Follow TV Tropes


From New York to Nowhere

Go To

A Fish out of Water story that centers around a character who, for whatever reason, suddenly relocates from a big city to a small town. Cue lots of issues with fitting in, Eccentric Townsfolk (often with some Flyover Country stereotyping), and the eventual Aesop about home being where the heart is.

The significance of this trope lies in the commonly perceived superiority of a metropolitan lifestyle. If the protagonist left the city voluntarily, expect a lot of characters (perhaps including the protagonist themselves) to wonder why they would move to such a "dump". They'll probably also have a few suspicious locals accusing them of being conceited and condescending; if these locals happen to be right, there's likely a Break the Haughty/The City vs. the Country subplot unfolding as well.

More common in TV series than in movies, as the setting and the wide assortment of colorful characters are crucial to the story.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Sakura Quest, Yoshino Koharu zig-zags this trope. She originally came from a small town in Japan but then went to college in Tokyo. After graduating, she applied to many jobs in Tokyo but couldn't get hired for a single one, until she ended up becoming "queen" of the Dying Town of Manoyama, partly by accident. For much of the early show, Yoshino is desperate to get back to Tokyo but comes to love living in Manoyama.
  • Wolf Children: Hana and her children move from Tokyo to a small rural farming town in the countryside.

    Comic Books 
  • Thanks to her parents' divorce, the protagonist of Amelia Rules! moves from New York City to — as she calls it — 'Nowhere, Pennsylvania.'

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • Sally Carrera of Cars recounts her story to Lightning McQueen that she used to be a fast-track lawyer in the big city, but grew disillusioned with the phoniness and the guile. She withdrew to bucolic Radiator Springs, became its sole public defender, and has been content with that ever since. Sally recounts this as part of her stop-and-smell-the-roses Aesop.

    Film — Live Action 
  • The Wilderness Family aka The Adventures of The Wilderness Family (1975) and its sequels (1978, 1979) has a family leaving Los Angeles for the Rockies to get away from the pressures of big city life and for healthier conditions for their daughter.
  • Arachnophobia: Dr. Ross Jennings moves his family from San Francisco to a sleepy town in Northern California because he got the offer to be the town doctor there. Things get pretty bad for him when the Jerkass town doctor that made the offer decides to not retire after all, making him struggle to get patients so he'll have a job... and then a South American killer spider arrives in town, causing a rash of deaths with its equally super-deadly spawn...
  • Bagdad Cafe plays with this trope. The protagonist, who is a middle-aged Bavarian lady from Rosenheim, gets stranded in Bagdad, a middle-of-nowhere hick town in the Californian desert. While Rosenheim can hardly be described as a major city (being a remote market townlet in the Upper Bavarian province, with a population barely scratching the 60,000 mark), at least it's in Bavaria (and a relatively well-known locale amongst most Germans, who were the film's intended primary target audience). Bagdad, meanwhile, is a semi-fictional podunk town that is intended to be obscure by any metrics, especially for a Bavarian Fish out of Water who's never seen a desert (or African-Americans, for that matter).
  • Beauty and the Beast (2017) elaborates on Belle and Maurice's backstory; while they were already implied to be recent arrivals to their "small provincial town" in the animated film, the remake specifies that they once lived in Paris until they fled from a plague that had killed Belle's mother.
  • Beetlejuice: The Deetzes move from New York City into a quaint little town Winter River, Connecticut. Charles Deetz (a successful and possibly unscrupulous realtor) has suffered a near-nervous breakdown and hopes to escape his stressful NYC life there. His wife Delia, an art snob with terrible taste, hates moving there but is somewhat satisfied when she can transform this old-fashioned cozy New England house into a postmodern urban one and wants to start sculpting again. Delia convinces her interior designer and friend Otho to come from New York City with them. They manage to invite some New Yorkers to come for a visit (to talk about Delia's art, to evaluate possible investments, and to check paranormal activities), and most of them are very condescending. Teenage goth girl Lydia Deetz likes the house as it was.
  • The French movie Bienvenue Chez Les Chtis combines this with Grim Up North when a bureaucrat from Marseille (a major city in southern France) is reassigned to a small town on the north coast. His Fish out of Water antics occupy the first half of the movie until he starts liking it there, the second half involves his wife moving up there because he'd been playing up the negative aspects to her (and his new friends and coworkers play up the "uncultured hicks" stereotypes when they throw a barbecue to welcome her).
  • Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen begins with Lola Steppe and her family moving to the suburbs in New Jersey, much to Lola's annoyance because she dreamed of being a Broadway actress.
    Lola's Mom: Oh, stop being such a drama queen.
  • Doc Hollywood features a recent med school graduate who is on his way to Beverly Hills to make lots of money treating rich folk, but who, while driving there, has a car crash in a small town that needs a doctor. They blackmail him into staying, and he learns to fit in.
  • Funny Farm: The plot revolves around a sports writer Andy Farmer (Chevy Chase) and his wife Rebecca (Madolyn Smith) moving from New York City to the small town of Redbud.
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife begins with our main characters being evicted from their apartment in Chicago and are forced to move into the farm they inherited in the middle of the barren town of Summervile, Oklahoma.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Everyone wonders why up-and-coming London author Juliet is staying in rural Guernsey. She moves there for real in the end.
  • Hannah Montana: In The Movie - Miley is taken on a surprise vacation to her hometown in Tennessee when Robbie Ray fears that her fame as Hannah is going to her head.
  • Hot Fuzz features a London supercop who is forced to move to a rural village by his jealous superiors.
  • Jaws: Burned-out New York City cop Martin Brody moved himself and his family out of the city to become Police Chief of the sleepy New England island community of Amity. Because it's a safe and quiet place where the worst crimes he has to deal with are things like parking disputes and pot-smoking teens. A place where, in his own words, one man really could make a difference. At least, until that pesky killer shark shows up...
  • Lost in America features a high-earning couple who decide to cash in on their Los Angeles lifestyle and move to the country. They lose all their money gambling in Las Vegas and have to take crappy jobs in a small town. Subverted in that in the end they leave the town as fast as they can and move back to the big city of New York.
  • The Quiet Man: Sean Thornton used to work in the American steel mills, and took up amateur boxing as a sideline. However, after one match with a nasty opponent, Sean's temper overcame him, and he literally beat the man to death in the ring. Sean moved to Innisfree, Ireland as The Atoner, heeding a Call to Agriculture on a farm plot, growing potatoes and red roses.
  • Inverted in Pokémon Detective Pikachu when Tim Goodman goes from the Pokémon equivalent of Everytown, America to the much larger Ryme City to settle affairs after his father's death. He decides to stay after he and Pikachu foil the Big Bad and reunite with Tim's actually-still-alive father.
  • 2009 Comedy/thriller Did You Hear About the Morgans?? has Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as a New York City couple doing this through the Witness Protection Program when they witness the murder of one of Parker's character's real estate clients.

  • In The Babysitters Club Stacey's parents decide to move from Manhattan to her mother's hometown of Stoneybrook, CT in the hopes that a slower pace of life will improve her diabetes, as well as remove her from the bullying and ostracization she was receiving from her former friends in the city after her diabetes complications worsened. Luckily for Stacey, she almost immediately finds True Companions in the other members of the Babysitter's Club and becomes quite popular in Stoneybrook with her "sophisticated" persona. Though she misses the big-name stores, her former sitting charges, and her best friend Laine in New York, Stacey ends up liking Stoneybrook so much that after her parents get divorced she decides to live with her mom in Stoneybrook rather than with her dad in the city.
  • Holly from By Any Other Name (2013) used to live in London, before her family entered Witness Protection in the small town of Daneshill. At first she's bored and miserable there, and looks down on her classmates for being bumpkins. She tries to befriend the popular kids and even briefly dates Fraser, the hottest boy in school, but they fall out pretty quickly, partly because the popular kids really are unpleasant but partly because, as Camilla points out, Holly acts like she's better than everyone else for no apparent reason.
  • In The Howling (1977), Karyn and Roy Beatty start out living in the suburbs of Los Angeles (and Karyn previously lived in New York); they rent a house in the tiny country town of Drago, which is so small it doesn't show up on most maps and even people who have lived California all their lives have never heard of it. The Beattys hope the drastic change in scenery will help Karyn recover from her traumatic experience in L.A., though Karyn finds it difficult to adjust to living rurally. And then she finds out about the werewolves...
  • Jesse Stone: Forced out of the LAPD due to his alcoholism, Jesse finds a job as the police chief of a sleepy New England town.
  • Native New Yorkers Sabrina and Daphne relocate to the small town of Ferryport Landing to live with their Granny Relda after their parents mysteriously disappear in The Sisters Grimm. Turns out, the Eccentric Townsfolk of Ferryport Landing are actually Fairy Tale characters.
  • Survivor Dogs is a Stray Animal Story starring Lucky, a stray dog who has grown up on city streets. After earthquakes ruin his hometown, he has to move out to the local wilderness with a group of clueless ex-pets.
  • In The Twilight Saga, Bella moves from Phoenix, Arizona, to the small town of Forks in Washington to live with her father while her mother travels.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Apples Way: (1974-1975) George Apple moves his family from Los Angeles to his native town of Appletown, Iowa to escape the hecticness of big city living.
  • Bunheads: Las Vegas showgirl Michelle accepts a marriage proposal from Dogged Nice Guy Hubbell after she seems to have hit a dead end in her dancing career. She moves in with him in the Quirky Town of Paradise, CA, to the disapproval of Hubbell's overbearing mother Fanny. Even after Hubbell dies in a car accident by the end of the first episode, Michelle decides to stay, becoming an assistant teacher at the local dance school and meeting all the Eccentric Townsfolk, who either see her as glamorous or a whore for her showgirl past.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Rebecca, a bigshot New York lawyer, gets a panic attack when she hears she's about to be promoted at her job which is already destroying her in every way, and impulsively decides to move to West Covina, CA to stalk her Old Flame instead. This is lampshaded several times, with characters wondering why someone like her would move to a small-ish residential city in California.
    Naomi: (singing) I wasted all that dough on Harvard and Yale
    For you to be living in a dump
    In Nowhere, USA
  • Everwood: After Andy Brown's wife is killed in a car accident, he announces to his kids that they're moving to the small town of Everwood, CO (which his wife had been very fond of) to get a fresh start.
  • Gilmore Girls: After a falling-out with her high-society parents as a result of her pregnancy, Lorelei moved from big-city Hartford to small-town Stars Hollow.
    • In season 2, Luke's nephew Jess moves literally from New York City to Stars Hollow and suffers some Small Town Boredom he alleviates by staging a murder scene in the town square.
  • Green Acres: New York City lawyer Oliver Douglas moves to the rural town of Hooterville to become a farmer. There he has to deal with Eccentric Townsfolk while his wife Lisa keeps begging him to return to the city.
  • Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha: Everyone is surprised when the lovely Hye-jin leaves the high-powered Seoul for Gongjin, a tiny seaside village.
  • Midnight Mass (2021): Hassan left his position with the NYPD to be the sheriff on Crockett Island, in order to get his son away from the institutionalized Islamophobia he himself had suffered from since 9/11.
  • Northern Exposure: New York City physician Joel Fleischman, fresh from med school, moves to the quirky small town of Cicely, Alaska as part of a financial aid package from the state.
  • Northern Rescue: The West family goes from Boston to a small Canadian town after the death of their mother shortly before the series began. The kids struggle with it some.
  • Once Upon a Time: Boston bail bonds collector Emma Swan moves to the strange little town of Storybrooke, ME after forming a connection with Storybrooke resident Henry. Turns out that Storybrooke is populated by Fairy Tale characters, with Emma discovering she is actually the child of Snow White and Prince Charming, the biological mother of Henry, and the only one who can save Storybrooke from the clutches of the Evil Queen.
  • Riverdale: Hermione and Veronica Lodge, New York City elites, move to Riverdale at the beginning to wait out the scandal of family patriarch Hiram facing embezzlement charges.
  • Road to Avonlea: Sara Stanley is sent away to live with her relatives when her father gets into legal and financial trouble because of a fraudulent accountant.
  • Schitt's Creek: The Rose family were globe-trotting, super-wealthy socialites prior to getting exiled to Schitt’s Creek, and son David had been New York City-based, where he ran a pretentious lower Manhattan gallery.
  • Stranger Things: Season Two introduces Max Mayfield and Billy Hargrove, step-siblings who have moved with her mother and his father from San Diego, California to Hawkins, Indiana. Neither of them is happy with the change, although Max comes to like the town.
  • Tulsa King: After being released from a long stint in prison, New York City mafia capo Dwight "The General" Manfredi is ordered to move to Tulsa and start some profitable criminal enterprise.

  • 13: After his parents' divorce when it turns out his father was having an affair, Evan and his mom move from New York to the small town of Appleton, Indiana. Evan struggles with adapting to a new school in a completely new environment (the year he is supposed to have his Bar Mitzvah, no less), but finds True Companions in the town by the end.

    Video Games 
  • Naomi Hayward from The Good Life moved from New York City to Rainy Woods in order to pay off a massive debt. She hates it there, frequently calling it a "goddamn hellhole".
  • Quite a few Harvest Moon protagonists start out as city dwellers before getting their hands on the farm (sometimes through inheritance, other times they buy it willingly). Successfully integrating yourself among the townsfolk is part of the game.
  • Life Is Strange:
    • In the original game, Max is technically returning to her hometown of Arcadia Bay after moving to Seattle 5 years before (at the age of 13), but she's enough of a Stranger in a Familiar Land that it winds up in line with this trope. She can even admit to Chloe that she much preferred the big city and only came back because she wanted to study photography under Mr. Jefferson (although she doesn't resent being "stuck" there as much as Chloe does).
    • The prequel, Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, reveals that Chloe's Replacement Goldfish best friend Rachel Amber (whose disappearance forms a large part of the original game's story arc) moved to Arcadia Bay from California. As the first game hinted, she utterly resents being there, and moving away is her main goal.
  • Persona 4 is set in a small rural town called Inaba, and has a few characters that recently moved there from bigger cities. These include the protagonist, who is living with his uncle for a year while his parents work overseas, Yosuke Hanamura, whose dad was assigned to manage a new branch of a large department store chain that recently opened in town, and Tohru Adachi, a police detective who was transferred there as punishment for some sort of screw-up. Both Yosuke and Adachi struggle with the resulting Small Town Boredom, which in the latter's case drives him to become a Serial Killer.
  • The player character in Stardew Valley starts off as an office drone in the city before answering the Call to Agriculture and moving to the farmlands near Pelican Town.

    Visual Novels 


    Western Animation 
  • Gravity Falls: Dipper and Mabel are sent by their parents from Piedmont, California (a suburb of Oakland) to spend the summer with their great uncle in the titular rural town, located in Oregon.
  • The Long Long Holiday: In the summer of 1939, siblings Ernest and Colette travel with their parents from their home in Paris to visit their grandparents in a small town in Brittany for a short holiday visit. Then France enters World War II. When their father enlists and their mother has to go to Switzerland to recover from tuberculosis, the siblings end up being raised by their grandparents in the small town until at least the end of the war in 1945. Ernest (and Colette much less reluctantly) grows to love the town, and especially their True Companions The Robinsons.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The main character, Twilight Sparkle, begins the series as a university student in the capital city of Canterlot, who visits the rural town of Ponyville to overlook the preparations for a festival at the behest of her mentor. She decides to stay after making a group of friends, with the town becoming the show's main setting.
  • Praise Petey: Petey loses her career in New York City and moves to the podunk town of New Utopia, where her late father started a cult.