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Fitting in and making a home

January 29, 2010

I’ve got a tune stuck in my head, from way back in my Girl Scout days, but I’ve changed the lyrics a little.

Feeling at home is precious.

Make new friends homes
but keep the old
one is silver
and the other’s gold

I’ve had a chance to socialize with a few people in town, many of them transplants like myself. I keep hearing a theme repeated: “I’ve been here for umpteen years, and I’m still treated like an outsider.” “The natives of this town, they’re friendly on the outside, but they never really let you in.” “The locals are pretty standoffish.”

I can’t say that I’ve experienced any chill myself, but after talking to a Local Business Owner recently, I can see where a social standoff might get started.

LBO moved to Scottsbluff about 15 years ago from a “big city”. I told LBO that I was new in town, so they felt free to air their views. It wasn’t anything terrible, mainly grousing about the lack of “good” restaurants in the area, but LBO went beyond criticizing the restaurants and started criticizing the locals for their taste in restaurants (e.g., considering Applebees or Chilis “fine dining” is just soo uncultured).

You know what? If I were a local, and I got wind of enough snobby comments like that, I’d start avoiding newcomers too. This is a different manifestation of the Ugly American syndrome that pops up overseas. Ignorance, disorientation, social discomfort, or an overinflated ego can prompt people to be critical in a rude way and constantly harp about how everything was better back home, prompting locals to think, “well, then GO BACK HOME.”

It’s always tough to make friends in a new community. People who have lived in a place all their lives may feel that their social circles are complete, that they don’t need or don’t have time for any new friends. Totally understandable. And not wanting to make friends with people who make you feel like your town is a laughable, inferior backwater? Completely rational.

Making a new home into a small community is a bit like traveling well in a foreign country. It requires respect, open-mindedness, a willingness to listen, an ability to find beauty and adventure in the everyday, and the self-assuredness to accept that not everyone wants to be your friend, and that’s OK.

Maintaining my own sense of home, family, and friendship — gold. Learning about a new culture and community — silver.  Fitting the two together and making a new life — priceless.

Text copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw. Image credit to luiswalk at sxc.hu.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 2, 2010 3:55 pm

    Hi Katie!

    I didn’t stop until I had read every one of your blogs! You have a keen way with words and a skill of observation that will serve you well in blogging about this precious town. Your sense of humor in it all is commendable and well worth the read!

    Congratulations!

    With admiration and respect for your blogging skills,
    Suella

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