Our lives are incredibly busy these days, so busy in fact, that many of us – especially in urban centres – don’t know who lives next door, let alone take the time to get to know who they are.
Usually after a move, the last thing we want to do before we’re settled in is go next door and introduce ourselves to the neighbours. It’s understandable, your world has been uprooted and planted in a new place where you’re likely to feel like a fish-out-of-water for a few weeks.
But consider that knowing your new neighbours, at least on a wave, or first name basis, will dramatically help you to feel situated and comfortable in your new neighbourhood faster. Here are a few helpful tips for getting to know your new next door neighbour – because you never know – you could end up making some really great friends along the way.
Make Yourself Visible
Instead of hanging out in the new backyard around the BBQ or new pool, try hanging out on your new front porch or deck instead, so you’re visible from the street. Chances are, a neighbor pulling in their driveway, or taking out the trash will notice you, and you can make your move to spark up an initial conversation.
Strangely enough, this is an old design concept for early urban planners – wherein the front porch would be used regularly by adults to watch the neighbourhood kids play, both theirs and others – nowadays it could help to reconstruct those old social ties of tight-knit communities.
At the very least, offer a smile when you’re cutting your grass, or shovelling your driveway. It’ll help you to feel like you’re putting your best foot forward.
Shake Some Hands
Yeah, you’re going to be busy unpacking and getting the kids settled at a new school, or yourself at a new job – but taking the time to walk the neighbourhood and shake two or three sets of hands per week will help you to get a sense of your communities’ collective culture, and how you can be a part of it. It only takes 30 minutes, and is a great way to get those awkward first encounters out of the way, and onward to meaningful chats.
Better yet, take your dog to the local off-leash dog park. It’s a great place to have easy conversations with people regarding a common topic – you both apparently have an affinity for dogs, right?
Host a Backyard BBQ or Cocktail Party
Block parties used to be an old way to get the neighbourhood together for some good cheer and a bite to eat. These days, it’s much more applicable (and easier to plan) if you try inviting your neighbours over for a drink or two after work.
Planning an impromptu BYOB meet-and-greet with a few neighbours is a great way to break the ice, invite them to your new space and introduce yourself. Serve a few appetisers, like wine and cheese, chips, pop, and the rest. Invite their kids to accompany them to introduce your own little ones so they can start to make some new friends.
That’s OK – our modern society places a lot of pressure on people to be upfront and confident all the time. Small talk in groups can be difficult to master, instead, concentrate on meeting one or two of your immediate next door neighbours as a way to start.
As a tip, be on the look-out over the first few days of living in your new space and learn if perhaps one of your neighbours is your age, or has a bumper sticker on their car of your favourite team, for example. Giving yourself a couple of days to find a commonality or work up the courage to say ‘hey’ is a great way to start a new relationship.
If you’re finding it’s increasingly difficult to meet people in your new community, consider volunteering some time at work, in a few community events, or at your child’s school. Attend concerts, take a class, join a club or a local sports pool, or make yourself a regular at the local coffee shop.
Read the community newspaper for info on local happenings, and try visiting the hotspots to get a sense of what people do where you’ve moved. Sign up for a fun sports league at the local community centre, join a gym, and try a few of the local watering holes and restaurants while you’re at it.
It’s never easy to get to know new people in a new neighbourhood, but taking the plunge and introducing yourself can often be the best decision you can make when you’re feeling a little alone in a new community. Take the plunge and introduce yourself to a few people, you’ll be happy you did.