I need some neighborly advice

I know some of the other b.la contributors have bad relationships and experiences with their neighbors, but I’ve realized lately that I don’t have any kind of relationship with most of my neighbors. I’ve been living in my Palms apartment since September 2000 and still don’t know the first names of the people who live upstairs who have good music taste, the Indian family across the hall and other tenants in my building.

While I was finishing up my undergrad education, it didn’t really bug me that I wasn’t too familiar with my neighbors. I was hardly ever at my apartment with lots of evening meetings and late night study sessions on campus. That changed when I had semi-normal work hours, but I still don’t know my neighbors.

This bugs me now. I had some incredible neighbors when I was growing up in Hacienda Heights. My parents make friends with everybody, and it paid off considering our neighbors have been really helpful and plain old neighborly in the 27 years we’ve lived in the area. I don’t plan to be here that long, but it would still be nice to ask a neighbor if I could borrow a cup of sugar.

Would it be strange to finally say more than a simple “hi” or “hello” to a neighbor?

14 thoughts on “I need some neighborly advice”

  1. is there a coffeeshop/bar/cafe near where you live? that might be a good place to go to meet a few people in the neighborhood, who then can clue you into a few more and so on.

    i find very often that some sort of pretext like that or some activity is often the catalyst to meeting the locals.

  2. I don’t think it would be weird at all to suddenly strike up a conversation with your neighbor. What would you think if your neighbor suddennly started talking to you?

    I imagine it would probably a relief to all involved if someone … anyone … broke the ice.

    The most important consideration would be to respect your neighbor’s boundary if they signal that they’re not interested.

    Chances are they will at least be polite if not receptive.

  3. I don’t think there’s anything odd at all about starting a conversation with your neighbors. I’m always surprised how willing people are to talk (current neighbors aside).

  4. Hex,
    There are some chain coffee shops nearyby (two Starbucks within walking distance) as well as a bar or two. Your suggestion would be great if not for the fact that I’m even more shy in a place like a bar or coffee shop.

    I actually think it might be weird if one of the neighbors struck up a conversation. If I had been living her a month, no biggie, but I’ve been here almost 5 years. Breaking the ice after 5 years feels a little weird.

    I’m just glad I don’t share any of your bad experiences.

  5. I’ve only lived at my apt for 8 months now, and i dont really talk to any of my neighbors. But that might be because they mostly speak russian. Brian and i never know who lives where or recognize but a few faces — the prostitute that lives next door (who was handcuffed and taken away!)…Ana woman who lives with her obnoxious daughter Elvira (who i’ve exchanged words with in an ugly confrontation of sorts). The walls are so thin here that we can tell when Julia (one of the few english/russian speakers) is drunk off her ass and crying, or elvira has her friends over, or the prostitute is drunk again, or when ana is trying to capture her pets…And im sure they have their own funny nicknames for us. But…i think if they tried talking to us (and they have a couple of times)…it has been really weird and kind of shocking. Goodluck though!

  6. why don’t you invite them all to some kind of housewarming party, five years late? better later than never I say…slip an invite in all their mailboxes. make some cookies, fire up the 1200s and make it happen cap’n.

    the neighbors generally talk to me these days. that may or may not be due to the fact that I’ve become known as the guy who stands around by the window in his boxers all day during the heatwave. what you gonna do…

  7. Cindy, I’ve been in my building for over a year, and the only person I know by name is a little girl, because she introduced herself, and says “hi, Lisa!” every time she sees me. The one time I tried talking to one of my neighbors by the pool, she acted like I scared the hell out of her (possibly because I was speaking English, and most of my neighbors speak Spanish to each other). I hate that I don’t know any of their names, or enough Spanish to hold a conversation.

  8. As any savvy apartment dweller who rides an elevator daily will tell you, the danger of being too friendly is that you’re obligated to say hello, even when you’re not in the mood for small talk. Better to make friends across the street, so you have the luxury of deciding when you feel like being social, and when you feel like being alone.

  9. It’s a real shame that the world has changed so much. People are in such a hurry to be on their way they have forgotten the world around them.
    I myself have lived in the same place for 10 years and don’t know my neighbours. It seems they don’t want to be known. I am one for always saying hi to everyone. Standing in lineups at the grocery store goes a little faster when you turn around and take notice of the person standing behind you.
    I always make sure that I ask the cashier “How are you today?” Most times they are so surprised that some one is interested in how they are.
    Take the time to smile at someone new. You will be surprised at how contagious it can be.

  10. I agree with Debbie…it takes so little effort to say hello and it might really serve you if you need help one day. People are what makes the world interesting!

  11. Hmm, I know that you have been there a while but I don’t think it would hurt to say hello. Are there any people who have moved in recently? Perhaps they would be the easiest ones to talk to first.

    Not to brag, but I know all of the people in my building (there’s only 8 apts) and feel that it is great advantage to knowing your neighbor. We can go out of town and have someone watch over our place, I can come home from a big meeting with leftovers and have multiple people to give them to, we feel comfortable leaving our front door open when it’s beautiful out.

    Maybe it will take time to melt the ice, and maybe some of it will never melt, but I bet you’ll end up with at least one decent person who you can consider a good neighbor.

  12. In my experience getting to know your neighbors in an apt is not a good idea. You live too close to be friends and always being available for a drop in or small talk is annoying – to me anyway. I agree w/ Eric; make nice with people accross the street. Obviously be polite and take care looking out for safety in the building and such – but if a friendship blossoms it will happen naturally and not because you went over there with the welcome wagon. Maybe I’m a total bitch.

  13. Hi Neighbor. I was directed to this entry from a neighborhood website. I understand this was posted over a month ago, but that shouldn’t matter right? So, five years shouldn’t matter either. ;)

    Great suggestions and comments above! True about the language barrier in this neighborhood. I’m currently enlisting the kids and some adults around here to help me learn Spanish. It helps when that veggie truck comes around. It also helps that I have a dog who has won the hearts of all the little ones around here. They know her name. I’m still working on all of their names.

    I’d suggest being honest. In my experience, people are afraid – or shy – or (seemingly) too busy to be bothered. Much of the time it comes down to that language barrier. It takes a lot of energy to want to understand each other. Many want others to make the first move. So, open the door. Maybe an open house in your living room or common area (like Ryan suggested). Or just a “Hi, I’ve been your neighbor for 5 years and I don’t even know your name. It’s nice to meet you.”

    Conversation topics: Ask them about what you experience: The music they listen to. [who is that?] The food they cook. [what’s that great smell?] The clothes they wear. [where do you buy your beautiful scarves?] Their cool accent. [where are you from?]

    Good luck.

    Um, considering it’s been over a month since this post, I’ll have to check to see if you’ve updated. Perhaps you already know everyone in your building by now. In which case, I say atta girl! And nice to meet you.

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