I can say from experience: when you understand that there are real reasons to be nice to your neighbors, it makes life a lot easier for the both of you. I have had the same neighbors for 15 years; Nicoli and Vera and their family are from Russia, and they are some of the warmest, kindest people I know. It’s also kind of awesome having people that you like and trust right next door. While they don’t include leaning over the garden fence, smiling like a crazy person and chirping “Well, high-dee-ho there, neighbor-oonie,” Ned Flanders style, these reasons to be nice to your neighbors will never fail you.
1 Experience Other Cultures
When you get along with your neighbors, you get a chance to get to know them, and if they are from a different culture than you, that means new cultural holidays, food and customs. You can travel to the other side of the world just by taking a few steps next door! You have never experienced a culture properly until you have spent time with a family in their own house. I know more about Russian customs than I ever thought I would – I have sampled sumptuous Russian food and run straight from the steamy sauna only to jump into the freezing pool (I swear it’s a real thing!). Getting to know a new culture is one of the coolest reasons to be nice to your neighbors.
2 Neighborhood Watch
Your neighbors can watch your house for you when you can’t. They can keep a sharp eye out for suspicious activity and inform you, and that’s better than any security camera. My family trusted Nicoli so much, we gave him a spare key to the house; we knew he could help if we needed him.
3 Celebrating the Season
It’s awesome at Christmas and other special holidays swapping gifts with your neighbors. It enriches any family holiday when you get a chance to bless someone and be blessed in return by them. Returning home after work to find a present on your very doorstep? #Win.
4 There to Help
One of the best things about having your neighbors as friends is that they are willing to help out when you’re gone and something potentially dangerous happens (i.e. you leave the stove on or the door unlocked), and more importantly, in an emergency (like fire, or a medical emergency while the babysitter’s on duty). Sometimes having someone on hand to deal with the situation in a timely manner can be the difference between a situation turning about for good or for bad.
5 Surrounded by Friendly Faces
It might seem simple, but just being surrounded by people who you know wish you well is great. It’s a positive atmosphere to live in, especially when you compare it with situations where neighborly relations have gone sour. It's a much healthier environment to be in.
6 Built in BFFs
If you really bond well, it’s so easy to schedule a hang out – they’re right there in the same building! Plus, if you need to ask them a favor (i.e. to be OK with that big party you’re planning for your birthday that might go late and/or may blast Disney show tunes for a few hours), they are more likely to acquiesce.
7 Drives a Sense of Community
Lastly, having a good relationship with your neighbors drives a sense of community that can be lacking in our inward-looking, social-media-obsessed society. Giving kindness to others and having them give it back to you creates a strong solidarity that is missing from many neighborhoods, and will ultimately make your neighborhood a safer, better place to live.
When Nicoli and Vera and their family moved away last year, there were many tears shed (and quite a few vodka toasts made too!) over our last meal together. They inspired me to write this, and they will always have a special spot in my family's heart. We have new neighbors now, and I’ve made friends with them too. They are a wonderful family from Malaysia and I’m looking forward to learning more about their culture. And even if you have less-than-pleasant neighbors, don’t fret. I can guarantee that if you are consistently considerate, kind and patient and you make a special effort to be lovely to them, they’ll come around over time. It only takes a certain amount of time for that kind of positivity to break through a hard shell. Everyone – everyone – has good in them, and we can bring it out by acting like we already see it. How do you get along with your neighbors?