Jo Brand’s tips for getting to know your neighbours

When was the last time you stopped for a natter with your neighbours?

With the advent of digital deliveries and messenger apps, the idea of popping next door for a cup of sugar seems pretty old fashioned, but a new survey has found that one in five of us don’t feel we could call on anyone in our neighbourhood if we needed help.

Research by The Big Lunch, which polled 4,000 people, found that a fifth of people have never spoken to their neighbours, while almost three quarters wouldn’t introduce themselves to someone new who had just moved in next door.

1 in 5 of us don’t know our neighbours (Istock/PA)
1 in 5 of us don’t know our neighbours (Istock/PA)

It’s an issue comedian Jo Brand is passionate about tackling. This year, she’s partnered with The Big Lunch to encourage people to host their own neighbourhood get-togethers.

Every June, the initiative encourages people to spend a few hours sharing food and friendship with their neighbours, celebrating community spirit.

Brand, who knows all of her neighbours, says she feels “saddened” by the fact so many of us are isolated from those living closest to us. “At a time when the country feels so divided and disconnected, it seems more important than ever to come together and remember the importance of community spirit,” she says.

Jo Brand with chef Ainsley Harriott at last years’ Big Lunch (The Big Lunch/PA)
Jo Brand with chef Ainsley Harriott at last years’ Big Lunch (The Big Lunch/PA)

“It’s really important to get to know your neighbours. Say you have an emergency and your nearest friend or relative is half an hour away, it’s always reassuring to be able to think you can knock on a neighbour’s door,” she adds.

“Getting community issues like crime, litter and parking resolved is so much more effective if people who are neighbours all club together, rather than individually assaulting the council.

“Being able to keep an eye on a neighbour who might be not well or need you to drop off a pint of milk, is something that you need to do face-to-face. That can’t be done by your online yoga Facebook group – it’s the physical, geographical proximity which is important.”

Here are Brand’s top tips for getting to know your whole hallway, street or village…

1. Drop a card through the door

“Knocking on the door and saying a polite, ‘Hello’ is one of the best ways to break the ice with your neighbours, but if you’re a shy person, pop a little card through the neighbour’s door saying, ‘Hi, I’ve just moved downstairs, do you fancy saying hello sometime?'”

2. Be sensible

“It’s quite daunting to introduce yourself to strangers. You might not want to knock on the door of your neighbour who looks like a 27 stone wrestler. So I would say it’s important to be sensible about it.”

3. Time it right

“If you see them coming or going, just say a friendly, ‘Hello’ to break the ice.”

It’s all about timing, says Brand (Ian Nicholson/PA)
It’s all about timing, says Brand (Ian Nicholson/PA)

4. Don’t expect everyone to want to be close pals

“There may be times when you introduce yourself and you don’t get the best response, as not everyone is a Disney character – but at least you’ve taken the chance.”

5. A gift isn’t always essential

“It’s a lovely idea, but then again, just bear in mind a bit of caution if you don’t know your neighbours very well. A bunch of flowers is nice, but it’s not essential.”

6. Start small

“Big get togethers like street parties are very daunting.

“Start small and knock on a couple of your neighbours’ doors and ask them to go for lunch together. Once you start to get to know them, it might turn out that someone knows someone from the council, and it becomes much easier to arrange that kind of thing. Street events are also much more fun to do if you organise them as a group!”

7. Let them know you’re available 

“When you initially introduce yourself, just let your neighbours know you’re there if there’s ever an emergency. You don’t need to say, ‘I’ve got tickets to the theatre’ or, ‘What do you think about a weekend in Clacton together?’

“Most neighbours don’t want you to be rammed down their throat – they just want to know who you are and that you’re around if there is an emergency. But it’s a massive bonus if you think they’re lovely and you become mates.”

- Press Association

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