Whether or not you consider yourself a social butterfly, meeting your new neighbors is a key part of the moving experience. Getting off on the right foot is important. And even if you don’t wind up becoming besties, you’ve at least taken away some of the awkwardness that comes with being the new face on the block.
Here are a few tips and tricks for saying and doing the right things, right from the start. Good luck!
Answer the Door
In many communities – particularly smaller ones – one of your neighbors is likely to come by on move-in day or shortly afterward offering a friendly handshake or even a casserole. You may not be looking your best or feel ready to receive guests but, if at all possible, take a deep breath, collect your thoughts and open the door. A pleasant porch chat is perfectly okay and if the two of you click, think about inviting them inside for a soda or snack.
Spend Time Outside
Your new neighbors may feel shy about ringing your doorbell, but a friendly smile and wave from you across the lawn can work just as well. From there, it’s natural to have a short back and forth about topics like the weather, where you’re from, what you do and how the move went. The trick here is to socialize but keep it light until you know each other better.
Take a Walk
Not only is this good exercise, but it’s also a way to familiarize yourself with the ebb and flow of neighborhood activities. Weather permitting, try walking in the evenings when adults are more likely to be doing yard work or playing with their kids. And while it might feel a little awkward the first couple of times, take the plunge and introduce yourself. If the conversation goes well, suggest they stop by for a visit.
If you own a dog, bring her along as a way to strike up a conversation. A brief chat about a pet is an excellent way to break the ice.
Did the neighbor mention something about an upcoming birthday, wedding anniversary, promotion or other milestone event? It’s easier to pick up – and respond to – these types of social cues if you keep your ears open. Then you can respond – by sending a card, baking some cookies or even just giving them a warm, sincere “congratulations.” Remember, it’s all about fitting into the flow – and being a thoughtful person.
The trick here is not to make going online the only way you’re reaching out. Sure, communicating digitally is less awkward for many of us, but think of it more as a portal for getting to know the neighbors versus the primary way you’re connecting. An app like Nextdoor where you enter your home address to receive an overview of local activities and events can help. Then it’s a matter of getting out there and participating.
Hold a Garage Sale
While you’ve probably gotten rid of lots of things before the move, you may have found that certain items really don’t go well with your new décor or fit into your new home the way you envisioned. Whatever the case, a yard or garage sale is a great conversation starter – and a way to put your hobbies and interests out there for the browsers to see. From a social standpoint, those baseball cards you’ve be holding onto for years might wind up being more valuable as a conversation starter than as a collection.
Granted that a big box store in a different part of town might offer most of what you need day to day but start with the locals first. Small business owners are always happy to welcome a new customer – and they tend to know about the places people gather, good restaurants, other go-to businesses (like the best dry cleaner) and what’s going on in the local community.
Have the Neighbors Over
It doesn’t need to be a formal housewarming party or sit-down meal. Keep it small by inviting just the immediate neighbors over for a night at the movies – or kick it up a notch with a backyard barbeque. If you’re so inclined, make invitations and deliver them to your neighbors’ front doors. Be sure they have enough contact info to RSVP.
It’s not much different than what worked back in high school or college: the more you put yourself out there, the better chance you have to build relationships with like-minded people. Check out your town’s website or the chamber of commerce’s community calendar for info about volunteer opportunities, local farmers markets and street fairs. Become active in a house of worship or your kids’ school. Jump into a fun run or join a local service organization. As you become more of a “regular” in the community, you’ll soon feel connected with others who share your passions and interests.
Ask For – and Give – Help
People always feel good about helping each other out, and as the neighborhood newbie, asking for help with a minor task or their opinion about a store or restaurant is a win-win. You’ll benefit from their knowledge of must-sees and go-to’s and chances are they’ll even include you in some of their activities. On the other side of the equation, if you see a neighbor struggling to unload groceries or shoveling their driveway, step up and offer your assistance. This will show you’re a good neighbor and someone they can depend upon.
Perhaps the most important tip of all is to be authentic. If that means you’re not comfortable sharing all the details of your life or having regular get-togethers, remember the goal is a smooth, comfortable relationship with the people around you. But don’t be surprised to discover that as they get to know you – and you, them – you’ve built some friendships to cherish for a lifetime.
Looking for more helpful tips and tricks on everything from planning your move to decorating once you’re there? Be sure to check out our blog.