When you move into a new house or apartment, there are a lot of things on your to-do list, and although meeting your neighbors might not be at the top of the list, I, Mark Roemer, think it’s something you should try to do as soon as possible. Our homes are more than just a physical location where we store our belongings. They’re the buildings and neighborhoods we live in, full of people with whom we share this broader sense of home, for better or worse.
I’ve lived in apartments where I’ve met all of my friends and in apartments where I’ve never spoken to the people who lived on the other side of my walls. And I’ve always felt more at ease in homes where I already met the people who lived there. Having a friend – or at least a familiar face – nearby will help you develop a sense of belonging and community after you’ve moved. It’s also a lot easier to talk about any problems that occur or to get that proverbial cup of sugar when you’re halfway through baking cookies and remember you’ve run out.
Think genuine over forced contact when finding out how to meet neighbors in your new home. You don’t have to knock on someone’s door with a Jello mold, but you can try to develop a friendly rapport organically that you can build on over time. Not sure how to go about it? The suggestions below should serve as a good starting point.
Yes, it is that easy. I live in a townhome neighborhood of around 20% young families and 80% seniors, and I’ve made some of my closest neighborly friendships here, which is surprising. That’s because forming a bond with your neighbors has less to do with shared interests and hobbies and more to do with just being nice to one another.
Make a point of welcoming anyone you meet with a “hello” and a smile while you’re moving in, even if you’re exhausted from unpacking moving boxes or just hanging up after a stressful phone call with the internet provider (an unavoidable occurrence with every move). You are not required to note that you have recently moved in, but you may well do so if you wish. The goal is to lay the groundwork for a happy relationship, and a soft, sincere greeting at the first meeting is a great way to do so.
One of the most important ways to meet the people around you, much like beginning a new school, is to join them in a common cause. Attend the apartment mixer, food co-op meeting, or housing association board meeting and express the desire to become more involved in the group. Getting active is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in your new community while still connecting you with people who share your interests.
When it comes to conversation starters, talking about the weather might be the universal go-to, but when it comes to best practices for meeting your new neighbors, asking a question about the neighborhood will spark more of a conversation and friendly rapport. The majority of residents would enjoy the opportunity to share what they know about the community and local life with you. Ask where the best tacos are if there are any suitable live music venues nearby, and if you both have a dog if there is a good dog park in the city. Ask questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer to get people talking about their passions. Follow up on your previous discussion and draw on the common threads you’ve formed when you see the individual again.
If you spend all of your time inside, you will never meet anyone. Make an effort to hang out in places where you’re more likely to meet new people, such as your front yard or the open areas of your apartment complex. Alternatively, literally, go for a stroll. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to form a new relationship. For initial encounters, use the suggestions above, such as welcoming people warmly and asking questions that will elicit a thoughtful answer.
People are more likely to recall what others do than what they say. Be diligent and lend some support if you notice one of your neighbors might use some assistance with something. It might mean assisting an elderly neighbor with shopping or delivering mail to them if it was delivered to your door incorrectly. After seeing one of my neighbors shoveling my front walkway after a blizzard, I became friends with him. Unprompted acts of kindness are a healthy way to live in general, and they will help you develop yourself as a friendly neighbor.
Ask for Help
The idea that you can create relationships by providing support and asking for a bit of help when you need it is the polar opposite of the above tip. Most people enjoy assisting others, and if it isn’t a significant burden, it will help create and maintain a positive relationship. If you’re going out of town, ask a neighbor if they’d mind bringing in any packages that are sent to your door and securely storing them before you return. If you’re working on your new room, you might also ask to borrow some materials. When they help you out, express your gratitude and let them know you’re still happy to return the favor.
If you’re up for it, throw a casual get-together at your house and drop invites in your neighbours’ mailboxes. “I’m new to the neighborhood and would love to meet you!”, for example. Please feel free to drop by [your home address or apartment number] for a casual get-together on Saturday between 3 and 5 p.m. There will be refreshments and snacks available. I look forward to seeing you there!” You won’t be able to invite everybody, but you’ll most likely run into a few familiar faces during the day.
I, Mark Roemer, am here to tell you that meeting your neighbors doesn’t have to be a scary process. Think of it less as networking and more as just a pleasant way to further ingratiate yourself in your new neighborhood. Most of the people you meet aren’t going to become good friends but having friendly acquaintances nearby will help support a pleasant environment and make you feel more home. Be approachable, allow relationships to progress naturally, and never underestimate the power of a genuine smile to brighten both your day and someone else’s.