When I move in to a new house I like to break ice with the neighbours quick smart. Before it gets to that awkward stage where you nod heads if you pass on the street but don't know each others names and it's kind of too late and weird to ask. Why have stranger danger in your own street?
My parents reckon I've been like this since I was a kid, growing up with no siblings in Sydney's inner-western suburbs. They say they'd find me as a two or three year old, happily perched on the neighbour's front steps waiting adorably with chin in hands to welcome the then young married couple home from work. Or peeking out the front window between the blinds to see if there were any other kids playing on the quiet street for me to meet and greet.
Rest assured, I don't take such a stalker approach to my ice smashing anymore. But I have found people in New Zealand very responsive to my forward neighbourly approach - more so than back home in Sydney. I was surprised to read this week that only four per cent of New Zealanders say they feel close to people in their 'hood.
Unlike Shelley Bridgeman I've made some of my best buds on the street outside my house.
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How to meet your neighbours
Ideally you will casually collide out the front of your homes, on kind of mutual territory - fetching the newspaper, weeding the garden or enjoying a cider in the afternoon sun. These are opportune times for an intro.
If this never seems to occur I find a friendly knock on the door on Saturday afternoon the best approach. Around 4 or 5pm, when the day's activities are winding down, but you aren't interrupting dinner prep. It's happy hour, everyone's relaxed. Outdoors is best if the whether permits - invite them over to your patch for a cold beer, glass of pinot noir or a fruity mocktail. Or warmly accept if they invite you in. But remember to return the favour next time.
But why should I bother bonding with my neighbours?
Knowing your next-door-neighbour is like having mates to hang out with on tap. There's always someone keen to watch the rugby with on a Saturday night if everyone else complains about living too far away. You can come home from work on Friday and there's a pal to chew the fat with. Plus, no one needs to drive home. You will find you'll save money on commuting and going out if you're friends with the neighbours. It's almost like an extension of flatmates, only you can kick these ones out when they're annoying.
In my old house in Ponsonby I began regularly eating supper with my neighbours every Sunday. It wasn't anything flash, sometimes just a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, but we loved the weekend round-up. We also loved Come Dine With Me, and, inspired by the British cooking show omnibus one Saturday, we decided to do our own. With four of us between the two houses, we presented menus followed by a themed three-course meal - a great activity to do with those who live next door. We still bicker about the points lost due to a long hair in the cheesy pasta dish.
The other neighbourly highlight has to be the Anglesea Street Christmas Specials. Everyone is in a festive mood during the silly season, what a great time to cash in on some bonding. A Secret Santa will really bring people together. One time ten of us exchanged gifts dressed in formal wear over a rowdy BYO around a lazy Susan at Canton Cafe in Kingsland. Another time we managed to gather together a dozen or so for a barbecue down at Point Chev Park in between playing soccer, swimming and silly season tomfoolery.
What if you hate them?
There's always the risk of niggly neighbours. Maybe they're you. They most likely are me. But in my experience, Kiwis want to be familiar with the people living around them. It's safer. It's nicer. And you're never short of a cup of sugar. You don't have to be BFFs, but I reckon you'll find the pros outweigh the cons if you bother to break the ice.
Disagree with Nicky? Read Shelley Bridgeman's Opinion: Why I hate neighbours.