Relocating to a new town or a different part of the country can be an exciting adventure. However, settling into your new home and the community around you is going to take some time. A key part of making your new house feel like home is getting to know the neighbourhood, and the sooner you make those important social connections, the quicker you will feel at home.
So, once you’re unpacked and moved in, take the initiative and start exploring. We’re here to help with some useful strategies to speed up the process.
Do your homework
Chances are you’re not actually starting from scratch. After all, you selected the area when you were house hunting, based on some key criteria that had to be met. Perhaps you were looking for a shorter commute to work, great local schools for the kids, more green spaces or countryside around you, good shopping facilities, and more. What’s more, when you came to view the property that is now your home, no doubt you took the opportunity to have a nose around the neighbourhood and formed a positive opinion. It’s a good start.
Now that you’re actually living here, it’s time to find your way around and discover what the locality has to offer in detail. Where is the nearest park with a playground for the little ones, or where can you take the dog for a walk? How do you get to the nearest supermarket and are the local high street shops any good? Map out your commute to work or the kids’ route to school, locate a few good restaurants and pubs to try out, and search for the nearest gym.
Act like a tourist
The first few weeks and months in a new area can feel like being on holiday. You’re discovering everything for the first time, a bit like a tourist rather than a local resident. Embrace the ‘honeymoon phase’ and do all the obvious things. Take in the sights, visit the museums and galleries, go to the theatre, cinema, restaurants and farmers’ market, and spend as much time as you need finding your bearings.
Why not read through a tourist guide, pick up a local newspaper or follow online blogs to get a better grasp of your new surroundings? Join a walking tour or hop on a bus for an overview, and go out with your camera and find interesting local places to take pictures of. Seeing your new neighbourhood through the eyes of a visitor is the first step to familiarising yourself with your new home town. As an added bonus, you’ll be in a great position to show your friends and family all the best places when they come to visit.
Get to know your neighbours
Making contact with the neighbours in your street can be as easy as saying hello over the fence as you’re washing the car or mowing the lawn, or you could just knock on the door and introduce yourself. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, this is an important rite of passage when you move home. Take care to make a good first impression – friendly neighbours can be extremely useful when it comes to sharing after-school pick-ups and play dates, taking deliveries for you or feeding the cat while you’re away.
Present yourself as a newcomer who is keen to be part of the local community. Ask questions about topics of common interest – bin collections, neighbourhood watch schemes, local WhatsApp groups, social events, takeaway recommendations and so forth. If you’re on the same wavelength, over time, good neighbours can turn into friends, and before you know it you could be surrounded by a close-knit, supportive community that all look out for one another. That’s the holy grail.
Engage in the community
Putting your feelers out into the community is where it starts to get exciting. Perhaps start with a local gym or leisure centre and find out about different membership options. You might discover that you live near an attractive country club with an extensive gym, tennis and spa facilities plus a rich social programme for members. Or check out local swimming pools, yoga classes or Parkrun events. Finding group activities you can join will help you meet like-minded people with similar interests who live near you.
Another good place to investigate is your children’s school. Make a point of meeting teachers and fellow parents and volunteer for school events to lend a helping hand at concerts and sporting fixtures, summer fairs and Christmas bazaars. It’s a great way to make friends with other parents who live locally. And speaking of children, it is often the case that helping your kids to settle in will also benefit the parents. Look for places that your youngster may enjoy – be it the local playground, library or indoor activity centre – and start chatting with other mums and dads. Before you know it, you may have made new friends for yourself and your kids.
Have a party
Once you feel settled in your new home, consider inviting neighbours and new friends over for dinner, drinks, or a relaxed party. Alternatively, if you’re having a housewarming party with your family and friends, why not take the opportunity to invite new friends and neighbours too? It’s a great idea for your ‘old’ and ‘new’ social circles to mingle.
If you feel that you ought to have an excuse or proper reason to invite people over to your new house, look to seasonal events for help and inspiration. From Halloween parties to pre- or post-Christmas drinks, Carnival or St Patrick’s Day, Easter and summer holidays, family birthdays and anniversaries, there’s no shortage of party ideas for seasonal events.
Getting to know your new neighbourhood through the first year in your new home can be a rewarding journey. Once you’ve come full circle, look back and marvel at the progress you’ve made in just 12 months. Why not mark the occasion with a house anniversary party and celebrate with your newfound community?