by Melissa Beth Kravitz
Moving to New York City, I was pretty sure that my life would be exactly like the TV shows in which young twenty-somethings move into amazing apartments and make lifelong friends. I know these sitcoms are shot on a soundstage, scripted, and totally unrealistic, but unrealistic is everything when you move to a city where you’re lucky to find lunch for under $10.
Across from my four-bedroom apartment of all girls is another unit for four boys. Of course, we were destined to live the life of Friends, Monica and Rachel on one side and Chandler and Joey across the hall. We’d share refrigerator goods, hang out at the coffeeshop downstairs, and have oh so many laughable times together.
In fact, for the first five months of living in my apartment, I didn’t know any of my neighbors’ names, and I was unlikely to get a “Hi!” from someone while we were walking up or down the stairs together. So that was unfortunate.
I’ve always been a social person: the door was always open to my college dorm and growing up my house was home to endless sleepovers, so living in a building full of strangers felt uncomfortable.
One day, I ended up baking far too many cookies and having nothing to do with them so I printed out a sign and taped it to my door: Homemade, Warm Cookies. Please Knock! This is exactly what your parents warn you about: free food from strangers. But although New Yorkers can be hostile, I’ve found myself unnecessarily trusting of many a neighbor. And my plan worked! I propped open my door and as neighbors came in from the evening, they introduced themselves and enjoyed a free baked good.
Here are some tips for getting to know your neighbors:
- Start a Facebook group! This is crucial. When you move to a new building, find out if a group already exists. This is a great way to invite each other to building events (ie houseparties), see if anyone wants to check out a local restaurant, or just complain about the building management.
- Introduce yourself. When you see someone coming in and out of the building, ask him/her a question and perhaps give him/her a compliment, introducing yourself as Name, Apartment Number. When you see them again, make sure to address them by name and you’re on to making a new friend!
- Throw a party! Whether its for your friends or just for the neighbors, slip invites under neighbors’ doors to let them know there’s something fun going on in the building. It’s an easy way to bond and little to no effort has to go into buying a bag of chips and some beer. And even if neighbors can’t make it that night, they’ll appreciate the nice gesture and perhaps send a reciprocal invite.
- Borrow something. Do you need (or want to pretend to need) a cup of milk, a screwdriver, or help lifting something? It may seem strange in a city where you can get anything 24/7, but asking your neighbor to borrow something (and of course bringing it back with a beer or a cupcake) will make a quick introduction and can stem to further conversation.
- Door signs. They’re cheesy, but they work. We decorate our door for holidays, offer free goodies when we have them, and have definitely had the favors returned.
- For out of the building acquaintances, make sure to frequent some local businesses on or near you’re block. You’ll start recognizing familiar faces and can easily introduce yourself in a non-creepy way. Also, it’s easy to befriend the staff behind the counter when you’re a repeat customer, and that’s never a bad thing! Besides some free food, I’ve received plenty of advice from the cashier at a local Chinese restaurant.
Even if you’re not naturally outgoing, remember that everyone else wants to make friends too! And if they don’t, they’re just not worth your time.