Five fun, easy ways to make friends with your neighbours
From dinner invites to street parties, these strategies will build lasting relationships in your neighbourhood
BY KATHARINE WATTS
Rachael Trant was drinking coffee in her living room one morning when she heard a knock at the door. She thought, “Who could possibly be at the door at 8 a.m.? A solicitor?” Turns out it was Willow, her new neighbour from down the street. She had come to invite Trant; her husband, Tim; and their three kids to dinner at her house. That. Very. Night.
Trant was surprised but pleased. “It was really nice because that doesn’t happen anymore,” she says. “[Willow and her family] are from a small town, which is probably why this neighbourly gesture came naturally to them.”
She accepted the invitation, and is so happy she did. “The dinner was great,” she says. “We had a lot in common and discovered that we’d both lived in northern communities.” Not only that, but their new friends served up an amazing feast. “The food was delicious. We actually made vermicelli bowls three times that week after we ate theirs! It’s especially nice to make a new friend who knows how to cook,” laughs Trant. The Trants reciprocated, inviting Willow and her husband, Tom, to join them for Thanksgiving dinner at their house that fall.
Stories like these are good reminders that something as simple as an impromptu dinner can result in a newfound bond of friendship and a stronger sense of community. But how often do we actually welcome new residents into our neighbourhoods? Or invite a newcomer over for dinner? And why should friendly overtures like these be confined to places with a population density of less than a few thousand? Just think about what our cities would be like if moments like these weren’t all that surprising.
With so much socializing happening online these days, it can be easy to lose sight of the people who live closest to you—and the amazing relationships you could be missing out on. But these simple ideas will help you make connections and create a community IRL that’s close to home.
1Invite neighbours for dinner, dessert or drinks
This is a great way to get to know someone, and there’s nothing cozier and more welcoming than a home-cooked meal and a friendly chat. If an actual “meal” feels like too big an undertaking, consider drinks and appetizers, or dessert and coffee. It doesn’t really matter what’s served; it’s all about creating an opportunity for conversation and connection. If there are kids in the family you’re inviting, consider setting up a little toy or craft area for them—everyone involved will appreciate the effort.
2Offer toys or hand-me-downs to neighbours with younger kids
My own neighbours have three kids, all older than mine, and I’ve been the lucky recipient of more than a few handy hand-me-downs. When they see my kids wearing an old T-shirt or pair of shoes that used to belong to their kids, it brings back fond memories, and they inevitably say things like, “It’s hard to believe they were ever that small!” It always gets a conversation going about parenting and the challenges and joys of different ages—and deepens a connection that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.
3Bake an extra batch of goodies
Who doesn’t appreciate fresh cookies or muffins delivered to their doorstep? This is my favourite way of getting to know neighbours, especially around a holiday or special occasion that offers the excuse to bake and share the bounty. When my family bakes and delivers samples to the neighbours, the positive response always reinforces the old adage that it’s better to give than to receive. Rather than just exchanging boxes of chocolate with all your neighbourhood acquaintances, consider taking a little time to suss out their favourites and surprise them with a personalized treat.
4Start a local team or club
Three things that always bring people together: sports, clubs and food! Wherever your interests lie, consider turning them into a neighbourhood gathering. If you love food, start a supper club. If you love sports, consider setting up a rec team with the folks on your street. If reading is your thing, nothing beats a book club.
5Throw a street party
Nothing brings people out quite like a street party—especially when you get everyone involved in the planning and execution. Start by distributing a letter to your neighbours to gauge interest and ask for volunteers, and then check with your municipal office about street closures, permit fees, etc. Make sure all the duties are divvied up, whether that means doing a potluck for food, or putting one family in charge of kids’ activities and another in charge of decoration. (An online sign-up sheet with all the ways to participate can be really helpful!)
A street party can be elevated by bringing in a food truck for the grown-ups and a bouncy castle for the kiddos. But it doesn’t need to be extravagant to be fun—maybe someone in your circle is a whiz at face painting, or older kids can cordon off an area for street hockey or basketball, or the musically inclined among you can show up with instruments and provide some tunes. If it’s a success (it will be!), you can even make it an annual thing—a community-building event that everyone looks forward to all year long.
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