According to a recent report, only about 20 percent of Americans say they regularly spend time with their neighbors. That’s down from 30 percent in the 1970s, when respondents reported spending time with their neighbors at least twice a week.
Why does this matter? Getting to know your neighbors helps build community and keeps your neighborhood (and family) safe.
Plus, positive relationships with neighbors can come in handy if your car needs a jump or if you need someone to keep an eye on your house while you’re out of town.
Growing your social network may not feel as urgent as completing your first round of renovations and establishing a home maintenance schedule, but you shouldn’t wait too long before introducing yourself to the folks next door – after all, it takes a while to go from friendly neighbors to neighbors who are friends.
Let’s look at five ways to make friends in your new neighborhood.
Only about 20% of Americans say they regularly spend time with their neighbors.
1. Find Out Who Lives on Your Street
Online groups and apps can help you meet and connect with your neighbors. And they’re a great place to start.
Search for a neighborhood group on Facebook or locate your neighborhood on NextDoor to find out who lives on your street and in your neighborhood. Both platforms also have an app, so you can check in with meetup groups on the go.
If you’re interested in analog opportunities to meet your neighbors, look for local newspapers and alt weeklies to find out what’s going on in your neck of the woods. If you’re not sure what’s available, the Library of Congress provides an excellent (and nerdy) search tool to help find publications near you.
Your city’s municipal website may include a list of neighborhood listservs, which will deliver pertinent local news to your inbox. The city website is also a great place to get the details on local events, like festivals and town hall meetings.
2. Attend Local Forums
Ask your real estate agent if your areas is governed by a community organization or neighborhood board. In some places, this may be called a block club or a neighborhood group.
Depending on the size of your city, school board and city council meetings may be among the best venues for getting a sense of what’s going on in your neighborhood. The first time you go may feel intimidating, but you’re sure to learn a lot about infrastructure projects, new taxes, and local politics.
If nothing else, these meetings are a chance to pick up talking points for the next time you run into a neighbor. Who knows – you may pick up some hot gossip while you’re there.
If you’ve bought a condo, you may have the opportunity to participate in condo board meetings. In fact, you may be obligated to. If this is the case, embrace the opportunity to get to know your neighbors, their values, and how they connect.
3. Get Outside
Go for a walk around the block or take the kids to the park. Visit any restaurants or shops that are accessible by foot to get the lay of the land, and you’ll soon become a familiar face in the neighborhood.
Folks may try to give you space when you first move in to let you settle and unpack. Whether you’re doing landscaping or relaxing on the porch, going outside signals that you’re open to relaxing and socializing.
The trick is to make yourself accessible, and leaving the house accomplishes that.
4. Seek Opportunities to Socialize
Perhaps your move was rooted in a desire for change. Unless that change includes a secluded cabin and years off the grid, consider it part of your relocation project to get out there and get involved in your new community.
- Look for volunteer opportunities. Whether the community garden needs helping hands or a local festival is looking for assistance selling tickets, volunteer opportunities are a low-commitment way to get to know some of your neighbors.
- Walk dogs at the local shelter. Okay, this also counts as volunteering, but if you’re on the shy side, it may help to have a canine interlocutor to break the ice. Of course, you can also adopt a dog to build your credentials at the dog park. If you do choose to bring a pup home, there are a few considerations to take into account when it comes to your homeowners insurance. And of course, your furry friend has to be the right choice for your family.
- Join an adult recreation league or meetup group. Sports are an easy way to get involved with a group of people without having to talk about yourself. Get to know which of your neighbors share your interests by seeking out online meetup groups or joining a local team at the town rec facility.
- Borrow a cup of sugar. Or something small. Start the chain of exchange with your neighbors in whatever way makes you feel most comfortable. It can be hard to figure out what kind of cookies the neighbors might appreciate (given allergies and dietary restrictions), but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the first step toward a friendship. Don’t hesitate to knock on your neighbor’s door to introduce yourself. Your recent move is pretext enough for a conversation. And they’ll appreciate that you care whose fence line you share.
However you choose to approach neighborhood engagement, it’s up to you to find your place in the community. While you may be lucky enough to get a personal invitation to a soccer league, be prepared to seek out these connections yourself.
5. Host a Housewarming Party
Once you’re done decorating your home, you may feel ready to open the doors. Whether you’re game for an indoor potluck or prepared to host a low-key barbeque, the best way to get to know your neighbors is to invite them over for an afternoon.
To make sure the event is well-attended, hand-deliver invitations so folks know whose home they’re being invited to. If the idea of hosting an all-night party makes you feel exhausted, consider advertising it as an afternoon meet-and-greet that’s only a couple of hours long. By putting hours on the invitation, you set clear expectations for your guests.
Your new house is your home for the long haul, and building quality relationships takes time.
It Takes Time to Build Strong Ties
Say yes to new opportunities, but don’t be too hard on yourself if friendships don’t seem to stick right away. It may take a while to feel at home in your new neighborhood, even as you grow accustomed to the locations of your house’s light switches.
Talking to your neighbors can help you find out how to prepare for local weather and what kinds of security measures they take. You just might find someone you trust enough to hold onto a spare set of keys in case you ever get locked out.
There are many benefits to meeting and getting to know your neighbors, and some of them, like trust, can’t be rushed. Your new house is your home for the long haul, and building quality relationships takes time. What’s important is that you get started.