Untarnished etiquette: On being a good neighbor
by Zeda Dowell
Apr 19, 2012 | 743 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

To own a home is the American dream. I think it still is, even under the current economic conditions. Whether you own, rent or lease, your home is still your castle.

The professionals who provide a service for you in selecting a home are often realtors. They cite “location, location, location” as the most important factors in choosing a home.

Experience tells me that in selecting a place to live, along with the location, we also need to look at the neighborhood. Make an attempt to find out something about your potential neighbors. This will make your transition easier.

I purchased my present home some time ago. I often say that I purchased the worst house with the best neighbors.

It is a good idea to know, before you make a move, a little bit about the neighbors and the neighborhood. This, however, is not a guarantee that the neighborhood will always be the same.

My mother told me that when she purchased her first home, there was a group of ladies who visited, called the Welcome Wagon. These women came over with baskets filled with goodies, information about where to shop, coupons and suggestions for restaurants. This was a great idea, but it rarely happens in 2012.  

If you are new to a home, make every attempt to introduce yourself to the people who will be your new neighbors. There are several ways of doing this. You could go over and introduce yourself. If that seems too bold, try waving in passing. You can then work up to an introduction. You don’t have to be friends; it is just a simple acknowledgement of courtesy and respect.  

In some neighborhoods, boundaries are fostered by well-established walls.

“Good fences make good neighbors,” Robert Frost wrote in his poem “Mending Wall.”  But not all homes, especially in rural areas, have fences. This is when good neighbors honor boundaries by not trespassing onto a neighbor’s property without first asking permission.  

In the San Lorenzo Valley, streets twist and turn, and access to our homes is not always straight forward. It is considered ill-mannered to use without permission your neighbor’s driveway or road because it is convenient for you or your guest.

Before you purchase or decide to establish residence, know your property boundaries. Do not park on a neighbor’s property without permission.

If you are having a party or event and need the use of a neighbor’s area for parking space, or if you need to erect a sign directing your guests, ask your neighbor’s permission first. If you place signs with permission, take them down after the event. Don’t wait for your neighbor to ask you to take it down. If you are tardy here, it will not foster further cooperation for any other event.

A good neighbor will not allow pets to relieve themselves in a neighbor’s yard. If you have an aggressive dog, it is best to keep it on a leash when walking in the neighborhood.

It is fair to say that in a world with 7 billion people, civility is necessary for our society to work. Cooperation, respect and courtesy allow for harmonious relationships and will foster overall well being.

We as humans are social beings; we connect and relate to each other with effective codes of conduct that make others want to be around us and give relationships a chance to grow. With that said, there are some neighbors who want to be private. That means you need to respect their need to be private. A simple smile or wave may be just enough.

There are times when difficulties arise. It is best to try to work them out, be kind in your approach and have a spirit of reciprocity.

It is best to start a relationship with a spirit of collaboration. This is much easier than repairing a fractured relationship or creating such ill will that your neighbor rejects any relationship with you.

Courtesy will be extended to people whose social interaction is flavored with a spirit of cooperation, thoughtfulness and respect for others.

- Zeda Dowell of Ben Lomond answers questions, teaches classes and provides information about international protocol, dining, being a gentleman and cultural diversity. Contact her at zedadowell@gmail.com.

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