Maybe you just moved to a new place and don’t quite feel at home yet, or maybe you’ve been in the same spot for years and still feel that same way. It can be hard to feel truly at home somewhere, especially in a big city. But you can change that with surprisingly little effort!
Here are 7 quick, easy, and FUN tips for getting to know your neighbourhood and finding new things to love about it. While Covid restrictions are in place some modifications might be needed, but you can do most of these without much adjustment!
NOTE: I’m writing this from my experience as a white woman living in a safe neighbourhood, recognizing that that’s different from many other people’s experience. Use your judgment on which of these are appropriate for your comfort level, where you live, time of day, etc.!
Try taking 30 minute walks, not just on the major streets but on the residential ones as well. Are there any parks nearby? Where’s the closest coffee shop? What kinds of houses or apartments are in your neighbourhood, and how do people decorate them?
You can use Google Maps to find local hidden gems, or you can wander and see what you discover! That’s how Niloo and I found our favourite coffee shop during our 3 month stay in Montreal, just by going for a walk. Getting to know the physical layout of your neighbourhood is a HUGE part of making it feel like home.
It can be a cafe or a restaurant or a bakery or a bubble tea store — anywhere you can go on a regular basis. Once you’ve visited a few times, you’ll start to recognize the people who work there. You might even exchange names and start to hear more about their lives, while sharing more of yours!
After a few weeks, your morning coffee runs can become one of the ways you meet people. Getting to know all the staff at Cluny’s in Toronto became one of the reasons I moved into the Distillery District. I just loved the people (and croissants) there so much, that I wanted to have them be a regular part of my day.
If you’re passing someone walking on the sidewalk, eye contact and a smile can be more than enough. But if you’re walking past a retirement home or see someone who looks like they’d enjoy a conversation, give them a wave and a “how are you!” or “beautiful weather, huh?” as you pass. It doesn’t have to be anything huge to create a brief connection!
A few years ago on my way to work, I would often see an older lady sitting in her wheelchair and enjoying the sun on her front porch. The first few times I saw her, I just smiled at her as I passed by. Then I started to wave and smile. When I saw that she seemed happy about the attention and I wasn’t interrupting her day, I stopped to spend a few minutes to chat about the weather. It wasn’t anything huge, but it made me feel more connected to someone in my neighbourhood!
👉 Check out our post on 8 habits that lead to spontaneous connections for great conversation starters!
Maybe it’s your morning run, picking up a croissant, or just going outside to enjoy the weather. If you make it a habit to do it at around the same time every day, you might notice some patterns!
Maybe you catch the morning rush of parents dropping their kids off to school at 8 AM. Or maybe you catch when everyone goes to get their morning coffee, or when they walk their dog after work! After a while, not only will you start to see your neighbourhood’s cycles, but you’ll probably start to recognize some faces! That’s how I learned when to take my evening walks by the dog park so I could maximize my dog watching 😉
In pre-Covid times, this might look like knocking on their doors to introduce yourself with freshly baked cookies, or having them over for dinner. During Covid, it can be a little trickier but still very doable!
For my birthday, I bought a box of chocolate chip cookies for every unit on my floor and placed it at their doors. I taped a little card to them introducing who I was, which unit I lived in, and how they could contact me if they needed anything. More than half of the people on my floor ended up reaching out to thank me and to introduce themselves as well.
If you feel comfortable doing it, you can use elevator rides to strike up conversation. You can also think about upcoming holidays or celebrations that you can use as an excuse to reach out!
When did your neighbourhood officially come into existence? Who were the people who first lived here, and what was it famous for? Are there any historic buildings or statues or parks?
Getting a sense of your neighbourhood’s history can make you feel like you’re part of something bigger, and that you fit inside a story that extends back decades or even centuries! I’m not a huge history buff but I loved getting to know all about the how the Gooderham and Worts Distillery became the historic Distillery District in Toronto, with buildings dating back to 1859!
And finally, find ways to get involved! Are there existing volunteer organizations in your neighbourhood? Is there a neighbourhood association you can join to stay updated on what’s happening in your area?
If not, it might be a perfect opportunity to organize something! A local clean up, a neighbourhood-wide garage sale, a food drive — anything you can think of to bring people together. This might mean sticking to Zoom for the time being or waiting til it’s safe to do things in person, but it’s a way to create the opportunities you want to see!
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Looking for more ways to feel at home in your city? Check out these 8 quick ways to expand your social circle!
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