"I built a house and I’m about to move into my new community. I don't know anyone who lives there. Do you have any suggestions for getting to know my neighbors?" —Simon P.
For those of you like Simon seeking answers to this question, a Google search will yield some weird ideas that I do not recommend. I’m sorry to go negative right out of the gate, but hosting a party for neighbors you’ve never met — one of the most frequently suggested ideas I found online — does not seem like a one-size-fits-all solution for making connections in your new neighborhood.
Listen to Your Heart
But maybe hosting a “meet your new neighbors” party was not meant for everyone. Like most major life changes, a move is very personal, and the way you handle that move will differ from anyone else. The way you meet your neighbors will also differ. Maybe you are the kind of person who likes to meet and greet everyone all at once by having a big bash. Maybe you prefer to nest first and get to know your neighborhood slowly.
Because moving is considered one of life’s top five stressors, I think self-care is the key. When your life is in a state of upheaval, set the stage for serenity by listening to your inner voice. If that voice wants to settle in quietly, don’t rush yourself. Unpack as you can and poke your head out to say hello when you’re good and ready. But if your inner voice wants to make a splash, have that party.
Still, it’s a mistake to think that getting settled is primarily being social. Getting to know your new neighborhood involves forming new routines, establishing your lifestyle and maybe even letting go of some bad habits. Yes, it is nice to become friends with your neighbors, and if you have awesome neighbors, that’s likely going to happen naturally.
Do you have a dog? Notice how your dog wiggles his way into the neighborhood. His is a major sensory experience, sniffing out the territory, ears perked up as he listens to the sounds of this new neighborhood. Without actually talking to anyone, he’s getting the lay of the land.
Consider carving out some sensory experiences for yourself, observing the community that you’re now a part of and learning everything you can. You don’t need to know a soul to familiarize yourself with your new neighborhood. There’s much more to a neighborhood than the nearby cafés and schools.
Here’s a checklist to help you expand your range of observations:
Now that you’re on your way to making your neighborhood a comfort zone, time and friendships will take you the rest of the way. Taking your dog for walks will help you connect with other dog lovers. Stopping to chat with your neighbor about her flower bed will spark conversations. The community pool might become a hub for get-togethers. Your new roots will unfurl and, Simon, before a year has passed, you’ll feel like you’ve always been there.