Culture Shock – From City Life to Small Town Rural New Zealand

I never really thought moving from the city back to rural New Zealand would be that much of a change. I had always spent quite a bit of time on the farm so it never really occurred to me that it would be a big change, apart from the fact some things would not be so accessible, eg, you learn to really make do without something because you can’t just drive down to the store to buy it.

Although it was a crazy time to move with us selling and settling our house in Napier one week before the March lockdown, we moved onto the farm, Alex started a new school, Frankie had her last days at her beautiful Kindy The Nest and then we went into lockdown for six or seven weeks living in the whop whops.

Once school started back up again we drove rural roads to school, there were no longer traffic jams and roadworks on our daily commutes, it was now sheep jams and waving to everyone with the rural one finger wave or long stretches of road with only rainbows to be seen. I remember saying to people it’s just so different here, everything is so different.

It was having long conversations with everyone from the supermarket staff, the parents you just met at swimming lessons or bumping into old school friends that you hadn’t seen in 20 years.

It was learning to drive in a rural town where people would U-turn in the middle of the main street, where no one really knows how to use the only roundabout in town and people still drive right on over the top of it.

People talk about the rain, lack of it, too much of it and everything in between. They talk about grass tooo. I never really knew that grass was quite so fickle, it doesn’t like to much of anything, even though the lawns seem to always be growing.

My husband would come home and remark about how when the fire siren would go off some of his colleagues would just drop what they doing and he may not see them for a few hours, customers would come in asking how their job was going and be perfectly fine that the job wasn’t finished as there was a emergency callout.

There are lots of Ford Rangers.

Every second person knows the person you bought your new house off, or the neighbours, or they lived down that street when they were children. Actually every second person knows each other.

Most houses still have quarter acre sections, you see children riding bikes down the road, you see children out on the street playing. people walk places, everything in town is 2 minutes away.

It’s perfectly fine to wear your Redbands to the Supermarket.

I remember speaking to a fellow “city ditcher” before we moved to CHB that what they noticed the most was the community that you gain here. In a city you may be lucky to be part of a lovely school or playcentre, kindy or church etc, but in rural areas you gain a whole community, you have a community everywhere you go.

The thing I notice most here is that everyone is kind, the type of kindness you get from small communities where everyone knows someone who knows you, people are helpful, people are friendly, people say hello and smile when you walk past them, it’s sort of hard to explain and maybe I wouldn’t have noticed it had I not lived in a city, maybe it’s because…..

There is time here.

I think the city/rural divide has drastically changed over the past 20 years, hence why I felt the culture shock and I think it may get worse before it gets better. At times it makes me sad and angry that people hate on rural communities so much, it’s not something new, I remember hearing the most crazy comments about farmers all through my city dwelling life, and maybe I even bought into some of that myself. It’s something that definitely will take time, and my hope since everyone is on this crazy new let’s be open to everything buzz is that people will spend more time getting to really know their rural communities before they condemn them and share the amazing rural stories that happen every day because to be a community you need to support everyone.

“Be the change you want to see in the world”


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