We all hear references to how times have changed since we were kids. How we could roam the neighbourhood riding bikes and setting up lemonade stands, our neighbours chatted over the fence and our parents could call on someone nearby to keep an eye on us kids for an hour or two while they popped out to do some errands. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, I am lucky enough to be living that now. We didn’t realise what we were buying into when we purchased our house. Of course, it’s a lovely house in an great location , but little did we know that we also bought into a community.
Over the 10 years since we moved here, my kids have grown from toddlers to tween and teenager and in that time, my neighbours have moved from “neighbours” status to “friends”. We have become part of a very special community that has come to mean far more to us than how nice our house or the location is.
My teenager navigates the early years of adolescence with a group of kids his age – boys and girls – who hang out as friends testing their independence in a safe, yet fun environment. My daughter is able to ride her bike with her friends to the local cafe to grab a hot chocolate without me worrying and leaving her with a feeling of responsibility. We have watched older children in the neighbourhood go through this rite of passage as the neighbourhood gang, then grow into fabulous young adults; travelling the world, studying, pursuing their passions. For many of our ex-pat neighbours, this community has come to substitute for family that live far away.
The neighbourhood will often meet up for an outdoor movie or to watch the sun set on the weekend before embarking on the responsibilities for the week ahead. This is all great, but some of the nicest things are not being shy to run next door to borrow an egg or calling up a friend when you feel like some company on a walk.
I know, this amazing neighbourhood is unfortunately not the norm these days, and we were lucky enough to end up in it by chance. However, it seems worth putting out there that the initial reasons for buying our home are not what keep us here now. If you are lucky enough to live in a neighbourhood similar to ours, I encourage you to reach out and become part of it (if you haven’t already). You can get as involved as much as suits you, but believe me, you and your family will benefit from the effort. If this kind of community doesn’t exist around you, see if you can make it happen, or possibly next time you look to move, keep in mind that a community can impact your happiness more than a nice kitchen or view.
Some tips for reaching out to your neighbours;
- The old fashioned way, knock on the door, introduce yourself and invite them over for a cuppa or a glass of wine!
- Set up groups in your phone or laptop for easy communication. Sometimes a general call out such as “Anyone keen to walk the dogs this morning?” makes a potentially lonely walk into a great catch up…and your dogs will love the company too!
- Take note of your neighbours and their birthdays. Drop in a card or organise a few neighbours to get together to have a small celebration – particularly if you know they don’t have many family or friends nearby.
- If you have kids similar ages, invite the whole family over to get to know one another. There’s nothing better than your child having the freedom to hang out with kids in the neighbourhood and you knowing they are at a home you know and trust.
- Offer to cook a meal for them when they are unwell or facing a tough time. Even organise a group in the neighbourhood to take turns and help out if it’s an ongoing situation.
It would be great to hear that there are more neighbourhoods like this around. We’d love to hear about your community and any feedback as to how to nurture this kind of environment!