- Vermont is beautiful in the summer with broad, green landscapes. And in the winter, the quiet, heavy blankets of snow make for striking and comely visuals on their own. Also, the colorful fall foliage is known far and wide. So, three out of four seasons are outstanding visually.
- There are no ads on the highways so you don’t have marketing pressuring you to engage further in consumerist tendencies.
- I’ve eaten the best bacon I’ve ever had in my life here. The Black River Meats brand is exquisite, thick and uncured. And I think it no coincidence that I have at least seven cheeses in my fridge as I type: cheddar, feta, fontina, pecorino Romano, parmesan... Vermont believes in a variety of cheeses. Poutine, which can have both bacon and cheese, is good, too. Steve's salty caramel ice cream is delicious-- the best I've ever had-- if it's in season *and* in stock. Haymaker Buns has great chocolate chip cookies *if* you're in Middlebury, in the morning, and it's not Monday, when they're closed. The Arcadian has great Italian food, if you're willing and able to spend $50 for a meal.
- As a place with farms and produce, I’d expect to see a lot more mice and even roaches but the types of bugs I encounter in my home are boxelder bugs and perhaps some form of flying beetle. The other vermin has yet to be visited upon me. This might be because the temperature is too cold for them to survive. So while I do encounter insects in my home, they are generally inoffensive.
- I can wear whatever I want-- from sweat pants to a pinstripe suit-- and expect to be treated with respect. If class hierarchy is a concern here, as it is everywhere, it is not primarily expressed through one’s attire. Coming from Los Angeles and having visited New York multiple times, I realize that the obsessive cultures surrounding the fashion Olympics is not a form of social currency in Vermont, as they are in some major metropolises. Power, clout and authority are not communicated through clothing.
- Montréal, which is 2.5 hours away, is a food paradise. It has residents from all over the world, is a bilingual city and has a metro system. Its exchange rate benefits people who earn U.S. dollars and is a welcome diversion when Vermont’s small towns feel somewhat suffocating. I recommend the affordable Peruvian place, Pat’e Palo. And the city has great institutions for art.
- In a rural town of 9,000, people become each other’s entertainment, which makes folks both neighborly and nosey. The appetite for a sense of “community” is a strong phenomenon here whereas in some large cities anonymity is more commonplace and desirable. People here want to know each other to be known. If you need a hand with gardening, a ride to the store or advice on de-icing, you can certainly rely on a neighbor to lend a hand. However, there is also an expectation that you talk, share about your life and engage with one another regularly and with desire to do so. For someone who values privacy, the social pressure to develop intimacy can feel intrusive and make for a difficult social adjustment.
- Moreover, if there’s anything that’s different about you, for example, your racial phenotype, your uniqueness in a predominantly white state will cause you to be hypervisible and somewhat exotic. Vermont is one of the whitest states in the union and as a person of color here, there is no “blending in.” This is a “neutral” and not a “negative,” because I suppose that anyone who likes attention from strangers might enjoy this novelty. But if you don’t, it can be overwhelming and unwelcome.
- Aside from a mostly white populace, many Vermonters are over 50, white-haired and retired. I find them to be generally kind, but if you’re a young professional, building a peer group of people at the same stage of life as you may present a challenge. If you’re single and in your 20s or 30s looking for marriage with someone from your age group, pairing up is a veritable challenge.
- “We” don’t really have a “spring” here. We have an alternative that locals call “mud season.” A wet time that can potentially make driving conditions messy, to say the very least. Also, icy road conditions in the winter can be intimidating. And while salted roads are good for safety, they are bad for vehicle maintenance as they encourage rust. Oh-- and with summer comes mosquitoes.
- In the winter months, roughly ~ late November through ~mid March-- roughly-- you can expect the sun to disappear completely before 5:00 p.m. There will be no natural light out if/when you leave the office. While the clock will tell you it’s early, the sky will tell you it’s night. If you’re sensitive to light, you run a higher risk of experiencing seasonal affective disorder, also known as “SAD.” Aside from having your mood/will to live impacted, darkness simply makes it harder to deftly navigate outdoor spaces and less desirable to do so.
- The darkness on the roads at any time of the year deserves its own bullet point. I come from a place with 3 million inhabitants and roads that are quite heavily used with speed limits of 65 miles per hour. The city of Los Angeles *must* light its roads to protect the thousands upon thousands of drivers who use them daily. Roads in Vermont are weakly lit at night. Drivers have to rely on their vehicles’ illumination to see what is before them. Perhaps the danger is attenuated by the speed limit of 50 miles per hour but the darkness outside makes me a less confident driver. Moreover, the lack of cellular connectivity on rural roads perhaps should be expected even if it is inconvenient.
- It’s largely necessary to have a car, even if you don’t have anywhere you want to drive it. In the town where I live, locally I drive to the grocery store, the doctor and the gym, particularly in the winter. But venues for diverse cuisines, entertainment, art and even blockbuster cinema can be up to 30 miles away. Residents like me can find themselves in a conundrum: do I remain in town on the weekend where little of interest is happening or commit to a 60-mile round trip drive to the nearest “city” every time I want to experience something new (which, for me, is often)? On top of the distance one must traverse in search of novelty, even if one contents herself to remain local on a weekend, most businesses close at 10:00 p.m. Moreover, one cannot count on some basic amenities in small towns like malls or on-site laundry facilities at home. If you don’t have a car for a time, you will likely develop a reliance on delivery services like Amazon to have rather basic needs met.
- With a population of over 90% white people, not all Vermonters are accustomed to being in close proximity to people of color. They simply do not have a robust/varied history of friendships, work relationships or other types of intimate pairings with people of color. However, the state’s political image leans very liberal. These two ideas working together seem to cause white residents to want to demonstrate a lack of racism upon any given opportunity and can manifest itself as an overeagerness to make sure they know people of color, that people of color are feeling comfortable here and seeking reassurance/compliments about the local, social climate. As a person of color, it is not attractive or desirable for me to need to pat white people on the back and tell them what a great job they’re doing. This is a taxing emotional labor I’d like to distance myself from as it stems from white guilt, a cognitive and behavioral phenomenon I am not responsible for addressing.
- There is an aversion to confronting conflict directly. In this small town, people must deal with the same personnel over and over again so having a relationship sour is highly undesirable. So while diplomacy is high, there is also a lack of honesty about interpersonal problems. The excessive politeness one witnesses here can at times be a mask worn to evade addressing underlying discomforts. However, avoiding a problem does not make it go away; rather, people can seethe and problems can fester in silence. It is extremely difficult to know how people actually feel as they/we rarely let their/our guard down and display transparency with direct answers to questions and named emotions.
In conclusion, I generally feel safe here but rarely engaged outside of work. I find that I have the responsibility of creating whatever culture or event I want to see here and it’s burdensome. It is work outside of work. In some other places, like New York City, a subway train ride can bring me close to like-minded people any day of the week and likely at any time of the day. In Los Angeles, we don’t even say we want “Asian” food-- we have the privilege of specifically saying “Thai” and pursuing a variety of price points for that country’s cuisine any. day. of. the. week. However, New York City’s safety record is lower than Vermont’s and Los Angeles’ traffic and parking are epic things of legend. Both of these aforementioned cities have what I’ll call “saturation points” in terms of population that can be suffocating. But I suppose this is a game of “pick your poison”: do you prefer to be under or overwhelmed? Do you want to create culture or live adjacent to it? Do you want to be anonymous or to be known? Depending on what tickles your fancy, Vermont might be your paradise.