Before I embarked on our country move, I had read a journalistic piece reporting tree change stories that didn’t work out. The anecdotes were drawn from 2008 research undertaken by sociologist Dr Angela Ragusa from Charles Sturt University. Dr Ragusa interviewed 50 tree changers in NSW and Victoria. Not surprisingly many of the respondents talked of “difficulty in making new friends” and “the value of networks they left in the city”.
During our first year living in Harcourt, my family all experienced feelings of isolation, particularly during the winter months – a time for hibernation. Everyone’s community experiences will differ depending on factors such as population size and demographics of the new region, whether you have children and the ability to find work.
Tips for new comers
For those planning a move to the country, I suggest researching information about social groups in the locality. Here’s some avenues to get started:
- Local council
- Information centre
- Local newspapers
- Sporting clubs
- Community groups such as CWA, Landcare or CFA
- Talk to local business people – hairdresser, real estate agent, farmer’s market stall holder!
I feel lucky to have met some interesting people with similar values, so soon in the first year. Here are three personal milestones that helped me feel connected to our community.
My yoga teacher often encourages our group to mingle and after class one week we ventured to the community lunch at the town hall. I soon got talking to a woman from yoga who had recently moved from Melbourne. We now catch up for regular coffees and I’ve since built friendships with her wider network.
Not long after my son started at his new school I was proudly cheering him on at their Sports Day, when a parent approached and asked me in a friendly voice “Are you new here?” Such a simple ice-breaker! Since this time I have been mindful of welcoming other new parents to the school. Fast forward a year and I’m now on the school council.
Within weeks of moving in, several neighbours rang our doorbell to welcome us with the message “if you need anything, just drop over anytime”. Our neighbour who runs a sweet B&B across the road invited us over for drinks and nibbles one evening, and there we met a group called “the Friday Nighters” – tree changers over the years. My partner and I attend these neighbourly gatherings occasionally and we are always warmly greeted with cheery hellos.
It’s kind of nice to have a sense of belonging. Don’t forget to knock on your neighbour’s door, if they haven’t already knocked on yours!