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Growing up in rural Wisconsin, I had a very stereotypical small town childhood. Yes, my life was basically a cross between Gilmore Girls and Friday Night Lights. Everyone knew everything about everyone, and my mom still texts me when one of my old classmates is in the local paper for something. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I did have a bit of culture shock when I eventually moved away. Here are a few signs that you grew up in a town almost as small as mine.

1. You knew the names of your friends’ siblings, parents, grandparents, and cousins—and where each of them lived.

2. Graduating high school with the same people you went to kindergarten with was the norm.

3. Your teachers knew you before you took their class, because they taught your siblings and probably your parents.

4. The football coach was also the wrestling coach, math teacher, and Athletic Director.

5. Your hometown only had one stoplight, if any.

6. There was no such thing as a secret—everyone knew everything about everyone.

7. Barn parties were a thing and happened often.

8. Your high school graduation lasted less than an hour, and it was in the school gym.

9. If you were in one club you were in them all.

10. You were close with your teachers because they taught you every year until you graduated.

11. Sports didn’t have tryouts because if anyone was cut the team wouldn’t be big enough, and everyone played 3 or 4 sports.

12. You graduated with less than 100 people.

13. Not dating your friends’ ex was a challenge because the dating pool was so small.

14. You called your friend’s parents by their first name.

15. Dating someone from the next town over was like fraternizing with the enemy.

16. It wasn’t weird to go to another school’s homecoming or prom.

17. Shopping wasn’t easy because the nearest shopping mall was at least 30 minutes away.

18. You couldn’t drive anywhere in town without someone seeing your car and texting you to ask where you were going.

19. Your elementary, middle, and high school were all in the same building.

20. People didn’t really lock their doors, and you never had a house key.

21. If you weren’t at the football game on Friday night who even were you?

22. You knew the town “queen” that was crowned every year at an outdoor festival.

23. It’s not hard to name almost every person in your graduating class.

24. Everyone was in 4-H and FFA—and you actually know what FFA stands for.

25. If there wasn’t a bonfire or party on a Friday night, everyone would just drive around.

26. It wasn’t a big deal to be in the local paper for sports, the honor roll, and the school play.

27. A lot of people worked at the Piggly-Wiggly or the Root beer stand in high school.

28. To you, a traffic jam is caused by a slow-moving tractor driving down the middle of the road.

29. Most of the people in your town belonged to the same church, and the church also had a yearly festival.

30. If you weren’t in church on Sunday your friends texted you and asked you where you were.

31. Lawn mowing day was the worst because it took all day to mow your huge backyard.

32. You know that cow tipping isn’t a real thing, but people still ask you if you’ve done it (and you always say yes).

33. Your high school had designated “senior skip days.”

34. If you heard a police siren, you could just call your friend with a police scanner to find out what was going on.

35. Every fall there was a homecoming parade.

36. Knocking before entering your friends’ houses was not necessary.

37. You looked forward to reading the Sheriff’s log in the paper because you knew all of the people it mentioned.

38. You hated going to the doctor because it was your classmate’s mom or dad.

39. Everyone knew when people lost their virginity and who they lost it to.

40. At least half of your graduating class still lives in your hometown, is married, or has kids.

41. You didn’t know that paying for parking was a thing until you moved away.

42. Your freshman year college dorm had roughly the same amount of people as your entire town.

43. Your town didn’t have a grocery store, but it had 12 bars.

44. Everyone had a graduation party, and a list of times/places was handed out before school ended.

45. No one knows where your town is without naming 3 larger towns that aren’t even that close to it.


Hillary Bautch is a Wisconsin girl living in Boston, where she can often be found double-fisting cups of coffee. She takes pleasure in making other people feel awkward and purposely does weird stuff so she can write about it later. Hillary enjoys eating pizza, watching other people fall down on ice skates, and complaining about how much she wants a dog. Follow her random musings and sarcastic rants at @hillarybautch.

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