12 Culture Shocks You Experience When You Move From A Big City To A Suburb


We all know the classic story of the ‘small town girl’ moving to the big city to pursue her career as a writer / actress / fancy person. A few years ago, I made the opposite move: from NYC to a small Midwestern suburb. And as with any migration, there are some big lifestyle adjustments to be made.

1. People recognize you everywhere you go. This is a shock coming from NYC, where running into someone you know feels like winning an impossible game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Some people deal with this by making sure they look put together any time they leave the house. I personally went with the ‘attempted disguise’ route–sunglasses, hoodie, scarf (in July). It rarely worked.

2. On top of that, they are into the chit chat. Like, ‘It’s 7AM and I just ran into you at the gas station yet am going to tell you about my mother-in-law’s colonoscopy!’ into it.

3. Any clothing piece that’s not the semi-official town uniform (in my case, fleece + jeans + Uggs) gets a comment. “Ooh, shorts over tights. So punk!”

4. KIDS. Kids, kids, kids. They are everywhere, they are everything, they are the sticky, dusted-cheese covered suns around which the world of suburbia turns. Sure, there are kids in NYC. But for every playground, there are seven places where people under 21 aren’t even allowed to be (unless you’re a model). And NY kids seem to live on their parent’s schedules (rather than the other way around).

5. Yards. They exist. (Me: ‘You mean this isn’t a public park?’ New friend: ‘Lol! Take a seat, you silly goose. We’re about to set up the volleyball net and then BBQ an entire herd of cows.’)

6. Stores are mind blowingly huge. I truly felt creeped out the first time I went to a grocery store in my new town because it looked like a post-apocalyptic zombie movie. Not only was it the size of several city blocks, but also practically empty. I could get in my morning exercise just by jogging up and down the bread aisle.

7. Speaking of apocalyptic, that’s how people’s fridges looked to me at first. I honestly used to just go to my neighbor’s house and gawk at her fridge contents. There were six different kinds of lunch meat in there. Two were for her dog.

8. People actually wait for the ‘walk’ sign before crossing the street. What is that??

9. Though in general, people just don’t walk at all. When you say you’re going to ‘walk to the store’ people furrow their eyebrows like they’re concerned for your physical (and mental) health. ‘You’re sure you don’t want a ride?’ ‘Are you on some extreme diet?’ ‘Do you need money?’

10. But then, you understand why. Because your little ‘walk’ turns into some harrowing jaunt down the side of a highway, where all sidewalk has disappeared and several people have rolled up their windows when passing you as though anticipating that you’d ask for money (except for the one person who slows down, which makes you wish you had a window to roll up).

11. There are regular, scheduled activities. Thursday game nights. Monthly book club. Twice-weekly all-girls ‘coffee walks.’ Though I had to get used to it, making social commitments and actually sticking to them can be really nice, considering that in NY, it’s a miracle to wrangle your friends for anything more than 4 minutes in advance.

12. Did I mention kids? For real, though. Why are there so many…

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. – Picasso.

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