Hayden Panettiere, Southern Living

Jeremy Cowart/Southern Living Magazine

Hayden Panettiere may be a native New Yorker, but she's a country girl at heart.

The actress moved to Tennessee when she was cast as Juliette Barnes on Nashville in 2012, and she recently decided to buy a home in the Volunteer State with her fiancé, heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko. "I like being in a place where people appreciate the little things and don't need a lot of stuff to be happy. You can put a group of Southerners in any scenario and they'll have a good time," Panettiere, 24, tells Southern Living. "At my core, this is the kind of person I am and want to be."

"The people here are amazing. Living in Nashville gives me a sense of normalcy that I wasn't sure I was ever going to get back in my life," she raves. "When I first got here, all my defenses were still up, and I was waiting for that world to suddenly creep back in. When it didn't, I realized that I can live a normal life here with people who don't judge you based on what you do or who you are in the public eye."

The March 2014 cover girl says the "toughest" part of living in Nashville has been adjusting to the humidity. "I've found it helps to braid my hair when it's wet, rather than letting it air-dry," the blond beauty tells the magazine. "It tames the frizz. Otherwise, in the summer I look like a Pomeranian!"

Panettiere's "tomboy" and "chic" style has changed a bit, too. "It's a lot more laid-back, which suits me better," the Golden Globe nominee explains. "In L.A. and New York, you go out to lunch and everyone is wearing high heels. In Nashville if I see someone wearing heels, I get the sense they might not be from around here."

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