My home town is full of betting shops and cafés – the perils of making career plans while growing up in the countryside

Photograph by Nick Hubbard

Photograph by Nick Hubbard

I come from a large town called King’s Lynn, in Norfolk – you might have heard of it, more than likely you haven’t, but it is close to the Sandringham Royal Estate where good old Queenie comes for her Christmas lunch and is plonked halfway between Cambridge and Norwich.

Google Maps - King's Lynn

Google Maps – King’s Lynn

It doesn’t really matter where I am from, but I thought it was polite to introduce myself. On a quick walk around the town centre during my lunch break, I couldn’t help but notice yet another betting shop had popped up, add this to the countless charity and pound shops, and of course the ridiculous number of cafés  and coffee shops and that just about makes up my home town. The King’s Lynn high street has certainly noticed a decline in the number and quality of shops over recent years, with several branches of huge chains closing due to high rents and lack of footfall, but on the contrary, we have had our first, and rather large Primark open, along with two huge new Sainsbury’s and Tesco superstores. So perhaps things are on the up?

But I’m more concerned with those who are younger, the teenagers and high school students growing up in a town like this, those trying to further their work experience and careers, and those forced to move home following university – just what is it like growing up in a town like this? I thought I would take a closer look at the pros and cons of town life and how it affects our futures.

Photo by Elliott Brown

Photo by Elliott Brown


  • Everyone grows up in a small town with the attitude that their home is a “shit-hole”, they treat is so because they have not chosen to grow up here and because they know nothing else.
  • Everyone spends their youth looking for an escape, some rush to do so without qualifications and end up struggling while others do well. Half will go on to university (some of these just to escape rather than to study something they love) and the other half will settle down young with kids (multiple) and usually a great deal of drama in their relationships.
  • It is difficult to get to find work sometimes with so many people going for the same jobs and the range is less – with most work in retail or waitressing/pub work rather than perhaps securing lower jobs in larger companies with chances to work your way up.
  • Less opportunities for work experience in certain fields – I was the first to be given the opportunity to do work experience at the local paper for nearly a decade – and there are very limited options for those in year 10 who are looking to learn about work for future careers – many end up spending the two weeks in a school despite having no interest in teaching.
  • For those who have been forced to return when they finish university – there is a real lack of jobs in certain areas, for example, marketing and business, which means graduates are forced into lower paid and unrelated jobs to make ends meet.
  • Less independence in some ways – perhaps a lack of experiencing travelling around a bustling city alone and less responsibility for own personal safety – but at the same time this could work in the opposite way and individuals can become very independent – but also can experience the freedom of a real childhood.
Photo by Bremnma

Photo by Bremnma


  • My absolute favourite pro of living in Norfolk has got to be the incredible location, I am walking distance from endless woods and beaches, I live near a castle surrounded by a moat, the Queen lives just up the road from me, and soon, so will Wills, Kate and baby George. There is so much to see and do, and I have truly grown up as a ruddy faced youngster with bright eyes and a runny nose from running around outside covered in mud – the way all children should grow up.
  • Easy access to Central London (just two hours on the train) which means commuting is possible for further work experience either in London or Cambridge, or just for trips out.
  • There is more opportunity for work experience with lesser candidates and a chance to blow your own path where others haven’t before. A chance to be a big fish in a small pond before tackling the ocean. Again, this really helped me with my journalism.
  • A lack of distractions and more opportunity to focus on your studies in smaller schools so you get more attention and focus from the teachers… (this does depend on the school and the teachers though)
  • Leaving the town for university really helps you to gain perspective and realise that your home is not a “shit-hole” and it makes you appreciate it for the future. You may even willingly return and take up a job here.
  • You have the opportunity to become close to a company and lay the groundwork on a personal level before finishing university which can really help with securing a job post-graduation whereas in a larger company, or one that sees a lot of interns, your face could be lost in a sea of expectant students. Plus, you would really have to shine on paper as well as in person compared to a town.
  • Less travel – commuting is a pet hate of mine and I am lucky to have found a job in my home town which takes me just seven minutes drive in the morning and a short walk – in a city, you could be on a bus/tube for up to an hour or you could be travelling by train out of the city. This is exhausting and adds a lot of time onto your working day.
  • Having this extra time can provide you with the opportunity to look into other areas as extracurriculars – for example, my festival writing has been helped by having lots of festivals close by and it was this that got me into it. It could also give you a chance to do something completely different such as volunteering for the Lifeboat.
  • Inspiration – these beautiful Norfolk landscapes are the inspiration for so much local talent whether musically, theatrical, dance, art or anything else – it can be a great head-clearer and muse for writers and especially bloggers. I love getting outside and blowing away the cobwebs – always gives me an idea for a new post such as this.
Photo by Jon Bunting

Photo by Jon Bunting

I’m sure I could list many, many more pros and cons, but I think that I’ve covered the main ones. With all these thoughts in my head lately about the future, I have found myself wondering how much growing up in King’s Lynn and returning here has affected my career and plans – I wonder what I might be doing if I weren’t here working as a journalist. It must be a concern for students now, especially those living in a small town, that their limited experience as a result of living in such a town might hold them back – but I want to reassure all students out there that this is not the case and in fact living in a small town instead of central London could help your future rather than hindering it.

4 responses to “My home town is full of betting shops and cafés – the perils of making career plans while growing up in the countryside

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