Digging some roots into your neighborhood

When we bought our home eight years ago, one of the selling points was that the neighborhood was “very close with a block party every year.” It sounded idyllic, and it wasn’t exactly the vibe we caught when we moved in here. It’s not that people were rude, just stand-offish. A few people introduced themselves, but that was about it.

It took years to get to know our neighbors. It has been a bumpy, slow process. We did get the block party going for a few years, then it evolved into a birthday party a few years ago. This year, it is a barbeque cook-off.  We have organized two neighborhood garage sales and have many spontaneous happy hours and “in the yard” visits along the way.  In the process, many genuine friendships have been formed and our neighborhood now looks like something out of the 1950’s. Seriously. And you can do it, too. So here’s my five tips for digging some roots into your hood.

Block party 1995

Block party 2005

Understand that this is a slow process

We are such an immediate gratification culture and this investment takes years to mature. It is a delicate dance, getting to know neighbors. Our neighbors across the street have become a dear friends, but we just waved and said Hi the first three years after they moved in. And I’m not saying everyone is going to be best friends with every neighbor. In fact, my nearest neighbor doesn’t care for me much. But we are always respectful and would help each other out in a pinch.

Become a presence in your neighborhood

Go for evening strolls after dinner in your neighborhood. Do it often enough that you become familiar to those on your street. Sit on your front porch, stoop or in your front yard. When you work in your yard, wave at those that drive or walk by. These acts will help your general well-being while getting your neighbors used to you.

Start with a wave and a hello

File this under duh, but really, just saying hello consistently will start you down the right path. Don’t be overly chatty, that makes people nervous. I have found that “Hello” can even be more than some people can handle. The wave is excellent in its ability to disarm even the most standoffish people. Nothing is so completely non-threatening and utterly friendly, it is almost impossible not to return a wave. I have met many Northwesterners who can ignore my hello, but none can refuse the wave.

Out on a family walk, greeting the fans.

Out on a family walk, greeting the fans.

Exchange contact information

It’s just good sense. You should be able to call you neighbor if there was an emergency. When we first exchanged numbers, it was for this reason, but I have used those numbers for many non-emergency reasons. Email has made it easier to communicate but Facebook has taken it up to a whole new level. I have two or three neighbors that are pretty quiet in person, but very outgoing on facebook. It  has been a great way to get to know each other in an environment in which they are more comfortable.

Have a block party

The block party did not start up until myself and two other neighbors formed a committee to do the block party. It wasn’t much work, two or three meetings tops. One person made a flyer, one person offered to deliver the flier. We had everyone bring something for the grill and a dish to share with the group. We had a contact sheet at the block party and made a neighborhood phonelist which was distributed later. The block party happened because we wanted our neighborhood to be closer. And now, eight years later, we are.

Good old fashioned fun.

Good old fashioned fun.

See, easy! Okay, not easy, but SO worth it. Start your long term investment into your hood today.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jessica
    Aug 11, 2009 @ 12:04:24

    A neighbor recently called to tell me her apricot tree was ripe for picking, so I brought the girls over and it was a sweet moment. So sweet, that on a Saturday night I was inspired to bake a tart for said neighbor. I realized I hadn’t done that for a neighbor since I was a kid, trying to make a go of a baking business. Anyhow, it felt really good – still does!!! Reading your blog inspired me to relive the moment. Thanks, apple-da’-bomb.


  2. Leslie
    Aug 11, 2009 @ 22:49:50

    I feel so good about getting to know our neighbors! We have had a baby shower; cards of sympathy for lost loved ones, graduation and birthday wishes; the annual block BBQ (this year with a cook-off and kids parade!); plant exchanges; garden tours; chicken coop tours; sing-a-longs; live music; sangria parties; babysitting connections; carpentry and yard work exchanges; truck borrowing and so much more. It is so nice to walk around the block and have smiling faces, garden discussions, bird watching and kids who run up to you to tell you about their most recent adventure! Our neighborhood is connecting and thriving and the kids will grow up knowing their neighbors, young and old. What a gift we give when we give of ourselves… and it all starts with a wave. 🙂


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