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Rural Dating: Tips for Dating in a Small Town

A couple rural dating in a small town kissing in a field with their dog.

Unlike navigating the nuances of dating in big cities like Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles, dating in a small town is a simpler formula. Less noise. More wholesome attitudes. Not as many pretentious coffee shops to meet at. But, like all dating situations, rural dating still has its ups and downs.

I know this since I spent a lot of time in a rural area. Specifically, South Dakota for the better part of two years. Dating in the suburbs of Southern California or the streets of New York was one thing, but rural America was a different beast altogether.

1. Less people, means more exposure.
People are nicer out there and more open to casual conversation. You’ll have more genuine interactions and see more smiles than you’re used to (if you lived in a city before).

When you date in a city or a suburb, you get the advantage of a large population. The chances of you running into a bad date or an ex are minimized by the crowds and infrastructure. But in a small town all that changes. (Something I realized the time I saw my pizza guy at the gym, the local university and, well, the pizza place, all in one day.) You’re likely to see the same people time and again. As a result, any move you make on someone is going to get talked about and people will know your business.

2. Your reputation will get around.
Likewise, don’t get a reputation for being too suave or flirty. In a city, that reputation goes about as far as a friend of a friend that you might want to date. In rural America, a reputation spreads like wildfire. In smaller towns—where people grow up with each other and stay in town—people talk to one another on a regular basis.

What does that mean? Well, every action that you take—ghosting, ending a date on a bad note, one night stands and so on—are more likely to get around and can give you a reputation. On the same token, every good action that you take—calling someone back right away, treating for dinner, or breaking things off honestly and openly can get around too.

3. You can learn about other people pretty easily.
If you use the small town to your advantage, you can learn a lot about people that you’re interested in without having to resort to Facebook stalking or Google. Determining if someone is single is as easy as asking around—chances are someone you know will have the answer. You might even get a detailed dating history.

4. People get serious faster.
You’ll also find that in rural America, people get married younger. Think of a rural state vs. a city state and then check out this data on the median age of women who marry in the U.S. And it was something my friends and I confirmed anecdotally. I can’t tell you how many times I was about to say hi to someone before I saw the engagement ring.

5. Start slow.
The key to dating in a small town and being successful at it is to approach it like you’re making new friends. You meet someone and introduce yourself. Make light conversation and ask them out to dinner. This also gives you a chance to flex your individual muscles. Can’t figure out a restaurant? Cooking a meal at home is an option that goes a long way. Got a hobby? Take a leap and bring your date out with you to run/hike/photograph/sew/whatever it is you do.

In the city, you hide a bit of your persona when you meet a potential mate at the coffee shop. But when you’re rural dating, chances are you’re showing your cards faster than usual. Who knows, maybe you’ll find someone worth betting on.

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