It takes an average of two and a half months for a new house to feel like a home, according to our research. For 69% of Brits it’s people that make a house feel like a home. However, our Changing Household report1 also showed that 40% of the population thinks that the location, surroundings, and neighbours play a big part in feeling settled in a new place. We’ve looked at the best ways to maintain good relations with neighbours from day one.
The dos and don’ts of making a good impression
When moving into a new house, you’re likely to invite the attention of your nearest neighbours. This is the opportunity to start the conversation. We’ve talked to Marie-Hélène Ferguson, Solicitor and Founder of The London School of Etiquette about how to engage with your neighbours.
Introduce yourself - Getting to know one another from the day you move in will help you build strong relationships with your neighbours. Making new friends can also help establish yourself in your neighbourhood and reduce your feeling of homesickness.
According to Ferguson If you know that you’ve caused a lot of disruption or noise, then it would be a lovely gesture to offer your neighbours a box of chocolates by way of an apology. However, it’s also a nice thing to do even if you’ve caused minimal or no disruption - it certainly gets the relationship onto the right footing and is an easy talking point.”
”You should introduce yourself to your neighbours as soon as possible, since they’ll be wondering who you are and what you’re like“
Vice versa, if a new neighbour moves into your area, Ferguson tells us that “it’s best to let new neighbours come to you to introduce themselves. However, if they haven’t introduced themselves after one or two days, welcome them to the neighbourhood with a plant or a bunch of flowers - these needn’t cost very much, but are a thoughtful gift and a good talking point to start friendly neighbourly relations.”
Keep noise to the minimum - Making a good impression comes in different shapes. According to Citizens Advice, noise is one of most common causes of disputes between neighbours. Therefore, if you’re living in an apartment, a semi-detached house or a terraced house try to be mindful of your new neighbours. For example, if you’re planning on re-decorating your new house, do this during the day if possible to avoid making too much noise at night or early morning.
Ferguson advises that “in any event, it is polite to tell your neighbours that you are having building work done in the first place and to apologise in advance for any inconvenience. It is also courteous to keep your neighbours informed of progress, particularly if the project is delayed. “ She explains that even though “you might think it’s none of their business” providing information will help alleviate ill-feeling as “people simply like to know what’s going on - it’s part of being human. “
Let them know you’re having a party - If you’re having a party, it’s custom to let your neighbours know in advance as this will show that you respect their comfort too. “And if you get on well with them, perhaps even invite them, “ says Ferguson.
”The key here, however, is not to abuse their tolerance by having too many parties“
However, if they’re the ones making too much noise at inappropriate hours “the first rule is never to approach them when you’re angry, “ explains Ferguson. “As you might say things you regret, and you’re unlikely to reach a sensible resolution. If you’re not angry, then approach your neighbours calmly and simply explain why it is that their noise is causing you a disturbance, but your reason must be genuine. You will not ingratiate yourself with your neighbours or create lasting diplomatic relations if your reasons are ill-founded or petty, “ she warns.
Practice parking etiquette - Each resident has the legal right to access their drive. If your drive is shared it shouldn’t be blocked, under penalty of having your car removed by local authority. For more information check your house deeds and make sure you’re not taking someone else’s car spot!
Engage in small talk - Ferguson tells us that small talk plays a vital role in cementing relationships, and talking about the weather is a firm favourite in Britain, “for good reasons - it’s so changeable! Other good ideas for small talk can include whether your neighbours have plans for the weekend or plans for a holiday. “
According to her, news and current affairs is always a good talking point too “but try not to make your political views known as these have a disproportionate impact on neighbourly relations. Local topics are always good too, such as local parks, building projects, shops, amenities. “
”The more you talk to your neighbours, the more there will be to talk about“
Befriend your neighbour - Ferguson tells us that initiating and maintaining good relations with neighbours has many practical, as well as emotional benefits.
“On the practical side, good relations can help to avoid legal disputes, they can help with the borrowing and lending of tools or looking out for your property when you’re not there, “ she says. “On an emotional level, neighbours can become good friends, but this is where you need to tread carefully, as we all know that familiarity breeds contempt. The problem with becoming too friendly too quickly is that you’re then stuck with neighbours that you might grow to dislike. So from an etiquette perspective, it’s always best to take your time with friendships, to always give back as much as you receive, to never take neighbours for granted and to be consistent with your friendliness. “
To sum up, the core components of etiquette are “kindness and courtesy - you can’t go wrong if you’re kind and courteous, even if that isn’t always reciprocated. “ And “if you have fallen out with your neighbours, it’s never too late to bury the hatchet - don’t be afraid of rejection. “
”A box of chocolates and a bottle of wine usually does the trick. Good luck!“1Research carried out by Censuswide research on behalf of Aviva in March 2016, using a random sample of 2,000 adults from across the UK.