The good far outweighs the negatives of small-town life

Napier and other small towns are luring many people with their promise of quieter, simpler days with most of the necessary conveniences. Picture: Sam Fourie

Napier and other small towns are luring many people with their promise of quieter, simpler days with most of the necessary conveniences. Picture: Sam Fourie

Published Oct 27, 2023


Making the move from city to country life is not all sunshine and roses, although, with the right attitude, it can be.

“Even though your mindset may be ‘right’ for a move to the country, know that it may take about a year to adjust and slot into an entirely new lifestyle and community,” says Nikki Elliott of Country & Coastal Properties.

Many new residents struggle when they find themselves far away from the variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities they are accustomed to, even though they thought they would not miss it when simply visiting their new areas, she says.

Other small-town issues could relate to service delivery, and on the KZN south coast, the Ugu District Municipality, for example, has water issues, says Chas Everitt’s Jennifer Duncan.

“There are also beggars at most robots, especially since Covid-19, and potholes in the national and suburban roads.”

But she adds: “It’s a beautiful lifestyle here so don’t dwell on the negatives as there are far more positives... The quality of life is a positive as there are more outdoor activities and less focus on material things. We also have good schools and a safer lifestyle.”

In KZN’s Underberg though, some former city dwellers may not be happy with local schools and have to consider sending their children to boarding school, says Pam Golding Properties’ Angela Walker. In addition, the road between the N3 and the Underberg is of poor quality. But people need to make choices.

“New people want to make friends and be part of the community [yet] sometimes I find that they expect the community to come to them and that does not always happen. They have to go out and get to know others and find their niches...

“I also suggest that they adapt their shopping and entertainment expectations. An afternoon out in the ‘berg or fishing in a river is just as entertaining as cinemas and shopping malls. And if they don’t like the potholes then don’t drive on the road – there is little that one cannot get locally, there are just fewer choices. But the lifestyle is well worth it.”

In small towns like Langebaan in the Western Cape, residents may also have to accept that hospitals are further away than they are used to, and retail, services, and commercial suppliers are limited, says Melanie Mouton-Creugnet of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s. And in Knysna, the agency’s Sheena Mare says things don’t move quite as quickly as people are used to.

“This can cause frustration. ‘Outeniqua rust’ is a reality for some."

She advises these new residents: “Breath deeply, enjoy a slower pace of life and be open to new opportunities, experiences, and new friends. The new community will treat you as well as you treat it.”

Former city dweller Carola Koblitz, who now lives in Napier, says it is important for those looking to move to a small town to experience as much of the area they are considering before they move.

“Visit it on weekends and on weekdays. Sleep over a lot. Even try to rent a house for a few weeks if you can. Spend time in the local pubs, restaurants and other venues and speak to and get to know people.”

She says they should also judge local amenities in terms of what you expect – from the shopping available in town or close by, to the medical services available.

“Use social media to ask opinions from townspeople who have moved there and enjoyed it.

“What have property prices done over the past three years? But more than anything, visit, visit and visit again. It’s a huge move to make and you need to be at least 80% sure you’re making the right one.”

* This article was originally published in 2021

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