Principle 1: Observe and Interact
When I rented houses in inner city Melbourne I never made much of an effort to meet my neighbours. Life was very busy in the city, catching up with friends, work, going out, shopping, meetings, etc, etc... Most people around me spent their time in their homes, not outside - and when they went out it was often in their cars - so I rarely saw them. I kept pretty much to myself and so did just about everyone else around me. I always felt that there was something wrong about this situation but couldn't quite put my finger on it.
Since buying the house in Seymour I have made a much greater effort to meet neighbours. I attribute this largely to the fact that I have become a home owner, rather than a renter - so I have greater rights and responsibilities. But also, I feel more settled than I once did, that I'll be around for a while, and I see the value in building community with the people around me.
Introducing myself to the neighbours wasn't hard, in fact, quite the opposite. The hard bit is knocking on the front door, after that it's easy - "Hi, I just bought the house next door...". I found out quite a lot about the history of the place, the people, and heard stories about old Jack who owned the house previously. I also shared some of my story, where I am at, and what I am thinking of doing with the place. People like to know who they are living next to and what it happening around them - fair enough eh? I think that introducing yourself is best done right at the start, as the longer you leave it, the less likely it is to happen.
Working on the house site generates quite a bit of interest from people passing by too. I'll always stop what I am doing, introduce myself and say "gedday" when somebody takes an interest. If there's a yarn to be had, I'm in. It's actually a busy spot, with lots of foot traffic. Kids often walk by on their way to and from school, people walking their dogs or pushing prams around the block, and being close to the centre of town and the train station, people sometimes walk rather than drive.
Spending time interacting with local people is very rewarding in many ways, especially in creating a sense of community - something that's often lacking, and something that we can change if we make the effort.
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