There's just something magical about the festive season: it's a time when families get together and long lost friends reunite; it's all about making a fresh start and putting the past behind us. There's also no better time to make a few friendly gestures that will help build a better relationship with your neighbours... Here are a few friendly ideas to get you started...
Invite your neighbours over for drinks
Do you know your neighbour’s names? How about their pet’s names? Or what they do for a living? Chances are you probably don’t know much about the people living right next door. Inviting them over for a drink is a relaxed and low-key way to get to know one another a bit better. And you’ll be amazed at how ‘human’ even your scariest neighbours will start to seem after a drink and some friendly banter. Soon you may even want to invite them over.
Notify your neighbours before your holiday parties
So you’ve invited the whole family over for Christmas dinner including Great-Aunt Maude and your third cousins. There’s likely to be a fair amount of noise and chaos, right? Popping a note into your neighbour’s post box to let them know beforehand will mean you can enjoy your Christmas without worrying you’re creating lifelong enemies next door. Better yet, chat to them about it in person - with a plate of fresh cookies in hand. Who said home-baked bribery wasn’t allowed?
Keep your festive decor classy
You may be tempted to mount a sparkling Santa Claus and his reindeers to your roof, but not everyone in your neighbourhood might be as thrilled by your new ‘tenants’. Likewise, lighting up your garden with a fairy light display could turn your neighbour’s bedroom into a disco (of the not-so-groovy kind). It’s fun to get festive but try to be considerate of those around you who might not have the same taste in decorations, or even be celebrating the holiday. Might we suggest saving the tinsel and the nativity scene for indoors?
Offer your assistance
Going on holiday can be stressful when you have a home, garden and pets to leave behind. Why not offer to water your neighbour’s plants, take out their rubbish bin, or be a contact if their alarm goes off while they’re out of town? This won’t seem like such an effort when they return the favour when you’re on holiday.
Bring an unexpected gift
Sadly, the festive season isn’t festive for everyone. For many people, all the carols and tinsel only heighten their loneliness. Be aware that some of your neighbours may not have family or friends to share the holidays with. Consider dropping off a box of chocolates, some flowers, or a hand-written card. It’ll probably only take you 30 minutes but it could be the highlight of someone’s holiday.
Keep them in the loop
There are few things more frustrating then when a neighbour goes on holiday only to leave you with (a) their faulty alarm system going off every hour, (b) their teenage house sitter parking in front of your garage, or (c) their distraught pet yapping and running laps in their backyard. Let your neighbours know when you’re going to be away, who will be taking care of what and leave them a list of people to contact in an emergency. This way when you return from your relaxing holiday it won’t be to stressed out neighbours.
Organise a holiday party
In the US, neighbourhood parties are a common occurrence with people gathering on the street to share food and chat after work. In South Africa, we’re far less likely to venture beyond our security walls to meet those on the ‘other side’. But what if that were to change? What if your neighbourhood started to cultivate a sense of community and caring for one another?
A street party is a great way to get this going. It’s a chance for kids to meet new playmates, the elderly to feel included, and for community improvement ideas to be discussed. And all it could take to begin is a few invites in mailboxes, a large trestle table set up under a tree and a friendly smile on your face.
If you’re thinking this sounds like hard work, can we challenge you to try just one of the above? From that cup of milk that saves your Christmas supper to the peace of mind when you know your neighbours are looking out for your safety, the benefits of being a good neighbour far outweigh the bit of effort it’ll take from your side. So let’s fan the flames of the ‘Good Neighbours Revolution’ this holiday season. Who’s with us?