In a culture where backyards, privacy walls, and attached garages reign supreme, it’s not always easy to meet the neighbors, especially when you’re the new kid on the block.
Although going door-to-door with a never-ending supply of brownies and cookies may seem like the only solution to introducing yourself to the neighborhood, those encounters are often wrought with awkward introductions, inopportune moments, conflicting schedules, and the increasingly frequent gluten intolerant neighbor.
Bringing the neighbors to you
Moving isn’t a piece of cake, but for one savvy Air Force spouse who’s already getting the hang of frequent relocations, meeting the neighbors as early as possible with an informal gathering ranks pretty high on her recipe for moving success.
“When we first moved to Columbus, I wanted to open our home immediately so that people would come to recognize our home as a place they were always welcome,” says Mary Beth Calland, wife, mother of two, and wedding coordinator and event planner for Weddings By Mary Beth . “If you establish relationships quickly you tend to maintain those relationships and they flourish. I wanted our house to be a home away from home for those around us. Nobody is going to open themselves up to you because you brought them a cookie plate and a welcome card; but if you invite them into your home for dinner you can sit and share stories, laughs, and, eventually, with time, tears and even better laughs. It’s in the intimate moments that we create the sweetest memories and inviting someone into your home is a wonderful beginning.”
Mary Beth’s tips for an informal in-home gathering
- Send invites online. We are all busy and a card in the mail for an informal gathering just doesn’t make sense. The invitation should be as formal or informal as the gathering itself. This is where social media really comes in handy.
- Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm your guests or make them feel inferior with elaborate decorations or fancy foods. Remember these gatherings set the tone for the relationship and should speak volumes about who you are.
- Use caution with themes. Themes can be fun but, again, keep it simple (i.e., ‘80s night vs. Avatar costumes). Guests love a good theme party, and it is usually a good icebreaker. Just make sure to keep it reasonable.
- Invite some help. Let people assist so they feel like they contributed to the event. ‘Bring a side to share,’ ‘Bring a drink,’ etc. These statements are not turn-offs any more and are usually expected and even welcomed.
- Clean your house. Take out the trash. Scrub the toilets. Nothing says ‘welcome to our home’ like a dirty toilet. You don’t have to hire a cleaner but pick the toys up and wipe down the counter. This tells your guests that you care about their presence in your home.
- Don’t be the invisible host. Once the party starts, take the apron off and enjoy your guests. Tell people to make themselves at home in the kitchen and allow them to feel like they can get their own ice from the freezer or fork from the drawer. Be available as a friend. Sit and listen. Ask questions. Refer to people by their name. These are the things that make you a good host.