How many of you have taken the time and made the effort to get to know your neighbours?
Having moved house approximately once a year I have had plenty of opportunities, but rarely took the plunge. It wasn’t necessarily through lack of desire to be sociable; on the contrary I have in most cases intended to host a house warming, Sunday lunches and BBQs; I just never quite got around to doing it.
One problem is leaving it too long to engage. Having just moved in, you have the perfect excuse to simply knock on your neighbours door and introduce yourself; but as the weeks roll by, perhaps you and your neighbour catch sight of each other in passing and wave, then you realise that you have lived there for a year and never once said hello…at this point knocking on that door just seems awkward. The other problem is fear…what if you don’t get along? or worse still, what if they are too friendly?
About seven years ago I moved into a first floor flat. This particular property shared an entrance hall with our ground floor neighbours. On moving day, whilst stuck with an armchair in the doorway, my neighbour appeared. He introduced himself and kindly offered to help. We made polite conversation and agreed that at some point we should have a get together with our partners and have drinks. Over the following few weeks we bumped into each other a lot during our comings and goings. Then one day I return home to find a Facebook friend request from him! This seemed odd because we weren’t that friendly; I wondered how he’d found out my full name…the post? I felt uncomfortable, but not accepting was also going to be awkward as I saw him so often. On acceptance I then started getting messages about my acting videos he’d seen etc. This wasn’t so bad, perhaps he was just showing an interest and being nice. But then it started getting strange! One morning, I’m enjoying a lie in and someone rings the doorbell. Frustrated I jump out of bed, throw on my dressing gown and run down the stairs. As I open our internal flat door I find my neighbour in the hallway. Surprised I smile and try to look past him to the front door. He smiles and says “Oh did your bell go too?, yeah ours did but there’s no one at the door.” He then proceeded to engage me in a long drawn out conversation and ended with “If you ever get lonely and need some company you know where I am.” A week later our doorbell goes again, this time my boyfriend was home so he ran down the stairs to answer, on opening the internal door there he is again, this time he looked shocked and quickly made his excuses before skulking back into the flat. This went on and became more frequent, as did the messages and although I tolerated it, I certainly didn’t encourage it and therefore felt increasingly uncomfortable.
Now I live in a basement flat with three other flats stacked above. I have been here for a year and in passing met one or two of the other tenants, usually because I take in their deliveries or the postman throws packages into our garden. Last week I received an email from one of the newer tenants, inviting me and my man to a Sunday lunch with all the other tenants in the property. Initially I was apprehensive, but then I thought as they had made the effort I should respond positively. And so along I went, and I am really pleased that I did. It turns out that my neighbours are all a similar age and mostly in creative industries so we had lots in common. I began thinking about the future possibilities for friendship that may grow from this and then wondered about all the opportunities that I may have missed out on in the past. More than anything it simply made me feel all warm inside, to know more about the people who I occasionally hear walking across the ceiling. I felt a sense of belonging and community. We have since planned another get together which I am genuinely looking forward to.
In conclusion, I would ask, those of you who have ignored the people that live so close to you up to now to consider taking that plunge. You never know who you will discover; your best friend, your long lost cousin, the love of your life or simply a friendly face to occasionally chew the cud with. Is that an opportunity your willing to pass up?