I finally figured out why people around here are so unsociable. Local Facebook helped me figure it out.
Our small town is surrounded by many other small towns. The way it works in the US is that these towns bleed into each other. There’s no “empty space” between them and no firmly demarcated boundaries.
My town is considered the richest one. People from neighboring towns (that are a 5-minute drive away) call us “the fairytale land.” We have the most expensive restaurants and coffee shops, whole subdivisions filled with mansions, the most racially integrated neighborhoods, the greatest number of languages spoken on the playground, and the greatest ethnic diversity of high-earning immigrants.
There is a lot of resentment in the neighboring little towns (some of which are opioid country and completely dying out) against my town’s $12 avocado toast joints with bicycles attached to juice blenders. Many people from neighboring villages bust their asses to buy a house in our area code to get access to the good schools and the fancy life but soon discover that they are shut out by the new neighbors.
Since there is no way to know who exactly belongs in the Fairytale Land and who just drove in from the neighboring places, people police the boundaries of interpersonal relationships and avoid all contact with anyone they aren’t completely sure is a native of the Fairytale Land.