One of the most common complaints heard today, in conversation as well as in articles, books, and even indirectly through poetry, is the lack of community and sense of connection people feel in modern society. Grandparents will often reminiscent about times of old, when people were friends with their neighbors and there was a cohesive, tight, family feeling on the block. My mother would often say to me that when she was a child, nobody hired a babysitter. You simply left your children with your neighbors when you had to go out at night.
Granted times have changed, but studies conducted on longevity and good health show that having friends and a sense of community contribute significantly to greater happiness in life as well as to longevity. Therefore, the ability to step outside your front door, walk down the block and feel a sense of friendship or camaraderie with your neighbors is not only a prescription for greater happiness in life, but also for your health!
One of the best ways to build friendships and connections with neighbors is naturally at the time when someone on the block is first moving in. It’s also a great opportunity to model for your children, or the children moving in, the importance of kindness and reaching out to others—especially at a time of need.
The following tips will help with some great pointers on welcoming new neighbors and thus accelerate the acclimatization process.
1. If possible, find out who your new neighbors will be before they move in. Do they have children (and what are their ages), where are they moving from, do they have pets? Knowing this can help you decide what might best be of help to them when you first meet them. If you don’t have access to this information, you will find out soon enough when you knock on their door. But it’s nice to know first if you can.
2. Knocking on the door. It’s almost a cliche…the neighbors ringing on the door holding an apple pie and plant to say “Welcome to our Neighborhood.” However, as trite as that visual is, the warm feeling it produces is very real. The cliched gifts are always welcoming, and they work! Cakes and pies (either homemade or store bought),; chocolate mousse in a parfait glass with whipped cream; a basket carrying two tubs of ice-cream, whipped cream and strawberries; a basket filled with proverbial home-baked cookies; an indoor plant, herb plant, or orchids; a crystal or glass vase with flowers;—all of these would be lovely to hold in your hand as you ring your new neighbors’ door for the first time.
3. It’s no secret, moving is physically draining and exhausting. It also often produces a ravenous appetite, and it’s not always possible for the family moving in to get to a restaurant or take-out place when in the middle of a move. Sure, they may have brought sandwiches and water bottles, but there is nothing like a warm meal at a time like this. One of the kindest and most memorable things you can do for your new neighbor on their moving day is to provide them with warm food. This is not always possible. You may have had no notice about their moving day, and most likely will have no knowledge of any particular food requirements, allergies, etc. they would have. However, if it works out at all, and you have the opportunity and option to bring over a warm dish, or to invite them over for a light supper, this would be the ultimate welcome you could provide. And if it doesn’t work out on moving day, you can always offer for the following night when they will still be exhausted most likely from unpacking.
4. If your new neighbors have children, they most likely are very concerned about situating their children as quickly as possible. They will want information to help find friends for their children, sports and recreational activities in the neighborhood, etc. One of the most helpful things you can do for a new neighbor is introduce them to the children and parents on the block; share your knowledge of pediatricians, schools, camps and programs; provide names and numbers for reliable babysitters; and facilitate anything else that would be of help.
5. Grocery stores, restaurants, dry cleaners, plumbers, handymen, even physicians, the list goes on! Making a list of important local places and professionals along with contact info can be invaluable to your new neighbors.
6. Be sure to ask how you can be of help given that the moving boxes are still not unpacked (or at least fully unpacked). Would your new neighbors want to borrow a book or magazine to read that evening, a DVD to watch, paper goods for the bathroom or kitchen? What about a few refrigerator necessities like milk, bread, juice? Often times, people don’t want to impose, so they might answer “no thank-you” when you first ask if you can be of help or do a quick grocery shop for them. But if you absolutely insist and offer suggestions for how you could help, they might open up and admit they would love a carton of milk or box of tissues or your latest espionage novel for the evening.
7. Throw a block party or welcome party. A wonderful way to welcome your neighbors and help make your block come together even more is throw a welcome party, which you could host jointly with another family. At the party, if you are feeling creative, you can play games that allows people to learn more about each other. Trivial pursuit, a home version of Family Feud, or games with families as teams are all great ice-breakers. If it goes well, you might even want to institute doing a block party (in a home or on the street) once every few months thereafter.
Welcoming a new neighbor is really a wonderful opportunity to build a more cohesive, community-oriented block and make lifelong friends.
Anna Jennifer is a third-generation mover. She currently writes for New Haven Moving Equipment a leading moving equipment manufacturer and supplier with 105 years of customer service. You can connect with Newhaven-usa on Facebook.