Sure, you might know your neighbours by their barking dog, noisy parties or devil-may-care attitude to mowing their nature strip.
But how many of your neighbours are you on friendly terms with- if any? And would you invite any of them around for a backyard barbie?
In times gone past, introducing yourself to your neighbours might have been as natural as breaking. But Zarife Hardy, director of the Australian School of Etiquette, says in many cases that tradition has faded away.
“I think it’s an art that is lost and I say bring it back,” says Ms Hardy.
So if community is important to you (or you just want someone to take out your bins while you’re on holidays), how can you get to know your neighbours?
“It’s always important to introduce yourself to anyone that’s new to an environment…a knock on the door and at least an introduction,” suggests Ms Hardy. “It’s lovely to take over a bunch of flowers, a pot plant, a box of chocolates – anything cheap and cheerful.”
However she advises picking your moment. If your neighbours have young children, for example avoid heading over about 5pm or 6pm.
And if they’re not immediately receptive to your neighbourly advances, don’t be too put off. “Just maintain being friendly and smile, you don’t have to overstept the boundary and try and overdo it.”
Having and existing relationship with your neighbours helps hugely when a problem crops up, says Hardy, who says any conflict is best approached politely, and definitely face-to-face.
Meanwhile, if you’ve just moved into the neighbourhood and no one comes to introduce themselves, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be the one to do it.
Sometimes in new estates like those in Cardinia Shire, in Melbourne’s outer south-east, no one knows their neighbours yet.
Kym Ockerby, a community development facilitator with the local council, says new residents are given “hello” cards, white encourage them to introduce themselves to their neighbours.
She says closer neighbours can help strengthen communities, build tolerance and create safer, more vibrant areas where people such as the elderly, vulnerable or isolated aren’t left behind.
“We say get to know you neighbours, introduce yourself or catch up for a cuppa with a few people, or a barbecue for the block,” says Ms Ockerby.
“We used to do it all the time, but I think these days people are really time-poor. A lot of people don’t work where they live. They drive into the driveway, the roller door comes down and that’s it.”
She says a walking group, advertised via a letterbox drop or a community Facebook page, is an easy way to get to know your neighbours, as is walking the streets with your pooch, or giving away surplus home-grown fruit and veggies.
While the tried-and-tested methods still work, a growing number of websites are providing a solid excuse for neighbours to get to knock each other.
One such site is Streetbank Australia, which helps you share and borrow things from your neighbours.
“We, as people, are the greatest resources we can offer each other, but due to the design of our isolated lives, we have forgotten that,” says volunteer Mardi Shakti. “Does every house on the block really need a ladder, or a lawnmower?”
“By sharing items, skills, and resources with your neighbours, you would be surprised at the way your community takes on a shape of its own.”
Other neighbourly tactics
• Organise a street party
• Start a local babysitting club
• Join a community dinner even such as Open Table
• Start a local Facebook group
• Just say hello