Building Friendships In Rural Areas
Oh, the challenges of making friends and building friendships in rural areas! Friends in rural areas can be hard to come by.
Perhaps you live several miles from your nearest neighbor. Or there is no one in the same life stage as you within a hundred miles it seems. That can get challenging and frustrating! I think many of us within the Rural Sisterhood Community can relate.
How do we overcome this challenge? How do we look at it with a new perspective? Or how do we look at the situation with a more positive viewpoint?
Maybe you are lucky enough to live in the area that you grew up. If that is the case, you have the advantage. You know which families live where and you can likely find someone who would have a similar life stage or similar interests as yourself. And you would know what the community has to offer. You may even have the advantage of sitting on boards or committees and be very involved in the happenings of your area.
In this case, your challenge may be to have those in your community view you not as they may have while you were growing up or as only similar to your other family members.
Otherwise, you are a transplant to the area. You likely moved there and purchased property, land or you married someone from the area. In that case, you are the “newbie.” There are no per-conceived notions about you from your growing up years. You will need to show the community who you are and how you would like to be involved. You will also have the challenge of finding out the happenings of the area and making new friends while those who are originally from the area may have long-time established friendships already in place.
From what I have observed making friends in a rural area, as a “transplant” can often be an exercise in showing that you are an established, invested and involved member in the community.
Established: You are putting down roots in that area. You do not intend to leave anytime soon.
Invested: You have a reason to care about the community. You have a vested interest in something, whether it is the land, the schools, the business community, etc.
Involved: You take the time to have involvement in the community and others in some manner. This might mean you are involved with children, the elderly, businesses, committees or boards, church, etc.
Rural areas don’t get a lot of newcomers! Thus, many are wary or unsure of what to make of newcomers. Or, if you have been living there for years, others may not see a reason to involve you, because you have never expressed interest prior.
So ultimately, it is up to you to take the initiative to make new friends!
If you are the newcomer:
- Be friendly. Take the initiative and invite your nearest neighbor over for a visit.
- Ask questions. Ask lots of questions! People like to show others their knowledge and expertise. Ask their advice. Ask for recommendations on local service providers, grocery stores, churches, recreational activities and so forth.
- Don’t offer your opinions. Why, you ask? Because you are the newcomer. Do not judge their community. There are deep relationships and long-standing ways of doing things, so be cautious to not make snap judgements. Do take the time to learn before offering your ideas on better ways of doing things.
- Get involved. If you see a volunteer opportunity or a need in the community, please just give it a try. You never know who you may meet or what you might learn! And you don’t have to do it forever if it turns out you don’t care for it.
If you are a long-standing community member:
- Take initiative. Do you want to make friends? Then ask yourself, am I friendly? Do I invite others to my home? Do I initiate group events or get-togethers? Even if you are the most introverted individual ever you can be the party planner once in awhile!
- Show others who you are. It is up to you to show others who you are. Do not rely on your family or friends to make connections for you. Do not allow others to assume what you need or want by what has been done in the past by your family or business operation.
- Don’t settle for the status quo. If you don’t like something, change it. If you would like to see something done differently in your community, make those connections, present your ideas to others and challenge what has been done in the past.
- Don’t assume you know others. Perhaps you are aware of an individual in your rural area and you think that you know them well enough that they would not be interested in becoming friends. That is the wrong attitude to have. Even if you are a 22 year old and they are in their 90s does not mean you could not be friends. Even if they are a farmer who never leaves the field, don’t think you couldn’t befriend him or her. Dare to try to become friends with someone who may be a loner or your complete opposite!
And if all else fails, the two best ways that you could make friends is by helping your neighbors and loving others…
Love others, even when it is hard. You may have someone in your life who becomes a challenge to you. It may be a business associate or a close neighbor who treats you poorly. Try to offer them love and grace. We all fight battles that others may know nothing about.
Help your neighbors. If you help your neighbors and those in your community, especially in times of trouble you will never be without friends.
Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
Have you struggled to make friends in a rural area? What tips would you add?
This blog post was written by a Rural Sister, in our community who wishes to remain anonymous at this time! ?