Modern Australian

how 'city girls' can learn to feel at home in the country

  • Written by Rachael Wallis, Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland

A move to the country is often presented in popular culture as an idyllic life, a place where you can escape the pressures of the city.

It’s in television shows such as Escape from the City, River Cottage Australia and Gourmet Farmer, in books such as A Story of Seven Summers, Whole Larder Love and A Table in the Orchard, and in magazines such as Country Style and Australian Country.

But what’s the reality for those who’ve made the move?

Read more: Imagining your own SeaChange – how media inspire our great escapes

Welcome to Stanthorpe

As part of my research into how people experience this change I spoke in-depth with 12 people who moved to the small rural town of Stanthorpe in Queensland, population 5,406 at the last count.

how 'city girls' can learn to feel at home in the country Life in rural Stanthorpe is very different from city life. Shutterstock/Melanie Marriott

They came from international places as far away as Dublin and London, from Australian cities including Brisbane and Adelaide, as well as the Sunshine Coast.

While the majority moved because they wanted to be in the country, some arrived because visa requirements meant they had to work in a rural place. Others came for their partner, to be nearer family or, in one case, for a career opportunity for themselves.

These circumstances weren’t always entirely within their personal control.

Once they settled in, the majority found they were glad to be there. They enjoyed the level of trust people showed them, or the lack of traffic lights in town.

Others found the idyllic rural life wasn’t all it’s made out to be in media. For them, moving to the country meant limited leisure choices and life opportunities.

Here’s some of what they told me (not their real names).

City girls

Natalie moved because she’d been offered her dream job in Stanthorpe, but said she was “a city girl at heart”.

Being in a small country town was challenging for her. She found it really hard to meet people her age. She also mentioned how:

[…] when you’re in a small town, there’s no getting away from each other […] everybody knows what’s going on in your life.

She loved her new job and appreciated the way people helped each other out, but she was always seen as an outsider. This was partly due to her accent and the type of clothes she wore, which others commented on.

After several years in her job, she was offered an opportunity in Brisbane and took it, keen to get back to the city.

Read more: New home, new clothes: the old ones no longer fit once you move to the country

Christine, a middle-aged woman who moved for her husband, said she was “not a country girl”. While her home was “a very pretty spot”, she often journeyed back to Brisbane and Sydney for things she couldn’t access locally.

You can’t just make an appointment with a gynaecologist or an ophthalmologist, there are none. The major services aren’t here […]

But she said she had a better social life now than she had previously because country people “make time […] it’s a lovely community”.

Country girls

Rae had mostly grown up in cities but enjoyed the outdoors as a child and had “always been a country girl at heart”.

We love it (Stanthorpe). It ticks all the boxes, big enough that you don’t know everyone, but small enough that you know most people.

Asked if the media show country life as it really is, she said:

Those magazines seem far too glitzy for what I know as truth […] it’s more muddy gumboots and bikes out the front of houses.

Lucy said of the magazines “they’re selling the dream”. Even though she tried, she couldn’t quite replicate that dream in her own life.

The participants who accepted the disparity between media idyll and country reality seemed most content.

Kate said her country life was nothing like she envisaged it would be.

But that’s good, because I can still enjoy reading books and watch McLeod’s Daughters and keep them there as that fantasy of what I’d like it to be in the country.

how 'city girls' can learn to feel at home in the country Stanthorpe’s not as busy as a city. Flickr/Barbybo, CC BY

A place to call home, or not

Even though these were all grown women, they used the word “girl” when they described themselves.

This city girl or country girl moniker was used to show how they viewed themselves. It became a shorthand descriptor they and others could use to let people know if they were living in the “wrong” place, without upsetting the rural people around them with criticisms of the rural space.

Read more: How moving house changes you

While some remained in the country even though they weren’t thrilled about it, those who saw themselves as city girls either left or they maintained strong ties to the city in their everyday life, effectively straddling both worlds.

These conversations showed that if a person identified as “not from here”, that became an indicator they would remain feeling like an outsider and not adapt as easily as those who considered themselves as belonging.

Tania suggested the key to enjoying small town life was to get involved.

[…] the more involved you can get in things in the community, the quicker you’re going to settle into a country town.

She suggested local sports and bushwalking groups, classes, churches and other organisations such as the Country Women’s Association, Lions, Zonta and Rotary. Others suggested volunteering with groups such as Landcare or other groups as a way to create belonging.

While this might not work for everyone who makes the move from city to country, it’s a good place to start.

Authors: Rachael Wallis, Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland

Read more http://theconversation.com/should-i-stay-or-should-i-go-how-city-girls-can-learn-to-feel-at-home-in-the-country-124579

NEWS

Putting homes in high-risk areas is asking too much of firefighters

The impacts of the bushfires that are overwhelming emergency services in New South Wales and Queensland suggest houses are being built in areas where the risks are high. We rely...

If weight loss is your only goal for exercise, it's time to rethink your priorities

Choose an activity you enjoy so it's easier to stick to.ShutterstockAs an aesthetic society, we often demonise body fat and stigmatise people with lots of it. There’s often an assumption...

how the ABC took Australian animals to the people

The 'natural sounds' of native animals like this koala had been heard on ABC Radio, but bringing them to TV audiences in the 1960s presented new and exciting challenges.abcarchives/flickr, CC...

Instead of showing leadership, Twitter pays lip service to the dangers of deep fakes

Neural networks can generate artificial representations of human faces, as well as realistic renderings of actual people.ShutterstockFake videos and doctored photographs, often based on events such as the Moon landing...

Old white men dominate school English booklists. It's time more Australian schools taught Australian books

Shakespeare's plays are still some of the most studied texts in school English.from shutterstock.comIn recent weeks, Australian universities’ commitment to teaching Australian literature has come under scrutiny. This came amid...

There's a yawning gap in the plan to keep older Australians working

A key reason for deciding to retire has to do with getting tired at and through work, how that tiredness affects partners and families.www.shutterstock.comIn the past decade a 30-year trend...

why coastal floods are becoming more frequent as seas rise

As sea levels rise, it becomes easier for ocean waves to spill further onto land.from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NDCC BY-NDClimate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New...

Government to inject economic stimulus by accelerating infrastructure spend

The government is responding to increasing concern about the faltering economy by bringing forward A$3.8 billion of infrastructure investment into the next four years, including $1.8 billion for the current...

Government makes changes to error-prone robo-debt collection

The government has overhauled its much-criticised robo-debt scheme which has seen many welfare recipients asked to repay money they do not owe.A Tuesday email to staff in the Human Services...

Evacuating with a baby? Here's what to put in your emergency kit

It's difficult to recall what you might need as you're preparing to evacuate, so have your kit ready to go. New Africa/ShutterstockEvery summer in Australia, bushfires, cyclones and floods threaten...

We modelled 4 scenarios for Australia's future. Economic growth alone can't deliver the goods

Australia could achieve higher economic growth through more population growth and lower taxes, but at the expense of equality, fairness and the environment.www.shutterstock.comDespite 28 years of uninterrupted economic growth, future...

reckoning with the past or retreating into it?

Wesley Enoch's Sydney Festival has placed First Nations people and artists at its heart.Victor Frankowski/Sydney FestivalAustralia invests heavily in its major festivals: A$5 million in state government funding for Sydney...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

4 Tips to Prepare for a Home Meditation RetreatWhy You Should Hit the Gym This SpringSaving History One VHS Tape At A Time4 Vaccines Your Teens Should Be GettingStrength Training Tips To Make Your Workout EffectiveTop Fashion Secrets To Look Stylish No Matter The Occasion  How to save money on major home repairsCan I Do Something About My Sensitive Teeth?Climbing Out of a Creative Rut – Strategies for Photographers5 Digital Free Holidays: Take a trek and get back to nature8 Things You’ll Need for a Positive Breast Surgery RecoveryThe Best Sites and Events to See in Melbourne Everything You Wanted To Know About Air CompressorsWhat to Consider When Buying a Home With KidsPlaces to visit on your first trip to North America