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How to be a good neighbour

You’ve moved into a new neighbourhood. You want to make an impression. Assuming some things about your personality, you probably want that impression to be good. You want to have a sense of community, or maybe you don’t want to be the resident pariah that everyone complains about. In essence, you want to be a good neighbour. But, what exactly does it even mean to be a “good neighbour?”

It all starts with letting people know you aren’t going to make their lives harder. Often, a whole block of houses will be holding their breath, waiting to see who is going to move into the vacant house. If it’s a tightknit community, they will want to make sure that you are going to fit in. And, while you are under no obligation to become a Stepford Wife/Husband to blend into the existing community, life will probably be easier if you make an effort to observe the norms and expectations of home ownership in your immediate area. If everyone spends some time, and effort to ensure their lawns are well-kept, and dandelion-free, you will have better luck being considered a good neighbour. The quicker you learn about your new area – things like the formal and informal parking rules, and expectations on noise – the easier the transition will be.

If you want to really impress people in your new ‘hood,’ you might want to start with introducing yourself. If you are an outgoing, social person, this could mean going up to your neighbour’s house – especially those that directly border you own – and saying hello. If the thought of that is overwhelming to you, it might be easier to start with a more organic conversation when you meet your neighbour while doing yard work, or walking your dog. If there is a community league, check out a meeting, or an event. Take a look at the flyers, and posters in the area to find ways to interact with the community. Ask locals for recommendations on pubs, restaurants, or the nearest off-leash dog park. Sure, you could easily ask Google for this information, but Google is less likely to water your plants, or call you about a break in if you are on vacation.

While you don’t have to feel obligated to invite the neighbourhood over for a BBQ, it is considered good manners to let the houses around you know if you are planning a party, or celebration. If you have a dog that you leave out during the day, giving neighbours your number could be a good idea. Especially if the dog is being a nuisance by barking, or crying loudly, this way they can contact you. It’s also great if they know what your pets look like, so any escapees are easily identified. It can make a huge difference for your beloved furry friend – you don’t want them spending the night in doggy/kitty jail because no one in the area knew where they belonged. Also, speaking of pets, don’t put your poop bags in other people’s trash bins.

Generally, taking care of your house will at least prevent most of what makes someone a “bad neighbour.” Take your trash out on trash day, and leave it in well-kept cans. This way, animals don’t get into it and strew garbage through the alley. Mow your lawn regularly, and don’t be cheap about property lines. If there is a small strip bordering your own lawn that technically belongs to your neighbour, be nice and give it a mow. Same goes for shoveling. Often, neighbours will take turns doing part of the sidewalks of those that live next door. If this happens, make sure you reciprocate in somewhat even fashion. If it doesn’t happen, why not start it?

Lastly, let’s bring this back full circle. You want to welcome new people into the neighbourhood when you are no longer the newbie. Introduce yourself to someone who has recently moved in, and tell them which house is yours. Let them in on some of the unspoken rules of living in that area, or tell them the best place to get wings. Be the kind of neighbour you wanted when you were new. Because, as much as being a good neighbour is about fitting in, it’s also about leading by example. As Gandhi (kind of) said, “be the kind of neighbour you want to see in the world.”