Small Town Living – What’s Different

Jana Klaasse
Jana Klaasse
Published on August 31, 2021

Paul and I moved to this area from Washington DC about 20 years ago and there were some things about small town living that took a little getting used to. If you are thinking about moving here from the DC area or any large metro area, there are gonna be some different ways of life here you can expect.

 One. Slower pace
In DC people seem to move with purpose – they’ve got things to do, plans to meet, careers to build and anything that slows that down is an annoyance.  Up here, there’s not that sense of urgency so much. For instance, I was in line at the grocery store – one person ahead of me so I thought great this will be really fast.  Turns out the check out person knew the customer – so out comes the wallet with family photos and hugs. Same sort of thing happens in restaurants and other places where you need to wait for something. If these things happened in DC, no doubt loud complaints would be forthcoming. Up here, there’s not the rush.  So you find yourself needing to change gears a little bit – otherwise you’re going to spend a lot of time being irked.

Two. Strangers wave at you and even talk to you. 
When we first moved up here and a passing stranger would wave, I’d ask my husband “Do we know him?  In large metro areas, people don’t do that. Up here, it’s very common. As are statements like “Have a nice day” or It’s gonnna be a hot one today. Or if you’re walking your dog, stop and say things like – how old is he? Then dog talk with a Good Boy comment. I hear it all the time when I’m out on a walk  And that also happens in DC but more often, someone walking or jogging are plugged in with a goal and time frame to get their exercise done.

Three  Job title or status doesn’t seem to mean as much
It seems like when we lived in DC, what do you do for a living would often be the starting point of a conversation.  People in DC and larger metro areas are there to make a name for themselves or build a career so what prople do for a living is top of mind. I just don’t get the sense that people care about that around here.  It’s more about enjoying the little things – smelling the roses. And I’m generalizing so there’s exceptions to all this – and it’s my opinion but that’s the vibe I get having lived in Washington DC for a number of years and for the past 20 years, in this area.

Four . New travels fast – which is sometimes good – sometimes not so good. 
This happened in Berkeley Springs. Several  years ago when we first moved up here. . At that time we lived in Berkeley Springs – out in the country. So I brought the neighbor down the road – an older gentleman and native of West Virginia – some beans and cornbread – trying to be neighborly – they were black beans which he evidently wasn’t familiar with so he thought they were burned and told me burnt beans will kill you.  Next day, I was in a local store and when the clerk saw my identification, she said “Are you the one that brought Melvin those burnt beans?  So when just about everybody knows each other, news travels fast. Here’s another example. I was at the grocers up there and as often happens, the clerk asked me how I was enjoying this nice Sunday.  I told her I had friends from DC staying at a cabin they rented – and she said are they the ones that are looking for their cat? I asked them about it when I stopped by and yes – they had lost the cat but found it. They mentioned it when they were at the same grocers earlier. They thought it was funny how that small piece of news got around.  And that aspect of small town life is not so much the case in Martinsburg these days, but if you move to a small community out in the country, that’s something to expect. 

Five. Lots  fewer  varieities of ethnic foods. 
First I wanna say it’s gotten lots better.  We have two Thai restaurants here in Martinsburg. But there’s lots more variety in DC.  Like authentic gyros from Greek food stands and restaurants  – I really miss that. And the Ethopian  and other ethnic restaurants in Adams Morgan were wonderful.  Or the fantastic Indian restaurants. We have one here and it’s pretty good but not like what you find downtown DC.   But since we’re only a couple hours away, a trip to DC is fairly easy to get that taken care of that.

If you are thinking of moving here, check out our Relocation Guide. You can download it here:

We have lots of videos on our YouTube channel about moving to this area and real estate in general. Here’s one about the small towns here. Check it out. And check out Meet Me In The Panhandle on YouTube.

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