- I moved from Los Angeles to a town of just 2,260 people in Idaho.
- Moving from a major US city to a small town came with many culture shocks, from the popularity of hunting and rodeo to the nature of local politics.
- Here were some of the biggest culture shocks I’ve had to adjust to since moving.
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In January 2013, my wife and I left a balmy 70-degree morning in Hollywood with all our earthly possessions condensed into a pickup truck and a CR-V.
After close to a decade living in Orange County and Los Angeles, we’d decided to take a break from the traffic, the crowds, and the stress of competitive, busy coastal cities. Our destination was the rural town of Victor, Idaho, in the Rocky Mountain West, population 2,260.
A day later we arrived at our small, one-bedroom cabin on a minus-23-degree day. Our pipes were frozen and the baseboard heaters struggled to heat the place up.
As we began to wonder whether we’d made a mistake, and if we would ever feel warm again, much less make it a whole winter, our neighbor walked over with a massive load of split firewood and welcomed us to the neighborhood. I tried to give him some cash but he waved his hands — he seemed embarrassed by my thanks, as if to say, "Why wouldn’t I help out a neighbor in need?"
Thus began our new life in the small mountain enclave that we now call home.
There were a lot of cultural differences I noticed immediately after moving from the most sprawling city in the US to a town of a couple thousand people. As time went on, I realized that some of those preliminary observations were right on, while others only scratched the surface of very complex cultural differences.
These are the the biggest culture shocks I encountered after I moved from LA to a tiny town of just over 2,000 people.
In my small town, everybody helps everybody
Flickr Creative Commons/Daniela
Not to sound cynical, but my time in Los Angeles made me a little skeptical of the kindness of strangers.
Scammers on the street would try to sucker you into handing over money at every corner. And I remember discussions about how inviting a certain person to a party would be good because that person had pull with a certain actor or writer. It felt like almost everybody had an agenda.
A week after we moved to our new home in the mountains, my wife and I were trying to lug a very large couch out of a local store. A guy walked up and offered to help. I accepted, and he lifted and carried it out with a smile the whole time. Once he’d gotten it to the truck I reached in my pocket for some bills and he waved his hand — "Naw man, I just like helping people," he said. I eyed him suspiciously for about a minute, trying to figure out his angle.
My wife and I have been pulled out of snowbanks, drifts, and ditches at least half a dozen times by people just driving by. Most recently I was pulled out by a guy in a tractor who was plowing a road I hadn’t realized was not county-maintained. On top of the fact that he pulled me out and pulled out the car behind me, he was taking a few hours out of his morning to clear a road of snow despite the fact that he had no responsibility to do so.
Needless to say, it was very different from what I had experienced in the big city.
People leave their doors unlocked and their valuables in plain sight
This was a tough one for a man who grew up in Baltimore and then lived in Los Angeles, but where I live now, few people lock their houses. Many cars are left unlocked, even on the main street in town. People leave their duffels with their wallets and phones in open-air cubbies in the locker room at the gym.
It took me a while to realize how guarded I had been walking the streets of downtown Los Angeles, or even going to my local gym.
Thankfully, when it comes to crime in my new hometown, public drunkenness is typically the worst thing people hear about in the police blotter.
The media focus on the local community
I still remember one of my first big culture shocks: when I saw a picture from the local high school basketball team on the front page of the daily paper.
I used to read the nationally-minded LA Times. Now my local paper, the Jackson Hole News & Guide, runs stories about the debate team.
The issues people care about here are different than those in the city. Stories about land usage, grazing rights, and the Bureau of Land Management are hot-button topics over here, while they may not register with my friends in coastal cities.
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