your name, and by then you’ll have lived here for years and it will be too late to ask their name. That’s when you make sure you remember what they look like, so you can describe them to your spouse and ask who in the world they are.

    Luckily for me, I did grow up in the country, and even though it was a slightly different culture (us Minnesotans are just as quirky as South Dakotans, just in different ways), it really gave me a headstart on figuring out how to fit in here!

    • haha, I know what you mean about describing people to your husband. I have tried that before and it often doesn’t get me anywhere (well, he had a mustache and he drove a pickup and he said he got a text of your deer and wanted to say “nice one”). But in the small town life, it’s not long before you come across him/her again anyway!

  3. I got a kick out of this post plus it is so applicable. With two years under my belt as a newbie to living in the countryl, I can honestly say I wish I had known some of these things when I first moved here to the rural area of Southern Ontario. So I can truly appreciate this post and agree. A peculiar thing to me is how many people in some areas refuse to adapt to this century while at the same time they have let go of a lot of the essentials of life that we use to know “back in the day”. Behind the times and refusing to change mixed with ‘we found that isn’t as important anymore’, yet the simplest things sometimes are really the best.

  4. Just love this post, as I do all of yours! I moved to rural Arkansas after teaching internationally for years. Even after almost 2 years here I’m still going through culture shock! # 7 is a must, and goes along with don’t discuss politics, religion and anything controversial. But as I get closer to my neighbors, and they are wonderful, I can’t help but to slip in some of my thoughts and beliefs. And I think they are accepted as being okay and me. These are all wonderful rules for country living! Thanks so much! xo

  5. Loved these all and they’re all true; as a country girl, I can attest!! I can’t agree more with the ask for a recipe tip — surest way into a country cook’s heart is to ask about how she made whatever dish 🙂

    Last one, accept help. You’ll tick people off, especially women, if you insist on going it alone – cooking, throwing a party etc.

    I live in the city now but still feel my heart’s in the country!

    • Your understanding of the recipe tip is appreciated. It has surprised me how food is often a “safe” topic, but with patience, it leads to more depth.

      As for your accepting help tip, I never thought of it, which means I could learn from that! Thank you for suggesting it; it’s a keeper. You and your words have a great deal to offer people; it’s appreciated a few states down/over here in South Dakota!

  6. always knock down the paper wasp nests and know which snakes will give you a nasty bite-oh, that goes for spiders too. and know the weather, as you said, so very important. otherwise you may lose your camelias and the widows love camelia. but don’t give them ones with the stems. float them in shallow water. they will like that. 🙂 fun post. i could go on and on having married a rancher almost 40 years ago… oh boy, long time in the country. i am ready for a little city.

  7. I love these rules. I grew up in a small town and so look forward to moving my family back to a rural area. So funny, we went back to the town I grew up in a few years ago for a funeral, and my poor Hubby was so surprised by everyone being so friendly. People wave when you drive past, they smile and say hello when you walk past…it’s just the way of small towns a rural areas, and it’s a wonderful thing!

  8. I love this post. I grew up high on a dirt road in the mountains of N Idaho. We always knew our neighbors and the local hangout was my grandparent’s general store and laundromat. I fan totally relate to a lot of this 🙂 thanks for sharing as always!

  9. Pingback: The 5 Signs of Cabin Fever | The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife

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