The D.C. Metro region is a fast-paced, congested area where everyone is either busy, in a hurry, suspicious, or just indifferent. Traffic is terrible, prices are high, and no one visiting this area would ever accuse residents of being overly friendly, welcoming, or accommodating. Not many people stay here after they retire—as a matter of fact, according to Gallup, it’s one of the top areas in the country from which people are trying to escape.
When I first moved here, I was 13 years old (probably the worst possible time in my life to move to an area like this), and the culture shock was pretty extreme. I came from a town where I had a close group of friends (and I’d known them my whole life), a tightly knit family, and several pets (including a horse). Moving to this area meant giving up friends, hardly ever seeing family, and selling the horse. It took years to finally meet some friends and settle in.
As a matter of fact, my husband and I still talk about how unfriendly people in this area can be. The reasons for this are varied—it’s a transient area and people move in and out constantly; everyone is running around trying to get from one place to another in gridlock traffic; people are overworked and stressed and simply don’t have time for others.
Not so in my hometown.
Every time we return to Kingsport for a visit, we’re newly surprised at how nice everyone is. People smile, they say hello to each other (even the people they don’t know), and there’s just an overall feeling of hospitality. It’s not at all unusual to strike up conversations with check-out clerks in the grocery store, or even a random group of folks sitting at the next table in a downtown restaurant.
There’s a neighborly feeling throughout the community—folks help each other out and pitch in when needed. Over the last few years, downtown renovations have been moving full-speed ahead, including re-purposing some old warehouses that have been shut down for years. Now the old warehouses are a thriving farmer’s market, and this area will soon have its own carousel. A while back when the idea for the carousel was first conceived, volunteers were needed. My mom volunteered to paint one of the characters, and every Tuesday for several months the volunteer painters convened to put the community project together. (http://engagekingsport.com/our-programs/kingsport-carousel/) Mom's part of the project may be seen below.
There are good reasons why Kingsport is listed as a top town in which to retire and why it attracts so many folks from up North (www.topretirements.com). It’s a friendly place full of people who enjoy being a part of a small community with a big heart and a lot of southern hospitality.