What Living in a Small Town Taught Me

Currently I’m completing an internship in the town of Barrhead, Alberta.  The town has a population of approximately 4,000 and is located about an hour away from the nearest urban centre, Edmonton.  In my first weeks in the town I’ve learned a lot about the people and the local businesses and activities that have opened my eyes to the charm of living in a small town.  For those who have lived in urban centres their entire life, small town life has an unique appeal that changes your perspectives.  For example, the close proximity of all the different locations within the town makes the everyday commute to work, home, and the supermarket fairly quick.  In fact, every major business in the area is within a five-minute drive radius!  Having lived in Edmonton for two decades, most locations there are definitely not within a five-minute drive from each other.  Besides these geographic advantages, what other lessons have the small town taught me in the first weeks of being here?

A Tight-knit Community Makes your Experience Better

Living in the big cities sometimes can make you feel very isolated from your neighbors.  People rarely wave or strike up a conversation with one another at the grocery store.  However, that is exactly what I experienced in Barrhead on my first weekend in town.  While picking out peppers at the local supermarket, I was asked by a resident what I would be cooking for dinner that night.  It was a friendly, brief exchange that left me feeling welcome in the small town.

Taking Time to Appreciate

In the first week of my internship, I felt a drastic change in pace between internships in Calgary or Edmonton.  I felt that people truly slowed down their work pace.  Even though health care workers are still in high demand in this community, there was more time to take better care of patients.  With this time, I’ve begun to strike up meaningful conversations with patients and truly understand their story without the time pressure of the big cities where I would be expected to serve more patients.

Less is More

Even though I can’t find everything I need in the small town.  For example, if I wanted to purchase makeup, there would not be a Sephora at my disposal.  However, for the most part, the necessities are all we need and available in this community.  Moreover, having access to less options for groceries and other material goods actually helped me spend more time meditating and developing hobbies such as painting.

Support Local and They will Support You

Since arriving in the small town, I’ve taken the liberty of wandering around the commercial centres.  From small Dutch bakeries to an ornate flower shop, I’ve seen an incredible array of local businesses that truly blew my mind.  I was always greeted warmly by the owners and got a chance to learn about the origins of their stores.  For example, the flower shop pictured here actually sold some of the best coffee in town and sells cookies made by a local baking enthusiast.  When I took the time to learn about these businesses, they also came to learn more about me and even applied specialty discounts to my purchases which made me feel more at home.