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Know thy neighbour

neighbourWe haven’t moved in yet, and it’s already started. The relationship with the neighbours.

The side fence is on a slight sway and might need some work – will that cause dramas? Pertinent question because if you ask community psychologist Heather Gridley,  fences are one of the biggest bones of contention between neighbours and can trigger an all-out war if there’s a bit of a disagreement over style or cost. That’s along with overhanging trees, dogs yapping (or crapping), loud music and parking in the wrong spot. Even if it’s on-street parking that is supposed to be a free-for-all, but someone has decided that the three metres out the front of their house is actually theirs.

In our case, one new neighbour has a large dog. Will their oversized woofer bark all day at our dogs? Or vice-versa. Will it eat our cat I wonder? (A blessing is disguise? Just kidding! We love the cat, she has a steel pin in her shoulder to prove it after we had to fork out the cost of a small car to save her leg when a former neighbour’s blue heeler decided she looked like lunch.)

Gridley says you don’t have to like your neighbours. You don’t even have to have much in common with them. But if you want to avoid an all-out war over the back fence, you should try hard to at least engage in a bit of small talk from the outset.

“Neighbours can be a huge annoyance if you don’t get along with them, a lot of that can come out of misunderstanding,” says Gridley. “It’s so much better when you actually know who you are talking to than when you build up some sort of picture in your mind of them as some kind of enemy, and it’s very easy for you to do that when you don’t know them.”

Problems tend to arise where there is conflict from the very start of the relationship, where the first issue discussed is the offending problem.

If we shine a light on our lives for a moment, it’s easy to see how that could be the case. With cars to motor us away from the home, the internet to transport our minds elsewhere and all sorts of gadgets to entertain indoors, the temptation is there to ignore the neighbours. “We sometimes think that therefore we don’t need our neighbours or we don’t have as much in common with them,” says Gridley.

But as anyone with a nosy neighbour knows, they can be both a blessing and a curse. Don’t tell them too much of your business if you don’t want it spread around the neighbourhood, but do tell them when you are holidays so they can watch the house like a hawk.

Perhaps with Christmas coming, now could be the perfect time to get to know your neighbours – a Christmas card in the letterbox, a knock on the door with a small gift, or an offer to mind the pets or water the garden while they are on holidays even. You don’t have to go over the top, but a small act of kindness could pay off. (As long as you remember to actually water the garden and feed the pets!)

Story Carolyn Boyd www.domain.com.au

Tags: advice, news, property, real estate, research

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