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Cityfolk and Provincialism

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My friend John is moving from Cambridge, MA to some tiny little town on the Illinois/Iowa border whose name I can’t remember — possibly because I don’t believe he ever told me.  The move is on account of his academic wife getting a job at the local college — and seriously, if you think you’ve got it bad on the employment front, you have no idea until you start looking for a job teaching anthropology.

In any case, the very first thing he said to me as he was mournfully relaying the news was, “There’s not a Starbucks or a Whole Foods for at least a hundred miles around.”

I was reminded of this when I saw this cartoon from gapingvoid (whom I love, incidentally):

What I couldn’t figure out was whether Hugh was making fun of the small town guy or the big city yuppie fuck.

For one thing, it seems… highly ignorant to blithely assume that Small Town, USA doesn’t have a cafe that serves iced lattes.  Is the idea that rural areas and small towns are populated exclusively by uncultured dumbasses?

For another, and relevant for blog like this one, is the notion that one would move from some metropolis to Small Town, USA, and still expect to have everything one had in the big city.  What kind of a provincial moron thinks that?

My wife and I talk all the time about leaving the rat race behind, finding some lovely Small Town, USA, and moving there.  We know we would have to leave some of the things we take for granted behind.  Not many Small Towns have the opera, for example.  Perhaps the selection of restaurants will be limited. Maybe finding gourmet cheeses will be more of a challenge.

But one thing we’re pretty sure of is that we wouldn’t be walking around Small Town, USA going, “Where the hell is Whole Foods?”  That strikes me as provincialism of the worst sort.

Furthermore, my time in real estate has afforded me the ability to meet some of the most sophisticated, worldly, intelligent, and savvy people from all kinds of Small Town, USA’s.  One woman I remember clearly was one of the best-dressed people I have ever met, who would have fit in perfectly in any chablis-and-brie gathering in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  She carried herself with an innate grace, wit, and culture and was the COO of the dominant commercial brokerage in her local market in rural Alabama.

I’m frankly not sure where the provincialism of the cityfolks comes from.  I just can’t imagine it’s anyplace good.

-rsh

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

8 COMMENTS

  1. This one strikes a chord with me. I live in Small Town, USA, and it is growing all the time. It is growing mainly with people who come from Big City, USA, and move here to escape the traffic, hustle, and headaches that they experience there. When they first move here, they love how rural it is, how everything closes early on Sunday, and how we only have one stop light in the whole county. After a few years, the things they once thought to be virtues become something else to complain about. Instead of whining about traffic, they whine about having to drive 10 miles to the grocery store. Instead of whining about the overcrowded streets, they complain about deer on the country roads. Instead of whining about high cost of living, they whine about how they can’t get to Starbucks or a mall in less than 30 minutes. The list goes on. . .

    The problem is this: it is all to easy for folks to say, “well fine, if you don’t like it, don’t move here. We don’t want the development that comes with you, anyway.” What people fail to realize is that it is precisely those people moving here that makes Small Town, USA life sustainable for the majority of folks. I have always said that you would much rather live in a place where people are moving in, than a place where people are moving out.

    The trick is to find a balance somewhere in there so that we avoid the destruction of the culture we associate with Small Town, USA.

  2. This one strikes a chord with me. I live in Small Town, USA, and it is growing all the time. It is growing mainly with people who come from Big City, USA, and move here to escape the traffic, hustle, and headaches that they experience there. When they first move here, they love how rural it is, how everything closes early on Sunday, and how we only have one stop light in the whole county. After a few years, the things they once thought to be virtues become something else to complain about. Instead of whining about traffic, they whine about having to drive 10 miles to the grocery store. Instead of whining about the overcrowded streets, they complain about deer on the country roads. Instead of whining about high cost of living, they whine about how they can’t get to Starbucks or a mall in less than 30 minutes. The list goes on. . .

    The problem is this: it is all to easy for folks to say, “well fine, if you don’t like it, don’t move here. We don’t want the development that comes with you, anyway.” What people fail to realize is that it is precisely those people moving here that makes Small Town, USA life sustainable for the majority of folks. I have always said that you would much rather live in a place where people are moving in, than a place where people are moving out.

    The trick is to find a balance somewhere in there so that we avoid the destruction of the culture we associate with Small Town, USA.

  3. Daniel –

    You know what would be interesting….

    I wonder if the small town folks who move to Big City, USA end up exhibiting the same behavior, of complaining about stuff that they knew they would see when they moved in the first place.

    I see it all as rank provincialism. I agree that you want to live in a place where people are moving in. But is it too much to ask that those moving in do so with their eyes open and not bitch and whine when reality ends up meeting their expectations?

    -rsh

  4. Daniel –

    You know what would be interesting….

    I wonder if the small town folks who move to Big City, USA end up exhibiting the same behavior, of complaining about stuff that they knew they would see when they moved in the first place.

    I see it all as rank provincialism. I agree that you want to live in a place where people are moving in. But is it too much to ask that those moving in do so with their eyes open and not bitch and whine when reality ends up meeting their expectations?

    -rsh

  5. >What I couldn’t figure out was whether Hugh was making fun of the small town guy or the big city yuppie fuck.

    McLeod lives in Alpine TX. Originally the title of this cartoon was something like “What I love about west TX”.

  6. >What I couldn’t figure out was whether Hugh was making fun of the small town guy or the big city yuppie fuck.

    McLeod lives in Alpine TX. Originally the title of this cartoon was something like “What I love about west TX”.

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