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Just Moved to the USA? Here’s How To Be A Good Neighbor

It’s a little known fact that September 28th is National Good Neighbor Day in the US. This day is set aside to remind us all what it is to be a good neighbor. Such a day is also a good excuse to go say hello to those people across the way you haven’t managed to introduce yourself to yet.  Maybe you’ve recently immigrated to the US from another country, and need to know: What is a good neighbor? How can you be a good neighbor? How do you deal with bad neighbors? How do you balance being a good neighbor with not being a nosy neighbor?

These are hard questions, and you aren’t alone in asking them. Maintaining a good relationship with your neighbors can be tricky, especially if you’re not familiar with their cultural norms, and your results will vary. Here are some of our tips on learning to be a better neighbor (even if you aren’t a huge fan of the guy next door).

How To Be A Good Neighbor
Image by Ron Reiring

What is a Good Neighbor?

Even if you’ve recently moved to the US from a completely different country, you’ll be happy to know that many aspects of being a good neighbor are universal. We all want neighbors who are courteous, who respect our property, and who we can count on in an emergency. Beyond that, it’s essential to know more about your neighbor. Some people are open to a close, friendly relationship from neighbors, while others would prefer their privacy. Here are five ways you can make sure you’ve got the basics covered, and discover more about the kind of neighbor you have.

1. Introduce yourself!

Maybe your neighbor isn’t the social type, and they’ll never talk to you again – that’s fine. But giving them a chance to meet you so you both know each other goes a long way to making your home more welcoming. This is the perfect chance to get to know more about them. Ask about their family. Find out what holidays they celebrate. This question serves double duty: it lets you know when they might be busy with family, and also tells you the best times to send a little gift. Go above and beyond during this conversation by offering to keep an eye on their home when they’re away, or making sure they know they can borrow a cup of sugar from you. This is especially useful in apartment complexes where you are going to run into this person in the hall or laundry room.

2. When you’re wrong, say sorry.

We’ve all done it. Backed into a neighbors trash can, had a party get a little too loud, blocked their driveway or dozens of other little offenses. You hide and hope the incident goes on without remark so you can get away with it. In reality it’s a huge positive step to simply go over to your neighbor and apologize. These things happen (and chances are they’ve done them, too). If you take the first step to show them you’re human, and you aren’t actually secretly trying to ruin their life you’ll likely see a more fun side of them. You can pull this off by:

– Walking over, and explaining what happened. Make sure to actually say the words, “I’m sorry.” Or, “I apologize.” If you broke something, offer to replace it.
– Sending them a delicious sweet gift or cake if you did something especially rude (or you really like them).
– Inviting them over to the next loud party. If they’re part of the noise, they’re less likely to complain!

How To Be A Good Neighbor
Image by ponafotkas

3. Do that extra small gesture

Something as small as picking up their tipped over trashcan, or closing an open gate can make a huge difference in their day. If you build up trust and a small friendship, they might even return the gesture. After all, knowing you have someone that’ll take in a package when it’s raining can help a LOT with stress.

4. Organize a block party

This may seem old fashioned, but a block party  is a good way to get to know everyone more. It’s also a pretty awesome time. If everyone splits up food costs and chores, you end up with a weekend event that’s really enjoyable all around. You might be surprised when you go around your neighborhood looking for contributions to the party. One neighbor might have a sound system to offer; another might have a bouncy house or backyard pool for the kids. Giving all your neighbors a chance to contribute can result in a ton of community fun. You don’t have to do these often, or even make them fancy. The point here is the gesture. Use a Facebook page to coordinate everything and create transparency.

5. Be considerate

This seems obvious, but that makes it easy to forget. You can’t be perfect all of the time, but 4 am is NOT the time to mow your lawn. Make an effort to be considerate and mindful of the others around you and your neighbors are more likely to enjoy your company. Like everything else, it also makes it more likely that they’ll return the favor and let you sleep in Saturday morning.

If you already have a good relationship with your neighbor, just thank them for being there. Living in an area where you’re at least cordial with everyone around you creates an air of safety and peace. The easiest and best tip is to communicate! You don’t have to be best friends, but you may also be surprised at the amazing people around you.

How To Be A Good Neighbor
Image by Delaina Haslam

How should I celebrate Good Neighbor Day?

If you’ve already got the basics above covered, great! This is the perfect day to go above and beyond the basics. Even a small gesture will do the trick if you’re running low on time or money; a simple card with a message about how good it is to know them is sure to put a smile on their face. If you like to cook or bake, then taking your favorite neighbor a casserole or dessert is always a great option, and will help them out with at least one meal. Or, if you’re the kind who can’t boil water, pick out a gourmet gift basket friendly bouquet for them. And if you’ve recently immigrated, don’t forget your former neighbors this day. You might not live close to each other any more, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue caring.

What do I do about bad neighbors?

First, pick your battles. Unless one of you is planning to move, you’ll be living near each other for the foreseeable future. Is your neighbor’s behavior merely annoying, or does it consistently interrupt your life or damage property? If it’s the former, consider trying to let it go. No one needs a war of spiraling resentments between neighbors if it can be avoided. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should just roll over if your neighbor is always obnoxious or generally destructive.

When you have to deal with that neighbor, the first thing to do is check your anger. Yes, you likely have a good reason to be angry, but until you can calmly discuss a solution with your neighbor, you’re likely to only argue. If you’ve recently moved to the US from another country, remember that there may be cultural or language gaps, and try to give your neighbor the benefit of the doubt when you can. Focus on what will fix the problem. You’re going to have to talk to your neighbor about their behavior, and getting past the ‘You did this!’ stage will be important.  Describe the problem, tell them how it affects you, then request your solution. Be willing to negotiate on the solution if your neighbor is.

What if they won’t listen?

If your bad neighbor won’t listen to a one-on-one talk, then maybe other neighbors can help. This neighbor may be treating them the same way. Or one of them might get the message to him better? Asking for help might be a relief to other neighbors. If you’re part of a Home Owner’s Association, you could bring the issue to them for assistance.

Rarely, you may encounter a neighbor who goes beyond bad into the realm of scary or dangerous. In such a situation, you and your family come first, above being a ‘nice’ neighbor. If you think someone is in danger, call the authorities, and let them handle it. Yes, one neighbor might be very upset with you, but you’ll be being a good neighbor to the others.

You’re ready to go out and shake hands, now what?

– Share your best good neighbor story online and tag us with #GiftBasketsOverseas.

– Invite your neighbors over for dinner, and pamper them with a dish from Cooking with Wine: 3 Easy Recipes to Impress Your Guests.

– Simply send a gift basket with yummy treats.

– Share this post to help your friends be better neighbors too.