After all the unpacking, arranging furniture and setting up new services comes another key part of moving: settling into your new community. Getting to know your neighborhood is a key part of making your house feel like a home.
For some families, this could fall into place as soon as neighbors see your moving trucks, but most of the time, getting acquainted with your new surroundings takes some initiative on your part, too. It’s not as anxiety-inducing as you think; being proactive in exploring your new area can be fun as you discover a coffee shop, trail for your morning run, or community center with classes for your kids.
If you’re ready to get familiar with your new surroundings, here’s our list of seven top strategies. Even if you deploy one or two of these suggestions, you’ll feel more established in your new home in no time.
Do your Research
When you were house-hunting, you likely had your eye on this area for a while. Maybe it was a shorter commute to work, stellar schools, or access to great parks and outdoor spaces. During an open house or private visit to the home, your family probably drove around the neighborhood to get a lay of the land.
You may have noticed kids playing, toys strewn on the lawn, families walking their dogs, or gardeners tending to their flowerbeds. On the other hand, it may have been quiet and tranquil. This preliminary scan may help you get a taste of what to expect from your new neighbors.
By utilizing Google Maps, you can view nearby parks, recreation centers, grocery stores and other amenities. You can even map out your drive to work or where your kids will catch the school bus. Becoming familiar with your new surroundings will elevate your chances of having a smooth first day.
If you’re moving to a new city altogether, learn about your new digs by reading the local newspaper and online blogs. You’ll get to know names of city officials, featured restaurants and discover other activities. These tactics will help you get your footing so that when you arrive, you’ll have a soft landing and a good grasp of your surroundings.
Become a Tourist
Explore your new neighborhood – as a tourist – and soak it all in; take note of museums, galleries, markets, theatres or other cool landmarks dotted throughout your new neighborhood.
Look up city guides that zero in on your neighborhood. Join a walking tour – or enroll in a photography class that will take you to the most picturesque parts of your new city.
If you’re a foodie, Google top-rated restaurants in your vicinity – and look on Yelp. Refine your search for your favorite cuisine. This way, you will have a shortlist of options when you crave pizza or sushi.
And if you’re a sports fan, buy tickets to the next game so you can check out your new sports team and the stadium.
Don’t forget to take walks or hop on the bus and take note of interesting stores, eateries and services – like the spa or dry cleaners. These could become your new go-to jaunts!
Earmark time to steep yourself in your neighborhood’s culture. Make a Google Map and drop pins on all the locales you’d like to visit. Commit to a walking trail each week or dedicating one day each weekend to sample a different restaurant. Within weeks, you’ll have a running list of restaurants, services, and activities you love in your new community.
Seeing your new neighborhood through a tourist’s eyes is beneficial when family and friends come to visit. You’ll know all the best spots to take loved ones as their tour guide!
Introduce Yourself to your New Neighbors
Getting to know your neighbors can happen organically as you interact with them while you’re washing the car, collecting mail, or mowing the lawn. Lingering a bit as you do these chores will increase your chances of widening your circle.
Introduce yourself as a newcomer who is anxious to play an active role in the community. You’d be surprised at how friendly your neighbors are and how they may offer to answer any of your questions about the community. They could have a neighborhood watch, community social events or other insider tips for you – such as their recommendations for a great takeout spot.
If you haven’t run into neighbors naturally, you could buy a bottle of wine or bake a small batch of cookies and knock on their doors. Introduce yourselves as the new family next door. If you know they have children, you can bring your kids along.
With introductions out of the way, new friendships can form with time. Even if they are just casual acquaintances, knowing your neighbors adds another layer of security to your community. In some areas, next door neighbors help each other with collecting mail or feeding the cat while a household is on vacation. Team up with play dates and after school pickups. However big or small, this is a great relationship to maintain.
Participate in Community Involvement
Once you’ve got your bearings, you may learn about volunteering, job opportunities, or other clubs and initiatives that are close to home.
One good place to start is at your kids’ school. Make sure you’re there on the first day of school to meet and greet teachers and fellow parents. Raise your hand to volunteer at bake sales, school dances and soccer games. This is a great way to make friends with other parents, which could lead to play dates for your kids.
Head to your local community center, college or university, where you may find outdoor yoga classes, evening crafts or calligraphy courses, or sports activities. Through these courses and group activities, you’ll find like-minded people who share similar interests.
You could even volunteer to teach a course for something in which you are knowledgeable – coding, playing the guitar, or writing.
Families can even give back to the community by volunteering at a local soup kitchen, helping the elderly on litter clean up days. All of these groups welcome volunteers.
Host a Party
Once you’re settled into your home, consider inviting neighbors and new friends over for a backyard party. It can be a casual event during Christmas or a summertime drinks gathering: you can supply beverages, appetizers and snacks and ask everyone to drop by to say hello.
If you’re hosting a more formal housewarming party with family and friends, this could be an opportunity to invite a few neighbors.
This is a perfect way to build community connections, and demonstrate that you’re making an effort to join in.
Factor in your Kids’ Interests
Changes such as a new home, new school, and new neighborhood can be daunting for your kids. To help them feel more comfortable, scope out places that they would enjoy, such as playgrounds, parks, libraries, and other kid-friendly spots where they can play and get to know their peers.
When you’re building your list of places you’d like to visit when your family is playing tourist, ask your kids to get involved. Discuss and review menus, course lists, and event flyers and ask them to decide on what piques their interest.
Take Advantage of Seasonal Activities
As the seasons change, so do the activities in your neighborhood. This gives you one full year of exploration from lighting up the city’s Christmas tree, to visiting the beach and the carnival in the summer, to heading over to the pumpkin patch for cider and ghost stories come fall. Some of these activities could turn into a family traditions.
Getting to know your neighborhood as it transforms through each of the seasons will be a treat. And when the year is over, and you’ve come full circle, you can look back and view the progress you’ve made in making your community an integral part of your home.
Carmen Chai is an award-winning Canadian journalist who has lived and reported from major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, London and Paris. For NewHomeSource, Carmen covers a variety of topics, including insurance, mortgages, and more.