Hanover is a tiny, postage-stamp-sized town that is culturally very different from the surrounding towns and countryside that make up the Upper Valley region. The College’s influence over the character of the town is unmistakable. It is an elegant, well-groomed, cosmopolitan place, a little reminiscent of the Alpine villages of western Switzerland. Hanover's commercial district (if it can be said to have one, because it’s so small), comprises various international eateries, gourmet coffee shops, and fashionable, high-end retailers, and the town has no more than two or three stoplights. Venturing outside of Hanover proper is a 10- to 15-minute drive to the closest real commercial center—the town of West Lebanon. A drive into West Lebanon, which is a little on the divey, strip mall side, can be a revealing experience for a sheltered, upper-middle class college kid. The socioeconomic and cultural disparity between collegiate Hanover and the rest of the community is immediately apparent. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, most of this town/gown discontinuity is safely relegated to areas just beyond Hanover town limits. The vast majority of Hanover’s inhabitants are associated with the College in one way or another, whether they are professors, researchers or medical professionals who work nearby at the world famous Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, or wealthy alumni who have returned to live out their golden years within sight of Dartmouth’s emblematic clocktower.
Hanover can be appropriately described as a “quaint,” “charming,” and “quintessentially New England” college town. It is also a very isolated place that can feel even more isolated when the winter snows set in. How much a particular student benefits from Dartmouth’s unique location really depends on the individual and his or her interests. Dartmouth does tend to attract a greater proportion of the outdoorsy, back-to-nature types than does, say, Columbia. The sheer natural beauty of the place is breathtaking.