Moving is often a traumatic event. No matter where you move, even if its only across town, you can’t help feeling disconnected, disoriented and just plain adrift for a while. When the initial exhaustion and excitement of the physical act of moving wear off, you and whoever has moved with you are likely to find yourselves very much alone and at a loss. Remembering your own discomfort you can make moving easier for the next folks to join you on the block or in your apartment building by relying on these ten best ways to welcome new neighbors.
1. Give people their privacy A surprisingly easy way to help newcomers feel relaxed is to just greet them with a smile and a friendly hello at the outset. People who are moving in are often on edge, tired and very much involved in what they are doing. For those hours when they are actually moving in, their friends, relatives and all their “stuff” is on display for anyone pushy enough to just show up. So you can be a good neighbor from the outset by just letting people move in with dignity, respect and a whole lot of privacy.
2. Drop off some food or a small toy if children are involved Once folks are settled in, sometimes the 24 hour rule is appropriate , you can make a point to stop by briefly with some small gift of food and perhaps a small toy if you have noticed that children are part of the picture. Two points to remember if you decide to welcome new neighbors in this way. First it may be best to plan on just going as far as the front step or doorway. People just moving in are likely to have clutter all over the place and there is no need to add to their stress level by eyeballing their house or apartment in total disarray. Secondly make sure that your food offering is something simple, possibly a portion of what you had made for your own home. For example a half batch of cookies can show you were thinking of the new neighbors. A three course meal can say I plan to be your new best friend whether you like it or not. The simpler your little welcoming gift the better.
3. Give a very short list of things in the neighborhood When you stop by with your food or at any other convenient juncture which doesn’t involve a home visit, you might take the time to share a list of neighborhood info, especially if your new neighbors are from out of town or state. Your list should be brief and again just indicating your willingness to help without taking over the person’s life. If there are children involved you may want to indicate the nearest playground and the location of the children’s library. If its just adults, directions to the nearest grocery store, theater,or health clinic can be helpful. Think of the numbers or locations that you connect with most often and pass them along.
4. If no contact within a week stop back to see how they are doing When all has been quiet at the new neighbor’s home or apartment and you haven’t seen them around even to wave to, this might be an appropriate time to concentrate on making a quick drive by to say hello. You can make up whatever excuse you are most comfortable with. Perhaps you made too many brownies or your kids just brought home a flyer about a town event, all you really want is to say hi again and in the quickest , least invasive way possible to make that new neighbor feel welcome and part of the neighborhood. The best way to have this happen is allowing nature to take its course and simply bump into one another in the yard or getting out of your car. But when this isn’t happening you really don’t want too many days to pass without anyone making an effort to be supportive of the new folks on the block.
5. Invite to some event of mutual interest As time goes by and the newness wears off you may stop really giving any heed to the new neighbors at all. What started out as a kindly effort can get old fast . The thing is, the neighbors may still be very unsure of themselves and may welcome your occasional and not over the top efforts to help them as they transition to a new place. If you feel there is a enough of a comfort level established you may want to take the initiative to invite your new neighbor to an event of mutual interest. Just consider how difficult it would be for you to go to this event if you didn’t know a soul who was going to be there. That should get you up and out the door to visit your neighbor and tender an invitation.
6. Introduce to someone else in the neighborhood What is way to easy to forget when we are trying to help a new neighbor settle in is the fact that we are not the only people in the neighborhood. There may very well be someone down the street who happens to have children the same age as the new neighbor’s kids. There could be someone at the corner who enjoys golf just like the new neighbor. Just because you might have been the first person to welcome the new person to the neighborhood that doesn’t mean that you own them or vice versa. One of the ten best ways to welcome a new neighbor is to keep them and their interests cataloged in your mind so that you can take advantage of the opportunity to introduce them to someone else in the neighborhood who has common interests.
7. Stop by or call to see if anything is needed at the grocery store One of the ten best ways to welcome a new neighbor is to offer to pick up things at the grocery store. You have to go to the store anyway. No extra driving is involved. You are simply putting yourself at the service of someone else during a time when that someone may be running on overdrive trying to get reorganized in new surroundings. At such a time,having the additional stress of going to the grocery store may be one too many things on an already very full plate. Offering to pick up some bread or milk is just good manners writ large.
8. Invite over for coffee or a snack for kids. Only you will know when the appropriate time has come for you to invite your new neighbor, her husband and the family over for coffee, lunch or even a very informal evening meal. Summer is great for this kind of thing because you can share hospitality without making it Thanksgiving Day Dinner revisited. Some burgers and dogs will say welcome just as well and with a lot less stress for everyone. If the first response on the neighbor’s part is a “No” give it a few weeks and then ask again. A second no, without much explanation, should be read as a clear sign that this neighbor is happy with the relationship at its current level but likes his or her space. That’s something we all can respect. Pushing it beyond this is not really helping a new neighbor feel welcome but rather it is making them uncomfortable.
9. Help to connect with other local groups, clubs, organizations . You know from your own experience that one of the ways in which people start to feel comfortable in a new community is by connecting with groups and getting involved in their activities. Here’s another one of the ten ways to make a new neighbor feel welcome. As you learn a little about your neighbor try to recognize possible connections you can help to arrange with local groups.
Is there an adult enrichment course that he or she might enjoy? Is there a church group that offers a Bible study that your neighbor misses from her old neighborhood? How about the local tennis club, YMCA, Lions Club or Softball League? Letting your new neighbor in on some of these groups can really help new people to break the ice and feel part of the community.
10. Do what they need, not what you like to do. Among the ten best ways to welcome a new neighbor perhaps the best is to simply make yourself available to do what they need done and not just what you like to do. If you happen to be in a bridge club and you are trying to get your neighbor involved in a community activity just remember there is a really good chance that he or she hates bridge. You need to alter your actions to meet the needs of your neighbor. They may need someone to watch the kids for a half hour much more than they need another batch of your world famous brownies. So remember it’s only help if it helps.
Americans are highly mobile people. We move around with a great deal of frequency. But that doesn’t mean its easy for people to move or to resettle. Being there as a caring neighbor from the start, not over the top but on the radar, can make life a lot easier for you new neighbor and in the end more pleasant for you too.