How to live with neighbours in harmony

When I first started living in an apartment block in Sydney, my elderly neighbour knocked on my door. “Did you cook any seafood?” she asked. I answered that I did and had wrapped up the rubbish and threw it into the bin. She replied: “That’s not what we do here. You freeze the fish entrails and put them into the communal garbage bin on the day when rubbish is collected”. I was so embarrassed. I had no idea! To this day, I freeze my seafood entrails and only throw them in the bin on garbage collection day!

Tips for being a good neighbour

Today, more and more people are living in high density apartments – a bit like living in a small village. We need to show courtesy and respect to our neighbours in such close proximity. Here are some survival tips:

  • Always acknowledge your neighbours and greet them with a warm smile or a wave.
  • Keep noise to a minimum – many buildings have thin walls and noise travels far.
  • Remember the “no noise” time limits are from 10:00 pm to 7:00 am, so keep your TV music turned down and don’t use any tools during these times.
  • If you are having a party, it’s polite to let your neighbours know beforehand – or even invite them to the party.
  • Know the rules of rubbish disposal – recyclables must be put in the right coloured bins – and boxes should be flattened.
  • When you’re cooking spicy food, make sure you open the windows for ventilation – not everyone loves the smell of spicy cooking.

Throw a shrimp on the barbie

Why not take the initiative to organise a barbecue (or barbie) to help you get to know your neighbours? Some apartment blocks have roof-tops for these types of events or you could meet at a park near you. This is a great way of making friends – not just in your back yard, but around the world. When I was in New York years ago, a friend invited me to one of his roof top barbecues and I met lots of people that I still keep in contact with today.

Love thy neighbour

Another important reason to know your neighbours is that you may need them if you are sick or have an emergency. Also, if you are going on holiday, your neighbour could collect your mail and you could return the favour when they go away. Most neighbours are happy to keep an eye on your home – provided you do the same for them.

Save the trees and stay cool

If you have migrated from another country which has high density living, you may not be familiar with living with big trees in your garden.  My conversations with fellow migrants indicate that they are afraid of branches falling or trees growing too tall – resulting in damage to their house foundations.

Councils usually remove large or overhanging trees before they become a problem. But if you have a concern about a tree, you should check with your local council. You need permission to cut down trees or to remove vegetation. So be aware of the rules before you get the chainsaw out.

Trees give us shade from the sun and are essential in our hot, dry climate to lower temperatures and reduce carbon dioxide. That’s why councils don’t always provide permission to cut down trees. Councils are a good source of advice as to what trees will grow in your area. They also offer free plants to residents! So make use of this offer to add beauty to your garden and show your neighbours you care about where you live.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these tips and they lead to you having some good neighbourly fun!  

Soraya Raju, Cultural Integration Expert, Migrate Success Jan 2017

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