How to be every­one’s favourite buddy on the block

Vancouver Sun - - WESTCOAST HOMES - DANIEL BORTZ The Wash­ing­ton Post

To live in a great neigh­bour­hood, and en­joy all the com­forts that come with be­ing part of a tightknit com­mu­nity, you have to be a good neigh­bour your­self.

There’s cer­tainly no short­age of ex­am­ples of bad neigh­bours in TV shows and films (think Homer Simp­son or any neigh­bour from Des­per­ate House­wives). But what does it mean to be a gen­uinely good neigh­bour?

Here, eti­quette ex­perts share ways to build and main­tain pos­i­tive, long-last­ing re­la­tion­ships with your neigh­bours. (It takes more than sim­ply lend­ing some­one a cup of sugar.)


One of the best ways to wel­come new neigh­bours is by pro­vid­ing them with a “need-to-know” check­list, says Diane Gotts­man, au­thor of Mod­ern Eti­quette for a Bet­ter Life. If you know a great house­keeper, handyman, dry cleaner, dog walker or lawn­mow­ing ser­vice, give a sheet with their con­tact in­for­ma­tion to your new neigh­bour. In­clude sug­ges­tions on the best and near­est gro­cery stores, restau­rants and phar­ma­cies.


Just one ugly home in a com­mu­nity can re­duce prop­erty val­ues for the en­tire neigh­bour­hood. You don’t want to be­come known as the owner of “that ugly house” — the one with knee-high grass, over­flow­ing gut­ters, dirty win­dows, peel­ing paint or toys scat­tered across the front yard. “You should be clean­ing up the front of your house as much as pos­si­ble,” says Lizzie Post, co-pres­i­dent at the Emily Post In­sti­tute, a Burling­ton, Vt.-based eti­quette-train­ing busi­ness.


“Pets can be a big bone of con­tention be­tween neigh­bours, so you need to keep them in check,” eti­quette con­sul­tant Lisa Mirza Grotts says. Start with Pet Eti­quette 101: Clean up af­ter your pooch. “When you take your dog for a walk, do not de­posit your dog ’s poop bag into some­one else’s trash can,” Gotts­man says. “It sounds ba­sic, but it hap­pens a lot.”


You may want to at­tend block par­ties, com­mu­nity cook­outs and other neigh­bour­hood events so you can min­gle and form friend­ships. But to go an ex­tra mile, sug­gests Elaine Swann, founder of the Swann School of Pro­to­col, co-or­di­nate a com­mu­nity-wide project that neigh­bours can par­tic­i­pate in to­gether, such as deck­ing out your neigh­bour­hood’s play­ground for Hal­loween. Live by a se­nior cit­i­zen? As­sem­ble a group of neigh­bours to help hang lights out­side the per­son’s house for the hol­i­days.


Re­cently moved in? One way to build rap­port is by invit­ing your neigh­bours over for a house­warm­ing party, in­stead of invit­ing only your friends. But “let peo­ple know that you’re not ac­cept­ing gifts,” Post says. “This should be sim­ply a so­cial event.” Once you’ve es­tab­lished a re­la­tion­ship, you could form a neigh­bour­hood book club or weekly soft­ball game to deepen friend­ships.



Part of be­ing a good neigh­bour is avoid­ing gos­sip. But, Post says, there’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween “good” gos­sip and “bad” gos­sip. “If a neigh­bour’s mother passes away, com­mu­ni­cat­ing that news to other neigh­bours so that peo­ple can at­tend the fu­neral is good gos­sip,” she ex­plains. Bad gos­sip, mean­while, spreads neg­a­tive ru­mours (e.g., “I heard Jerry got fired from his job. I can’t say I’m sur­prised”).


Keep­ing mu­sic at a rea­son­able noise level when you’re throw­ing a party is com­mon sense. An as­pect peo­ple fre­quently over­look, though, is mind­ing where their guests park. “The last thing you want is for your guest to block your neigh­bour’s drive­way,” Gotts­man says. You also don’t want your guests’ cars to take up the en­tire block, which is why Gotts­man sug­gests hir­ing a valet ser­vice to han­dle guest park­ing.


When you live in a home­own­ers or condo as­so­ci­a­tion, you have to com­ply with the com­mu­nity’s rules. Still, a lot of peo­ple don’t take the time to re­view their as­so­ci­a­tion’s rules, Swann says. These rules may dic­tate park­ing re­stric­tions, trash and re­cy­cling sched­ules, land­scap­ing re­quire­ments, move-in pro­ce­dures and more. Break­ing your as­so­ci­a­tion’s rules can­not only re­sult in fines but also ruf­fle feathers with neigh­bours. “It’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to po­lice your­self if you want to avoid con­flict,” Swann says. Also, check lo­cal codes to make sure you’re fol­low­ing city or­di­nances, par­tic­u­larly re­gard­ing noise. A new sur­vey by Im­provenet.com showed that six of the top 10 com­plaints peo­ple have about their neigh­bours in­volve noise, whether from mu­sic, voices, par­ties, kids, pets or the tele­vi­sion.


No mat­ter how friendly you are, you may have dis­agree­ments or quib­bles with neigh­bours. Han­dling these con­flicts with tact is cru­cial. Gen­er­ally, if you have an is­sue with a neigh­bour, your first line of de­fence should be to try to re­solve the prob­lem with the per­son di­rectly. This should be done face-to-face, not by text mes­sage or email, where mes­sages can get mis­con­strued, Swann says. Let’s say your neigh­bour’s dog is pee­ing on your gar­den. Broach the sub­ject by start­ing with a com­pli­ment, and then sug­gest work­ing to­gether to­ward a so­lu­tion: “Duke is such a sweet dog. How­ever, I have no­ticed that he’s been pee­ing on our be­go­nias, and I would re­ally love to curb that be­hav­iour so that my flow­ers don’t die on me.” If you can’t re­solve the is­sue one-on-one, con­tact your home­owner’s as­so­ci­a­tion.


Block par­ties, com­mu­nity cook­outs and other events of­fer great op­por­tu­ni­ties to build friend­ships within the neigh­bour­hood you call home.

Be­ing the owner of a well-kept home can help keep prop­erty val­ues up for the en­tire neigh­bour­hood you live in.

A great neigh­bour­hood can mean be­long­ing not only to a scenic lo­ca­tion, but also a tight-knit com­mu­nity that goes along with the cho­sen lo­ca­tion.

Neigh­bours may not gen­er­ally have prob­lems with pets, but should is­sues arise, care­fully ap­proach them by start­ing with a com­pli­ment, and then sug­gest work­ing with said neigh­bour to­ward some sort of res­o­lu­tion.

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