According to new research, one in ten UK residents can’t name a single one of their neighbours, while less than a fifth of people know the names of even their immediate neighbours.
The study to mark the 50th anniversary of Neighbourhood Watch and in conjunction with price comparison website comparethemarket.com found that though we don’t know their names, we would like to.
Almost two-thirds of people say their neighbourhood would be a “stronger” and safer place if people were encouraged to get to know each other better.
During this summer, a experiment took place on Lingard Road, in Northenden to test whether simple neighbourly steps such as ‘saying hello’ would help build community relationships and stronger neighbourhoods.
Kate Fox, the Co-Director of the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford and a Fellow of the Institute for Cultural Research looked into whether the traits that make Brits great can also make us disconnected from our communities
“The ‘British reserve’ stereotype is misleading. We are not ‘reserved’ in the sense of introverted or misanthropic or unsociable – we are social animals just like all other humans and have the same need for a sense of community and belonging. We are just a bit more socially awkward than other nations and have more unwritten rules about privacy, not talking to strangers, and so on. We need more ‘props and facilitators’, such as pubs, pets, sports, and weather talk, to break the ice and get us interacting with each other.”
In fact over three quarters of us don’t introduce ourselves to our neighbours when we move in, but even for those of us who do, we often leave the interaction there, as we feel too awkward to push the relationship further.
Even more surprising, more than half of us deliberately delay entering or leaving our homes to avoid speaking to a neighbour.
Lingard Road was selected with the help of Neighbourhood Watch following a poll that revealed Manchester to be one of the main areas in the UK that believed that the quality of living and safety would improve if there were strong bonds with neighbours.
According to Kate, “The experiment clearly gave participants the little ‘nudge’ they needed to shed a few inhibitions and either initiate contact with neighbours they had not met, or increase interaction with those they did already know. The experiment has shown that even very small gestures – such as saying ‘hello’ – can have a significant positive effect on a neighbourhood”