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Having recently returned from London and choosing to live in a small town

rather than the city, I thought I’d offer a few insights into ‘settling in’ for

those who are in a similar situation.

I’ve often read novels where the protagonist gets stressed out in ‘The Big

Smoke’, and through various twists of fate ends up in a small seaside or

country town. She always seems to find lifelong besties within the month

and have an honest, steady man pursuing her soon afterwards. Of

course the book ends with her settled in the new neighborhood and her

budding friendships strengthened by the community hardships they’ve

been through together (saving the town hall, evicting the local baddie,

getting a run-down farm back on track – you get the idea).

Having read enough of these books, I had a vague idea what happens

when you relocate to a quiet area – I have only to show up and the small

town magic happens. Things didn’t quite pan out this way…. As obvious

as it sounds, you have to make an effort to get to know people.

Common interests are probably the safest bet, so I set out to join a few

clubs and groups. We’re lucky enough to have a great town Facebook

page in Whitianga and I gleaned a lot of information there. The local Waka

Ama group was encouraging new members to join, so I decided to give it

a go. I meant to start with a social paddle but somehow ended up going

out with the men’s team – a very energetic beginning! Experiences so far

range from rowing out to see a pod of dolphins (picture below, I’m in

the second seat); to catching fish off the back of the Waka (and learning

to fillet them afterwards – a whole other story!). If you have a Waka Ama

group in your town (or anything similar) I highly recommend giving it a go.

Being a passionate reader I was keen to join a book club, but not finding

any, I created my own. Utilising the community Facebook page I posted

to see if anyone was interested in joining – and the ‘Whiti Book Club’ was

born. As well as books, a shared love of wine and cheese formed the

foundations of our group. Book clubs are a great way to meet people – so

if you don’t have one in your town, start your own!

There are a lot of fitness and sports groups about – I’m currently enjoying

a morning Zumba class in town, a weekly yoga class and am part of a

social netball team.

As well as all these groups, working for

Coromandel Life

has been a great

way of getting to know people. I’ve met many locals doing research at the

museum, interviewing people for articles and going to see our advertisers.

One of the things I love about living here is seeing a familiar face most

places I go. There’s something heartwarming about saying a cheery ‘hi’

as you pass by, or even stopping for a quick chat. So different from living

in London, where the social norm is to keep your head down – and god

forbid you make eye contact!

So, moving here wasn’t quite the picturesque story I imagined – but when

is life ever like that? I love being in such a peaceful environment and being

able to walk my dog on the beach every night. It’s taken longer than

expected but I know quite a few faces around town and am involved in

many local activities. Small town living might still be the life for me!




Small Town Living

A guide for small town newbies

Shannon Okey



Tips and Tricks

DOlphin SpOTTing frOm

The wAkA

firST meeTing Of The

‘whiTi bOOk club’







68 Albert Street, Whitianga


07 866 0048


Open 6 days


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Flooring &Tile Warehouse

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Wood • Tiles

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68 Albert Street, Whitianga

07 866 2836


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33 Albert Street, Whitianga


07 866 2546


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