I grew hup not in a small town, but in a village at the side of a small town. In my childhood the populations of both my own home village and the larger neigbour more or less doubled, with a huge influx of folk from way far outside.
In that one fact was i saved from being a small minded small townee.
We had then a fairly major naval and marine commando base nearby plus we were a comfortable commute to the big industrial connurbation. So my compatriots at primary school were fluctuating and I grew up with a positive view on new friendships, new people, diversity and became used to social groups falling apart when people moved away after their 3-5 year turnus at the marine base or often denationalised industry their parents had helped close!
In fact i have to count myself lucky because both village and town smallness were largely swamped by incomers.
An interesting hypothesis about people being excluded in small towns or entire conservative countries even, is that they of course recognise you as outside the clique, but more so they struggle to categorise you as safe or a threat. They recognise their own and feel they must remain with the centre of gravity when it concerns meeting the new. Neophobic, like rats with established runs who avoid traps.
The centre of gravity gains that critical mass because of bullying and collective esxclusion as a social reinforcement. The group defines itself in conservative ways or by some common agreements, perhaps secrative or even non verbal, perhaps rather loose proximity factors like sports, school, street, church, age, looks etc..... but individuals find their own insecurity with that group or their neophobia stregnthened when they are able to define someone as an outsider and actively and conspicuously Exclude the person.
I define part of me as a casual follower of the brave and a reluctant leader of the foolish. I have been on the fringes of cluiques and maybe in one or two loser cliques whose inclusion/exclusion where not de facto snob clique phenomena, they were a result of sports, educational, lifestyle or neighbourhood choices. Some are excluded by not qualifying or not trying hard enough to get in, and maybe some feel excluded. A bit like the whole class thing in the uk, which means that average working families will no longer be able to afford to buy a house. Property ownership becomes a means of social exclusion by economic phenomena which are qualified at an individual level, those who are wealthy for whatever reason, yet have drastic exlusiory effects without their being a conscious negative philosophy.
Take though a more down to earth examplle from my own life. I am about two years too old to be in the Eccie (ecstasy abusing) generation and five years older than Generation-X. However i found myself on the edge of a clique of gen'Xers as a young graduate, making my greatest mijstake of moving back to said small village sattellite to the town. I never made it into the core of the group by not of course being a motorcrossing lunatic, but i did not feel very excluded either and enjoyed much of being around them at snowboarding slopes or in the hazy summer of 95 when we all learned to surf down at the coast in an amazjing summer for sun if not waves.
I think ijt was summer the year after that i got a sense of clique negativity. In fact it was my then new best pal who shwoed the side of what was a kind of mirror image of my life latefr too: a younger surfer who had talent started to hang out and my pal labelled him as "bad smell". He was a great looking young guy, and there lay the issue. The "group" as was all the clique could call themselves on the occaisional bout of self insight, had a smattering of the usual small town girls who were actuallly nothing to write home about at all. However the boys were keen to keep them a bit limited to themselves. A new, younger good looking guy could have brought a profit of new girls in, but the bad smell label was applied. He was also a decent, cool type : i let him share my tent in the dunes and he was a lot like me in his awe of n.ature and love of simple things. He turned up though after the group had found its legs. I had been in the group or around it an.yway since 1991 when i guess the old school buddies had grown into a cohesive collection of a wider set. So i was allowed in due to the lava still flowing. Also they were gen Xers and not small town conservatives or capital T - tories.
It grew on me that the group merely tolerated me and a couple of individuals disrespected me a bit, so anyway i moved away and after a bit of a final run in and attempt to be sociable in the last ten years, i actively avojid them, and that was before facebook took off so they are not have-to-have-pals on that.
Back to more general cliques and small towns. I have moved to a small town again,x as an economic bolt-hole in 2008. I have worked in the town and county a grand sum of four months while having worked two years outside, a year paternity, 9 months retraining in a new career in between there, and the rest unemployed.
The last point is not mute, and if I had fitted in and been a little less me, neurotic and skeptical, then i may have landed a job here. Maybe not anyway.
I find the cliques here have a kind of malignancy based on looking inward and not bothering to include people, rather than per se exclusion. Crimes of ommission rather than commission. They have closed cliques more amongst women. People did make an effort with me, but the social, fun ones have wide social circles established here and gave up making space for me after a time with very promising progress.
Partly i felt stressed out , but mostly the few ijnvitations dried up and i never really got positive feeddback when i probed for more. I reckon it was juletide 2011 the last party i was at which i thought was cool and with the right types.
People here have moved back here and i would not do that to my home town, unless i was on my high horse a bit: look at me, i did well like Michael Stipe. So the frightened , the ones who did not like being in a big pond or those who wanted to be a bigger fish once more in a fish bowl moved back. The wasters and mummies boys never moved away.
The worst thing though was the curiosity: this is just that, but jis dressed up with some politeness and pretence of friendliness. For my now estranged other half it has been more difficult in some ways, with a clijque queen doing the bitch back talking. Also i am dragged in a bit by whayever she said about me to them and a couple of others.
They say you should go in through sports or interests like art or poljitics, but that is just as bad a route as any in reality because of the small town inertia, xenophobia and self satisfied-ness.
At the end of the day you should go and have an extended holiday or visit regularily at weekeds for your proposed small town move. Are people rude, suspicious, superficial ? There tends to be a culture but also a superficiality.
Also make sure you are within reach of your existing social network, including of course best friends and that they will actuall visit you and let you stay over when you in turn see them. There are your life lines to your own clique you see. You dont really want to be living your social life on facebook like me.