I have just enjoyed an overnight visit from a couple who used to be my neighbours more than 15 years ago. Back then we used to live on 10 acre blocks, so visiting meant walking across paddocks and turning up in our gumboots. Our relationship was forged over social occasions, helping on “the farm” and sharing resources during frequent power cuts.
Nowadays my neighbours are much, much, closer to me and happily I can say that we are beginning to forge the same kind of dependable relationships. I have also lived next door to neighbours who never spoke to me! It’s probably not surprising that in the former situation, I feel more settled, comfortable, and safe. I only have to walk out of my door to share a chat and I know that if I need a hand, someone is very close by!
So, how do you get to know your neighbours? How can you begin to forge the kind of relationships where you actually feel like you can count on one another in times of need? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Be the first person to walk over and say hi, either to knock on your neighbour’s door or to wander over when your neighbour is out mowing or weeding. If that is one step too far for you, then consider introducing yourself via a warm and friendly greeting card as a simple gesture to get their attention. Use it to introduce yourself through a short and sweet message, including your name and contact number. Leave the card on their doorstep or slip it into their mailbox as a nice surprise.
2.Be yourself and respect your neighbour’s differences.
Your neighbour will likely have a different background and differing views and concerns to yours. You don’t need to be a match! You just need to be a good neighbour, which means considering what you might do that either annoys or enhances your neighbour’s lifestyle. (Consider the noise you make, planting on the boundary, knowing when to keep your distance, etc)
3.Share The Love
Have an abundance of backyard kai you can’t get through quick enough? Or perhaps you have stacks of books piling around the house? A community pātaka (pantry) is a great way to share surplus foods or goods with neighbours without having to go door-to-door.
4.Lend A Hand
A neighbour’s overgrown yard or dilapidated fence might not be due to a lack of care, it could simply be a sign they don’t have the means or mobility to be able to look after it themselves. Giving your time to mow, paint or fix will not only boost the look and feel of the entire neighbourhood but the pride of the residents who live there as well.
5.Take The Rubbish Out
Managing your rubbish and recycling is one thing, but it’s another thing to care about the litter that ends up on your street that you didn’t create. By picking up loose bits of rubbish and any other waste you come across, you help to show others that your neighbourhood is well looked after and the people who live there care.
If you notice a neighbour on your route to work regularly, suggest a carpool! You’ll be helping your hip pocket and the environment, while simultaneously turning a neighbour into a friend.
7.Plan a pet date
Chat to fellow dog walkers as you pass them and arrange pet play dates at a local dog friendly park.
8.Host a gathering on the front lawn or at a local café
Put flyers in your neighbour’s letterboxes inviting them to bring a plate and meet on your front lawn. Alternatively, invite them to meet their neighbours at a local café. Don’t worry if at first you get few replies; when people see something happening, they want to be part of it next time!
9.Doing some baking – double the recipe & share
Think of your neighbour when you have extra baking or produce from the garden. What is a nuisance or potential wastage for you may be treasured by them!
10.Host a women’s/men’s dessert night
11.Organize a street party
Go all out. Street parties are a fantastic way for everyone in the neighbourhood to meet each other at once. Drop invitations in your neighbour’s letterbox with BYO requirements and set up some tables and chairs in a quiet part of the street, your front lawn or the nearby park and you’re set!
Whatever you decide to do, even if just a friendly smile and wave when you see your neighbours, it will be worth the investment. All of us can help to create the warm and supportive neighbourhood that we all want to live in!
Starting a Group | Neighbourhood Support New Zealand