There are lots of good things that have come with the development and growth of Sydney’s Hills area over the past 10 years. But there are also a few things that have been lost along the way. One of those things is knowing our neighbours.
We’re a great and supportive community on a larger scale, but many of us don’t have a relationship with our neighbours.
Being in a street where you know your neighbours and you have good relationships with them increases your level of contentment and sense of security in where you live, and the community in which you are a member.
But how do you achieve that when you all lead such busy lives?
How do you enrich your neighbours’ lives, and how can they enrich yours without being too involved in their personal business?

Lift your head

As you get out of the car, collect the mail, clip the hedges or mow the lawn, lift your head and look around. You might just see your neighbour in their yard. Smile and call out, “Hello, how are you doing?” Simple, right? Well, it’s the start of a bigger and better relationship.

Take your opportunities

Take a moment to stop in the rush of getting the kids or groceries into the house and chat for just a minute or two with your neighbour as they happen to be outside doing something too. Walking across the street to talk, or even to the edge of your yard to show you’re open to chatting for a few minutes instead of rushing in and out of the house to the next activity is time well spent. Make sure you always have time to invest in relationships.

Deliberately engage

If you walk the dog, take the initiative to stop and talk to your neighbours. Even a smile or quick “Hello, how have you been?” is better than pretending you didn’t see each other.

Be interested without being too involved in their lives

Once you’re in conversation, don’t be afraid to ask questions that help you get to know each other better. You’re not being nosy; you’re creating real positive and friendly relationships. Showing you’re genuinely interested in them and willing to share a little of your life with them brings you closer as a community. Just remember to set mental boundaries so that you don’t feel your personal space or theirs is being encroached upon.

Offer a hand

If you see your neighbour hauling furniture or shovelling mulch, grab some gloves or a spade and offer to help them. If you’re prepared (by taking a shovel with you) they know you are serious about the offer and will say yes. Without the equipment they’ll think you’re just being polite and will say no (even though they’d love a hand!).

Invite your neighbour over for coffee

Why not have a barbecue lunch if you really want to take time to get to know them a little better?

Exchange phone numbers

Sometimes we get locked out or have an emergency situation for which we need immediate help. Imagine if your neighbour was home and able to run in to help or offer a warm dry place to wait for you or your kids. The day my mother-in-law passed away a neighbour was able to come over in minutes and ring the ambulance so my father-in-law could stay with her until the ambulance and family arrived.

Plan and be a part of an annual street party

A great way to break the ice and create a more connected neighbourhood is to help run an annual street party. Sounds like a lot of work, right? Wrong. Just pick a date, be the host driveway (that is, set up the main location for the event in your own driveway), drop an invitation on your neighbours’ front doors, or better still, knock on the door and give them the invitation personally, and then get everyone who can come to BYO meat, a platter to share, chairs and trestle tables and set up the barbecue in the front. If you’re in a cul-de-sac it’s even easier!

Notice what’s going on

This is not about twitching curtains and sitting in the front window with binoculars. Just pay attention if you think something looks odd — give your neighbour a phone call and check if they are okay. If they aren’t home and you think their property is under threat you will be able to call the police or fire services and hopefully save them some pain.

Feed their pets

Most homes have family pets, so going away and trying to find someone willing to come every day and night to feed them is difficult. Taking turns to support each other by just feeding each other’s pets is a really simple way to care for your neighbours and let them care for you. Having good neighbours begins with being a good neighbour. Be the first to start creating the kind of neighbourhood in which you want to live. ☐