Settling In to a New Neighborhood

    Photo: TheMuuj/Flickr.comMoving can be a stressful period in your life, especially if you're making a long-distance move. You need to pack everything up on one end and sell your house, prepare it for new tenants, or scour it to make sure you'll get your deposit back. Meanwhile, you're securing your new home, setting up utilities, getting organized, planning your moving day, and handling the endless errata that always seem to come up at the last minute when you're relocating. No wonder many people pledge to never move again in the weeks and months after they've made a move.

    One of the more stressful and awkward components of moving can be establishing connections with the neighbors. These are the people who are going to live next door, above, and below you, and while some people prefer to live in isolation, it can be incredibly helpful to know who your neighbors are. You never know when you might need a helping hand, or when your community might need to get together to work on something: two good reasons to get to know the people you share your building and/or block with.

    So, how exactly do you go about establishing good relations with the neighbors? While there may be a time-honored legend of new neighbors bringing around pies to introduce themselves, that doesn't happen so much in real life anymore, and your new neighbors might not be thrilled if you banged on their doors to introduce yourself.

    Here are some tips on creating a good foundational relationship with your neighbors:

    *Watch out on moving day. In many communities, especially small, tight-knit ones, people can be very particular about parking, protecting their plants, and blocking the street. Don't be That Person with your moving truck and cars. Pay attention to signage, driveways, and other cars on the street, and remind your movers to avoid walking on grass, walking into hedges, and interfering with landscaping. If you end up in a situation where you think you might have to block a car, find out who it belongs to and go talk to the owner -- or leave an apologetic note explaining where you can be found and how you can be reached.

    *If you have potentially noisy animals or young children (especially infants), you may want to take the time to either introduce yourself personally, or send out a polite note. One friend of mine received a lovely note with a gift basket from the expecting parents who lived on her hallway -- they sent it to their close neighbors to let them know that they would be bringing a baby home, and to apologize for the noise. The kind gesture meant a lot, and helped to establish rapport between neighbors.

    *Take note of the community standards. Do people promptly bring in their recycling and garbage after collection? Then don't leave yours out on the curb for days. Do people sweep their sidewalks and keep their front yards trimmed? Follow suit, so you don't create an eyesore. Is your neighborhood an early to bed kind of place? Keep the volume low in the late hours, and make sure your guests know to stay quiet too (that includes friends with loud stereos who might pull up to your house late!).

    *Be friendly. You don't have to knock on doors to introduce yourself, but smile and say hello when you see people out and about in the neighborhood. If you have dogs or other animals and they do too, this can be a great entry to a conversation; start to learn the names of people, their children, and their pets. Make sure to keep your dogs leashed or secured in your yard as they get to know the area, and as neighbors get to know your dogs.

    *Stick to tradition. If you can, ask the previous owners or tenants for the lowdown on various neighbors. They can provide useful information about existing relationships and established traditions -- for example, a neighbor might be used to sharing the bounty from a fruit tree. If you reach out to her and let you know that you're happy to continue sharing, that will pave the way for a friendly relationship in the future. Especially with the holidays coming up, pay attention to how much decoration other neighbors use so you don't go overboard with your own house.

    *Help those in need. If you see a neighbor struggling with a heavy load of groceries, having trouble with a home improvement project, or otherwise in trouble, offer to step in and help out. You might not be as adept as a handyman, but if you can help, do so! If a neighbor has recently had a new baby, a death in the family, or another major life event, join the community in offering to help cook, clean, maintain the yard, and perform other tasks -- that way you'll establish yourself as an engaged and caring member of the community.

    You might not be ready to exchange keys and marry off your children to each other, but these tips will help smooth your transition into a new neighborhood. You might just find yourself establishing friendships with your neighbors that could lead to richer relationships in the future, and you'll find it a lot easier to organize when you need help while you're gone, want to work with the community to prevent an ugly development, or plan to propose radical changes and want your neighbors on board.

    Katie Marks writes for

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