From the country to the big city; From hick to citiot

Growing up in the country and then moving to “the big city” (London,) when I was 24 years old has given me an interesting perspective on life in the country vs. life in the city.

Overall, growing up in the country was AWESOME! I would not trade growing up in the country for a childhood in the city, any day.

I had a pellet gun, I had an ATV, I had a bow and arrow, I had a jack-knife, I had at GT Snow Racer with big hills beside our house. It was great! I had friends that had the same things and we had a blast.

Back then, I was content on the farm, riding my ATV, shooting my pellet gun, and after I turned 16, obsessively washing my car because of the gravel roads.

We had extended family that were “big city people” and they were “different.”

I’m not saying one is right or wrong, but country living vs city living are distinctly different.

Even though I knew that city life versus country life was different, I had no idea just how different until I started dating Joy back in 2000.

Up until that time in my life I was blissfully unaware that there was another way of life.

You see, Joy is a “city girl” – although I’m not sure that growing in Sarnia qualifies as “city” now that I think about it. But, she grew up in North Sarnia, amongst the high-flying North Sarnia folks.

She went to Northern Highschool in Sarnia, often referred to as the “snot school” by us country bumpkins at the time.

I went to LCCVI in Petrolia, affectionately known as the “farmer school” by the Northern kids. Maybe it was because we had one day each year where students drive tractors to school?

Early on in our relationship, there were things that I noticed, some subtle, some not, regarding the differences between our experiences growing up in a city vs growing up in the country.

The Language

The first thing I noticed when I met Joy was vocabulary. That’s a big one.

I studied English in high school (and passed,) just as my peers at the “farmer school” had, but somewhere along the way, outside of what we learned from our English teachers, we developed our own regional dialect. I never noticed it, until I started dating Joy.

I can’t think of all the instances of the language differences – but early on, Joy would often correct me – sometimes telling me “honey – you sound like hick”

The one I can remember most was after the first voice recital I attended when Joy was in Music at UWO. That was a pretty sophisticated event for little Jonny from Oil Springs. I even went out and purchased some new clothes, just to attend.

Afterward, when we were in the car, Joy asked how she sounded. I replied “you did really good”

Nothing wrong with that phrase in my mind!

Well…apparently a more proper way to phrase that would have been  “you did really well”

Who knew?

I had no idea. I can hear it now, but back then – it was just part of life. I will call them “Lambton Countyisms”

Some of it was dialect and some of it was just downright bad grammar. But, I married a gal with a background in Music & English and have since been corrected and re-educated on such matters…many, many times… Thanks honey!  🙂

Just Dropping In…

This is another one that I learned about when Joy and I were very early on in our relationship.

I remember it was a nice sunny day in 2000, sometime in June or July. I was in Sarnia to do a few things related to the grocery store and I was passing right past where Joy lived, with her parents – on Cathcart Blvd. She was home for the summer so I assumed she would be home.

As I drove by, I saw the car was home so someone must be there. I went to the door and Joy was surprised to see me. Of course, this was before the days of owning a smartphone and knowing where everyone was, at any moment of each day.

We chatted – I was invited in for lunch, but it seemed awkward.

Joy told me later that her Mom was surprised to see me – that I would just “drop in” unannounced and without a plan to do so.

You see, I had NO IDEA that this was not socially acceptable.

In the country, we sort of had an open-door policy.

If the car was home and you drove by the neighbours’ house, it was pretty common to just drop in to say hello. Maybe they would even invite you in and put the coffee on – and if you were really lucky, they had just baked a pie, or they would ask you to stay for dinner.

This was pretty common. People were dropping by unannounced quite often. Ladies from down the road that Mom was friends with. Local farmers who needed a hand with something or needed to borrow something or just wanted to chat. They drove in, and we would stand in the driveway or the barn and chat.

I’m not sure we ever saw it as an imposition. It was part of living in a community – to make yourself available to help someone else or just to chat.

This is actually one element of city-life that I do not enjoy -the lack of “community.” I am thankful that we have great neighbours where we live now, but in other areas of London where we have lived in the past, we haven’t had that.

People keep to themselves and very few people seem interested in engaging in discussion with their neighbours.

The state of the “handyman”

Maybe a generalization, but something I have noticed is that guys (and gals) who are good with tools, mechanically inclined and generally handy are harder to find in suburban London.

Hard to believe but back in my former life on the farm, I almost always changed my own oil, repaired the lawnmower if it needed, helped Dad with fencing or other farm chores. I wouldn’t say I’m mechanically inclined, but I know what the tools do.

Guys in the city…well…they want to dress like they work hard – you know…plaid shirt, work boots, jeans – but that whole ensemble costs them about $400 and it will never see dirt, oil or manure.

Locking the doors

Growing up, it was rare that our car doors were locked and during the day, our house door would often be unlocked as well. We pretty much knew everyone who would be passing by, we had a dog that would bark if we needed to be aware of something and I don’t think our car or house ever got broken into.

I know this has changed in the past few years as there seems to be plenty of theft happening in Lambton County, but old habits die hard for people who have not locked their door for decades.

I can remember on more than one occasion meeting my Dad at Starbucks in London when we first moved here. We would sit down at the table and then he would say “should I lock my car doors?”

Well, sadly, in London – you should lock your doors even if you are leaving your car for 10 seconds or the contents of your car will be gone in a flash. We just can’t trust people.

I know of people who had their car stolen in London, after leaving it running for 30 seconds.

Out of 3 times that we accidentally left our car doors open overnight, all 3 times, someone went through the car and took things like coins, sunglasses and a GPS.

Can you lend a hand?

In a farming community, people deal with the same issues that their neighbours do, as it relates to growing crops, cattle, sheep, hay and so on. It’s pretty much all the same.

Often on the farm, there are situations where you need a helping hand – another set of hands and muscles to get the job done.

It was usually easy to find someone to help with things like bailing hay or plowing out the driveway in the winter if your tractor wasn’t working. The expectation was that when they needed help, you would be there for them.

It was an unspoken agreement. You just knew that if it was going to rain tomorrow and the hay needed to be bailed, you might lend a hand to your neighbour and they would do the same.

There was no exchange of money. It was just part of living in a community.

**Sidenote: Except in the case of my brother-in-law Chris. When he was dating Carla, he was just expected to help out for nothing in return. What a good sport! 🙂

In the city, asking for help is a bit more awkward. We’re so thankful we have great neighbours who help us with all kinds of outdoor tasks that I’m not able to do (Thanks Steve…even though he may not read this!)

But generally, that kind of help isn’t always available. It’s just not how city people get things done.

In the city, if you need help, you’re more likely to call a contractor, plumber, roofer, electrician, landscape company and so on, rather than relying on a skilled and helpful neighbour.

I suppose it is easier this way. They come, they do a job, you pay them – it’s a transaction. It’s very clean-cut. No awkward asking for help and no reciprocation You just pay and you’re done.

But it’s also sad because of the lack of community that exists. For thousands of years, society has needed one another just to survive – except in the past 100 years or so. Autonomy is preferred and expected.


I have a love-hate relationship with driving in the city.

I like to drive swiftly and I like when traffic moves along quick and efficient. The pace of rural driving is a bit slow for my taste, however, there’s another major difference.

Being a courteous driver. That doesn’t seem to exist in the city.

I have only been in 2 minor accidents in my life and both were in the city. And it was all because the drivers couldn’t wait.

The first happened while I backed out of a parking spot at a Canadian Tire. The other driver tried to squeeze behind me quickly, as I was reversing – and he didn’t make it. I didn’t see him whip around the corner, and I hit him.

I hit the side of his brand new Infiniti. It did several thousand dollars damage to his car, but just a scape on mine that I never fixed.

If he would have just slowed down and waited another 10 seconds, the accident could have been avoided.

The other accident we were in, Joy and I were sideswiped by a gal who pulled out of a side street as we were going through a green light. It was as if we weren’t there. She just burned out. I swerved quickly and hit the median and thankfully the damage was slight, but we made contact. The strangest thing about it was that she pulled over for about 3 seconds, stopped…and then she drove away!

Apparently, she was late for work and side-swiping another car doesn’t qualify as something she was willing to stop for? That was bizarre.

I followed her to her job at Goodlife Fitness, we exchanged insurance information and the whole time, she seemed pretty annoyed that I followed her and was planning on reporting the incident.

I see it every day. People are in a rush and the rules of the road don’t seem to apply to them.

Common everyday courtesy doesn’t seem to exist on the road.

A few weeks ago, for example, we witnessed an older couple trying to back their fifth-wheel trailer into a tight spot in their driveway. They were blocking traffic both ways as they struggled to get the trailer straightened out – and people were freaking out!

There was lots of honking and one guy even took the time to roll his window down and present the elderly couple with a gesture of his displeasure.

It was completely unnecessary. People expect some grace when they need it, but they aren’t willing to extend it.

People in the city could learn a thing or two about slowing down, having respect and extending common courtesy to their fellow drivers.

But you know what.

I have changed. Looking back on my past and where I am today, I’m different.

I don’t change my own oil.

I don’t wash my own car.

I get angry with drivers who go to slow.

I don’t touch anything in our house that may need repairing.

I would never drop in unannounced to visit anyone.

And if I were truthful, I haven’t gotten my hands dirty in quite some time. 🙂

Should we move to the country?

Joy and I have pondered this and although country living is indeed nice, it’s not for us right now.

Although I miss certain elements, I also love that Starbucks is just down the street from my house….and they know me by name. 🙂

I love that there’s a Shoppers Drug Mart somewhere in the city where I can buy pretty much anything I need at any time of the day.

I love that I don’t have to put 50,000kms a year on my car, just to drive to work.

I love that when it’s time to go out for dinner, there are hundreds of options – not 4.

And…I love the anonymity of a big city. I’m just another face in the crowd.

Am I a Citiot now? Maybe…

I have a love-hate relationship with the city.

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