Meet and greet is a simple strategy to welcome new neighbors into your community or old friends into your home.
Whether you live in an established neighborhood of single-family homes or an apartment building, empathy is always the best policy when it comes to those living closest to you, says Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute, based in Burlington, Vt., and great-grandson of the etiquette expert.
“Be welcoming, and treat your neighbors as you like to be treated,” he says. “Especially during the holidays, there are opportunities for more formal interactions at parties and open houses, but the casual greetings on the street and over the fence are important, too.”
Neighborly introductions have become more informal, because our society has become more casual and mobile. Post says it’s acceptable to drop by when introducing yourself to some new neighbors, but don’t expect to be invited inside their house or for them to tell you the story of their life.
“It’s common sense, but relationships blossom over time,” Post says. “When you’re meeting new neighbors for the first time, keep it simple. A gift of food with a card of introduction is a warm gesture.”
A neighborly mantra for first contact is to keep it sociable and short. The best housewarming gifts are those that are also heartwarming, such as a basket of baked goods, freshly picked vegetables or flowers from your yard, or a bottle of bubbly.
Three years ago, Post and his family bought a second home in a Vero Beach, Fla., neighborhood.
“Having a home in Florida is a different experience than living on nearly 30 acres in rural Vermont,” he says. “We love Vermont, but a lot of interactions with neighbors are more formal, because of the coordination involved. In Florida, we can walk down the street, or open our garage door, and talk to our neighbors.”
The way your home looks to your neighbors leaves a lasting impression and sends a message, no matter where you live, says Rebecca Gray, merchandising vice president of the Omaha-based Hayneedle Inc., a decade-old online home store.
“Start by keeping your home neat and tidy,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you have a nice wreath on the door if the paint is peeling, or new outdoor furniture if you don’t mow the grass.
“The trick is to make your home comfortable and approachable all year long. The way your house looks is an expression of how you live, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money.”
Planters with seasonal flowers and a new welcome mat can work wonders to create curb appeal.
Catch a breeze — or shoot the breeze with neighbors — by creating welcoming outdoor spaces with Hayneedle’s Coral Coast Pleasant Bay Porch Swing ($179.98) or Adirondack Chairs ($199.98) surrounding an Aspen Bronze Fire Pit ($159.98).
“Outdoor spaces are an extension of your home and give neighbors the opportunity to gather in an impromptu and casual way,” Gray says. “It’s one more way to connect with people.”
Post says, above all, be considerate by not pulling the rug out from under neighbors while trying to put out the welcome mat:
▪ Don’t expect neighbors to have free time to visit. Sometimes, a quick wave is sufficient.
▪ Don’t offer decorating or landscaping advice.
▪ Don’t gossip about others in the neighborhood.
▪ Don’t leave your pet’s or children’s mess on a neighbor’s property.
▪ Don’t extend an invitation for others to gather regularly on your porch or swim in your pool unless you mean it sincerely.
▪ Don’t overstep your neighborly relationship by walking into someone’s home without ringing the doorbell.
Different communities have varied ways in which people feel neighborly toward each other. A holiday open house or informal neighborhood get-together can help foster a connection to community.
“It’s very intimate to invite people into your home,” Gray says. “But don’t be an uptight host, or no one — including you — will have a good time.”
Post says practicing inclusion is always better than the alternative.
“Don’t exclude that person you might consider to be a curmudgeonly neighbor from a gathering. He may not choose to show up, but then again, he might surprise you and be delightful,” Post says. “And because of the way people are mobile today, there’s a greater likelihood that you will not only be the one welcoming a new neighbor, but also be the new neighbor hopefully being welcomed.”
In short, a golden neighbor is one that adheres to the Golden Rule.
“Your neighbors can become like extended family — with boundaries, of course,” Post says. “Having and being a good neighbor is a part of feeling safe and valued where you live.”