All too often you hear people complain that we all live in a dis-jointed society where we live in our little bubbles and don't know our neighbours. They hark back to 'the good old days' when a community truly was a community. Nowadays, we move around a lot more than maybe we once did, with families living in different cities, counties and even countries and a lot of people move into an area knowing no-one and feeling isolated. But moaning about it does not change anything, here are my suggestions as to how you can actually do something productive to change it and make your little corner of the earth a more pleasant and friendly place to live.
1. It sounds really obvious, but talk to your neighbours. Even if you don't know their name you can still exchange pleasantries with the people whose faces you see every day. If you're shy start with just smiling or waving and move on up to a 'hello' gradually. Other ways to contact include cooing over their baby, stroking their dog etc.
2. Give a spare key to a neighbour. It's so handy to have someone who can help you out if you lock yourself out, who can water your plants/pets when you're on holiday. Not only that but it's a great act of faith to the neighbour and one they'll probably be glad to reciprocate.
3. Walk the area. It's too easy to take the same route all the time and not get to know what's round your corner. I found that when I had my first child and was taking him out for walks in the pram that I discovered shortcuts, beautiful parks, nature spots as well as houses & shops.
4. Use your local shops. Small business' really appreciate the trade, you'll feel good about supporting the community and you'll find yourself involved. You'll get the gossip and find out what's going on - not just through chatting but also seeing the posters. Which leads me nicely to...
5. Attend local school fetes, church fairs, events, coffee mornings, fundraisers etc. These things rely on local support and often provide a great day out for little or no cost. And by knowing you're helping out you get a lovely warm feeling inside.
6. If you have time, volunteer! Local community groups, libraries, newsletters, schools, playgroups etc are normally crying out for extra pairs of hands and it's a great way of making friends in your locality.
7. And finally, when you've done all this and settled in, made new friends and really feel part of the community be sure to go the extra mile to welcome new people to the neighbourhood when you see them moving in. Oh, and if you move out why not leave a "welcome to the neighbourhood" pack.
Admittedly some of this stuff may mean stepping out of your comfort zone, you may worry about being nosy or your intrusions being unwelcome, but in general people want to be friendly, it just takes the brave one to make the move. Once you start to make these little changes you'll find you have a whole new set of friends, people you can turn to when you need to - for babysitters, to jump start your car, to take in parcels - and of course you can do the same for them!