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From New York to Nowhere

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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) wondering 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 movies, as the setting and the wide assortment of colorful characters is crucial to the story.


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    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, and 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 
  • 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...
  • Beetlejuice: The Deetzes move from New York 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 NY 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 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 a 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 Beverley 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.
  • 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.
  • Lost in America features a high-earning couple who decide to cash in 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 in 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 Twilight, Bella moves from Phoenix, Arizona, to a small town in Washington to live with her father while her mother travels.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Green Acres: New York lawyer Oliver Douglas moves to the small 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.
  • Northern Exposure: New York 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-based, where he ran a pretentious lower Manhattan gallery.

  • 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 
  • 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 home town 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.
  • This is a recurring theme in Persona 4 thanks to its setting of the small rural town of Inaba, with several characters having 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 detective who was transferred as punishment for some sort of screw-up. Both Yosuke and Adachi have to deal 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 ending 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.


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