Neighborly etiquette is confusing.
According to a study reported in REALTOR® Magazine, 35% of Americans are annoyed by their neighbors at least once monthly. Some respondents to the cited survey even suggested that they would consider moving to get away from their irritating neighbor.
Maybe you’re moving to a new neighborhood. Maybe you’ve been living in the same place for a while and haven’t made the leap past introductions. A lot of us felt isolated during quarantine and realized it’s time to get to know the people who live nearby, and not only those in our online communities.
But it’s not easy to make new friends!
It can be nerve-wracking and uncomfortable to get to know neighbors. You want to make a good impression. You don’t want them to think poorly of you. You want to keep healthy boundaries. How do you get off on the right foot in a new community?
Whether you’re shy, awkward, or eager to make a good first impression, we suggest the following.
How to Get to Know Your Neighbors
1. Start slowly and pay attention.
You can learn a lot about the people who live nearby by being observant. Take a walk around your neighborhood on the weekend. Notice things. Who has pets? Who has kids? Who spends time in the garden? Who goes on walks? Look for signs in the windows and flags on the porch. Small clues reveal a lot.
2. Wave hello!
It may seem silly or simple, but by waving hello, you’re introducing yourself as someone who is friendly and approachable. It’s an easy way to start a connection without encroaching on any unknown or unspoken “rules”.
3. Ask questions.
Your veteran neighbors know so much about the neighborhood. It’s information you need. Soliciting their opinion communicates that you’re respectful, curious, and personable.
You might ask…
- What days and times are garbage and recyclable pick-ups? Are there special rules I need to follow?
- What is the mailperson’s name? Is mail delivery at the door or sidewalk?
- Does the town handle street sweeping?
- Are there any rules about parking on the street I should know? Is parking enforced by local authorities? Are there neighborly parking expectations about specific parts of the street?
- [If you’re in a complex or gated community] What is the best way to get in touch with the super or maintenance crew?
- Are there any days/times to avoid traffic in certain parts of town?
- Where are the schools located? Playgrounds? Parks? School and public bus stops?
- What fast food places are (not) recommended? Do you have a preferred market or shopping center?
- What hospital and/or urgent care center is nearby?
- What vet and/or animal hospital do you recommend?
- What landscapers do you use?
- What local stores do you recommend? Do you know anyone who owns a business in the area?
- What local attraction or annual event is a community staple? What local group or event is a great place to meet new people?
And a personal favorite…
- Did the previous homeowner help you in a way that I might be able to? Did the previous homeowner irritate you in anyway that I should avoid?
You may not like the answers they give, but asking the question gives you an opportunity to learn what your new neighbor likes and doesn’t like, gives them a chance to rave positive reviews or vent negative ones, and gets you a foundation for future conversation.
Pick a couple questions that seem most relevant. Asking everything all at once would be annoying for most people.
4. Offer to Help
If you see your neighbor juggling many grocery bags, offer to lend a hand. If they’re climbing a ladder, see if you can help stabilize it. When your neighbor is outside gardening, ask if you can be of any help. (And compliment the work they’re doing! People who work on their property take great pride in their work and appreciate when you notice things.)
5. Borrow a Tool – and Return It
Tools are the new “cup of sugar.” You wouldn’t feel comfortable ringing the doorbell to ask for ingredients, but there’s nothing wrong with asking to borrow a ratchet set or a hammer, and then returning it the same day. It shows you’re responsible, respectful, and productively working on getting settled in your new home.
6. Join the Group!
Your neighborhood extends past your block, past your street, throughout your local town or school district. Get involved and be active in the community to make friends!
- Join the online local social groups to find out details about local festivals, concerts, and events.
- Attend the school board meetings, library board meetings, PTA meetings, and other civic events.
- Sign up for a library card and take a workshop at the local library.
- Attend school and community concerts, plays, musicals, and sporting events. The school will usually keep an activity list of upcoming events or publish an annual calendar to use as a guide.
- Visit the Dog Run at a local park.
- Volunteer! Your local food pantry, retirement community, shelter, hospital, and environmental conservation groups are always looking for people to lend a hand. Make community service a staple in acclimating to your new community.
7. Host a Meet-and-Greet
Once you’ve settled in and the timing seems right, host a small get-together for your block. Don’t worry about doing it when you first move in – it can happen anytime. Invite your neighbors with a quick note to a weekend meet-and-greet in your yard. Have drinks and snacks on hand for a few hours and offer the opportunity to stop by and chat. The curious and friendly among your neighbors will visit – or return the note with an invitation to their home for another day.
Final Things to Remember for Making a Good Impression
- Slowly introduce yourself
- Take the pressure off
- Expect some awkwardness at first
- Ease into the community
- Seek out opportunities
- Make few assumptions
- Listen well and empathize