You're all settled into your new apartment and you're feeling pretty good. The cabinets are fully stocked, the cable's hooked up, and IKEA just delivered your snazzy new sofa. In fact, you're sitting on it right now, watching Walker, Texas Ranger. It's Saturday night. You're a loser.

But before you start speed-eating Oreos, you should realize it's not as tough as you think to meet people in your new neighborhood. After all, Mary Tyler Moore met Rhoda, right? With a little personality and bit of perseverance, you too can have a few wacky neighbor friends to call your own. Just follow these steps and you'll fit right in.


Fine. You're in a new neighborhood and you don't know a soul. But unless you've relocated to a ghost town (which would explain the "no soul" thing), chances are that you'll see people walking in and out of the apartments and/or houses nearby. These people are called your "neighbors." They also represent socializing prospects, so suck in your shyness and say hello.

Remember who it was who said "first impressions count?" Neither do we, but we think you should take those words to heart anyway. Like it or not, your first interactions with your new neighbors will determine your fate - inside of 20 seconds, they'll decide what they think of you. Mess up, and you'll forever be branded a weirdo. But don't let that stress you out. Adhere to the following, and your first impression will be stellar:

  • The spotting. Check out your neighbor from a distance. Is she pushing a baby carriage with one hand and trying to keep screaming kids at bay with the other? If so, now may not be the ideal time to approach her. On the other hand, if your new neighbor is whistling as he moseys inside, hands down in his pockets, smiling at nothing in particular, the timing is probably right.

  • The approach. Don't sneak up on your neighbor. Walk in view of him/her - even wave as you approach. This may sound obvious, but think about how freaked you'd be to talk to someone who scared the living daylights out of you.

  • The greeting. As soon as you reach your new neighbor, introduce yourself in whatever way you feel comfortable. "Hi, I'm Sam. I just moved in," is fine (if your name is Sam, that is). Unless your neighbors are complete social idiots, they will pick up the slack at this point and offer an excited, welcoming reply.

  • The conversation. Keep the conversation steered toward common ground: living in the area, neighborhood activities, things to do about town. Most importantly, watch for signs that your new neighbor is finished talking. Don't keep them there any longer than they want to be there. And don't start asking invasive questions about your neighbor's personal life. In good time, you'll learn more private details. A nice quick conversation involving something like "What's the best grocery store 'round these parts?" will be fine.

  • The exit. Regardless of what was said or not said, how you finish it off is the most important part of "being friendly." Leave your new neighbor thinking that you are relaxed, easygoing, and someone he/she is going to look forward to running into at a later date. If you followed these steps carefully, odds are your new neighbor is going to say something like, "Hey, would you like me to show you around some time?"

Besides meeting and greeting people on the street, you could also "invent" a reason to talk to them. We like to call it the "cup of sugar" technique. Yes, it's desperate, but it works. Just go up to your neighbor's door (preferably at a decent hour and while fully dressed) and ask to borrow a cup of sugar or some equally non-threatening ingredient. Maybe you need a screwdriver to put on your new window blinds. Whatever the reason, seize the opportunity to start chatting your neighbor up, perhaps even inviting him/her over in a couple days to sample the cake/pie/whatever you're making with the help of the ingredient you borrowed. (Remember to actually make the dessert, or they'll be on to you.) If you borrow something, return it immediately. We're talking within the hour.


We support any excuse to party (Halloween, Arbor Day, new SYW posted...), and a great way to become friendly with your neighbors is to be the host or hostess of your own little fête. You're guaranteed to at least have a good time - especially if drinking is involved. Basically, there are two party routes you can go:

Have a party at your apartment
Organize a block party

Have a party at your apartment

The apartment party is an ambitious yet manageable way to gather all ye' neighbors. Hoist a notice on the apartment building bulletin board, leave some flyers in the mailboxes, make a call to the superintendent, and presto: you have a party happening. The benefits of a party such as this are that 1) you are in charge, 2) you are handling everything, and 3) you are meeting a whole bunch of people in the process. It's also a good way to force you to clean your apartment. The negatives of this are that 1) you are in charge (you're responsible for everyone's good time), 2) you are handling everything (no one else is chipping in), and 3) you are meeting a whole bunch of people in the process (half of whom will probably be duds). And you have to clean your apartment. But, that said, there's a good chance the party will net you return invites (and/or Saturday night plans) with a few of the non-duds in the crowd.

Consider these points when planning an apartment party:

  • Don't make the party too late at night.
  • Don't make the party during the working day.
  • Buy more than enough food.
  • Supply plenty of non-liquor drink alternatives.
  • Have party activities ready to go (music, dancing, board games)
  • Make sure that you say "NO PRESENTS" on the invitation or flyer. Otherwise, your neighbors might be stressed out about what to get you... or they might not want to get you anything and decide not to come.

Organize a block party

A block party is another party monster altogether. If this is the route you decide to go, you have your work cut out for you - a proper block party takes about three months to plan.

Not scared yet? Good. Here's what you do: on that trusty bulletin board in your building and in a nice little advertisement in the local paper, announce a meeting to form a committee for a block party. Be prepared, block party planner, to have this organizational shindig at your apartment. (See above rules for apartment party planning).

At the meeting, assign different activities to the neighbors that show up:

  • You'll need one person to be the main block party contact person. He/she will handle all invitations, answer all questions, and promote or advertise the party.

  • Have one person become town-hall liaison. This person will need to deal with the stimulating business of insuring your party, dealing with permits, and all that other legal nonsense. We suggest you assign this task to someone you don't like or someone who is a push-over.

  • Other positions include: Food/refreshment coordinator, activity planner, and the dreaded clean-up committee chair.

After everyone has his/her job and a date has been chosen, the organizing begins. Over the next several weeks, everything from angry neighbors to alcohol/food questions will need to be addressed and answered. Everyone will be responsible for reporting about his/her specific job at the weekly committee meeting.

A week before the event, confirm all your arrangements with each other and the powers-that-be in town.

Questions to think about:

  • Have the police/fire department been informed?
  • Are all necessary permits in place?
  • Do you have twice as much food as you think you'll need?
  • Do you have a place to hold the party in case it rains? (Or at least a rain date?)
  • Is the music all set?
  • Are the activities all set?
  • Does the clean-up committee have the proper supplies?

By the time party day arrives, you'll know all your neighbors by now. Maybe even too well.


Check out community service opportunities
Join a synagogue/church/place of worship
Join a book club or writers' group
Hang out near the local coffee house

Check out community service opportunities

Wherever you move, there will be groups of people doing their very best to make that place better. Join them. Head over to your new town hall and sign up for whatever community service activities strike your fancy. Or - if you prefer - head to the nearest university and ask to speak to whoever's in charge of community service activities. Your karma will thank you.

A few excellent organizations to consider checking out:

Join a synagogue/church/place of worship

Just because your mom isn't around begging you to put on your Sunday best doesn't mean you shouldn't go to church or synagogue. Places of worship are great places to meet nice people with all sorts of interests. Furthermore, you can count on these places to host many activities and town happenings. Check out or to find church and synagogue activities, respectively.

Join a book club or writers' group

Another great way to become part of a new crowd is to join some type of literary group. Think about it: you get to read excellent books or work on your own writing, AND you meet people with similar literary interests. The conversation is already in place.

To find a fantastic book/writers group in your area (and start ingratiating yourself to all those creative types):

  • Check the bulletin board at your local library.
  • Ask someone in a nearby college English department.
  • Look in your town's alternative weekly.
  • Browse Web bulletin boards.

Hang out near the local coffee house

This is the "Starbucks" method: bring a book, plant yourself of a couch, and spend a couple hours a week relaxing with other bohemian-esque patrons. You'll soon start to recognize the people who come in regularly, you'll build your way up to the "I know you" nod and smile, and eventually, you'll strike up some small talk. Alternatively, you could talk up the bohemian-esque coffee servers. If the coffee house crowd isn't your cup of tea, then pick another locale with cooler people. Some suggestions:

  • A local watering hole.
  • A dog walking park (assuming you have a dog).
  • A local gym.

OK, neighbor, that's about it. A year from now when you spot the new kid on the block, have some mercy and introduce yourself. Or at least point him/her towards this SYW...