Today (19 May) more than 30 million people across 36 countries celebrate the Neighbours’ Day. This initiative, originally set up in Paris in 2000, aims to foster community connection and create better neighbourhoods where people enjoy living. Besides strengthening the direct involvement of citizens in their neighbourhood, it helps to create an area of intercultural dialogue, mutual aid and mutual consideration, while making the knowledge of one another easier and participating in the decrease of any prejudice or stereotype.
But in fact you don’t need any special day to just go talk to your neighbours. Just introduce yourself, and if you feel some kind of connection, invite them over or ask for some advice. And if you already know people living next to you, consider organizing a BBQ, or a potluck, or a playdate for kids. Whatever you decide to do, you will feel more integrated and find yourself more rooted instantly.
Here are 10 tips for a successful Neighbours Party:
- Spread the word. Print out the invitation (write the text in English and ask one of your neighbours to translate it into Dutch) and put it into everyone’s mail box. Don’t forget to mention the date, the start and the end times, and the exact location of the party.
- Make people enthusiastic. The best way to get people to come to the party is to get them involved in the preparation process. So, don’t do it all alone: talk to your neighbours and discuss the event; assign the tasks among yourselves and share planning responsibilities. Working together will help you to get to know each other better even before the party begins.
- Find the right location. Depending on the number of people involved, you can invite them to your place or organize it in the street or in front of the building, but don’t forget to ask for an authorization from the municipality in advance. If you are planning an event outside, always have a plan B in case of bad weather.
- Create a festive atmosphere. Give a thought to decorations and music. But take care to not disturb those who are not attending the party.
- Make everyone feel comfortable. Arrange enough sitting places; if you don’t have enough chairs, ask your neighbours to bring some. For example, camping chairs always work great!
- Make sure there is enough variety in food and drinks. Provide both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as well as some vegetarian snacks. Ask your neighbours to bring some finger food for the buffet as well (it can be something as simple as biscuits, raw vegetables, salted nuts, etc.).
- Don’t forget the children. Provide appropriate food, juices, some fruit and healthy sweets.
- Take initiative. The main goal of the party is to get to know your neighbours, so make the first move and introduce yourself. At the big scale party it might be handy to use name tags.
- Talk about yourself and your culture. As a foreigner you are most likely to be a subject of interest to your neighbours. Before they start making stereotypical assumptions about you and your background, tell them about yourself: what brought you to the Netherlands, what you like about living here and what are the struggles you are dealing with.
- Create new beginnings. The neighbour party is just a start, the first step in building up or improving the relationships with the neighbours. So, try to turn this event into an opportunity to embark on shared projects (how about starting a Little Free Library or a Dining Club?), to see how you can make each other’s life better and easier (think babysitting or dog walking, for example) and to put an end to the anonymity and isolation.