If you caught up with us last week, you know that home security starts with neighborhood security, and neighborhood security starts with neighbors! But even in these days of constant communication, it can be strangely hard to connect with those who are, quite literally, closest to us. Although most of us would like to be friendlier with our neighbors, it's easier said than done (after all, no one wants to be Kramer). If you, like many Americans, know the make of your neighbor's car far better than the content of his character, read on for some tips on how to change that!
1. Take Back the Front Porch
Sometimes putting yourself out there is as easy as literally putting yourself out there. Modern architects are beginning to re-emphasize the importance of common spaces, designing new apartment buildings that feature communal kitchens, central gardens, and hangout areas. But regular neighborhoods of all kinds present plenty of opportunities for no-effort mingling. Instead of reading in your living room, take your book to the park — someone might recognize the cover, or you. Spend a lot of time gardening? Try putting a couple of planters at the border of your property and see if Mrs. Jones next door stops to smell the roses. Hang out on your balcony in the evening for a few days and watch the sunset while everyone straggles home from work. If nothing else, you'll start to recognize people, and be able to build a better mental picture of where you live.
2. Get In Right Out Of The Gate
Moving is one long to-do list, and you might be tempted to put "meet the folks next door" way at the bottom. But the best (and easiest) time to become a part of the neighborhood is when you first get there. You have any number of excuses for ringing the surrounding doorbells, from "we'd love to introduce ourselves!" to "when is trash day?" to the classic "can I borrow a cup of sugar?" If someone offers to help you muscle that huge Davenport up the stairs, definitely say yes — the neighbors that sway together stay together. Plus, everyone is naturally curious about the new kid. Might as well milk your celebrity status while it lasts.
3. Join The Ranks
You know all those flyers that show up in your mailbox? The ones you put directly into the fireplace or recycling bin? Some of those are advertising local causes and events. Maybe even ones you might be interested in. Town meetings, yard sales, neighborhood watch committees, block parties, bingo nights, pickup basketball . . . get out there, do something you like, and shake a few new hands while you're at it!
4. Make 'Em An Offer(ing) They Can't Refuse
Once you've lived somewhere for a long time without introducing yourself, it can be hard to find an occasion to finally do it. Luckily, there's a way to smooth almost every interpersonal pathway, and it's called PRESENTS. If you're the type who whips up batches of homemade jam or grows way too many zucchinis, bring some next door. Even if you're not, you must occasionally end up with an excess of something (your mom's christmas cookies? those apartment-specific lightbulbs that are so hard to find?) the couple upstairs might appreciate. According to a recent study by Harris Interactive, 67% of Americans would love to know their neighbors better. And I bet if they were asked specifically about neighbors bearing baked goods, that number would rise. They're not called brownie points for nothing.
5. Party Block Anthem
Not everyone has the necessary time, energy, and pizzazz to organize a community get-together. But if you're up to the challenge, the neighborhood is your oyster. Whether you settle on a floor-exclusive gathering in your apartment, a bring-your-own-picnic night in the local park, or a full-on block party, anything that gets neighbors talking and laughing in the same place is sure to boost community spirit. You can find more tips, and even register your party nationally, at the National Night Out website.
Have more tips for bringing the neighborhood together? Share them in the comments!