How to introduce myself to new neighbors?
July 10, 2016 2:39 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I just moved into a new house a month ago, and I am hoping to meet my immediate neighbors. We live in a rural town on 7 acres, so it's not like I would ever see any of them mowing the lawn. My husband is more introverted, so I am our social coordinator. My goal is to know them, perhaps be friendly with them, but not really to open the floodgates of random drop-ins (at least until I know they are not nut jobs).

I just baked cookies, which I thought I might leave in or near their mailboxes tomorrow. Their driveways are all long, so I can't just leave the goods on a front porch, and I don't want to intrude by knocking at random. In the note, I was planning to say "Hi there, we are your new neighbors at 1248053281 This Road, and we spent the rainy weekend baking. We hope you enjoy these cookies!" And then our names.

Is this weird? Is this mail tampering? Is this inviting them to visit without warning? Is this trying too hard?

What else can I say in my note to help them understand that I want to be familiar but not invasive or overly inviting? Or should I devour the cookies myself and leave this up to fate?

I am honestly surprising myself by being so hesitant. I am usually pretty outgoing, but I have never lived in a secluded, small town before. Help me make casual acquaintances that can lend me sugar!
posted by hippychick to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up in a rural area and I'd be inclined to leave them on the porch since you don't know how often they check the mail. I'd drop by after work hours but before dinner (5:30ish) and have the cookies and a piece of paper with your name and phone number on it and chat and say hi. If you get a good vibe leave your number for emergencies and whatnot and if you don't just keep it in your pocket. If you do leave it in the mailbox make sure it's sealed really well against critters and bugs.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 2:52 PM on July 10, 2016 [18 favorites]

Eat your cookies. People live in the middle of nowhere so that they don't have to deal with the neighbors. If they are social, they will come and find you.
posted by myselfasme at 3:11 PM on July 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

People live in the middle of nowhere so that they don't have to deal with the neighbors. If they are social, they will come and find you.

That's completely illogical.

- - -

hippychick, julie_of_the_jungle gave great advice. Plan to leave it on the porch, but ring the bell and see if they're around. (If you're really hesitant about this, do it a little earlier in the day so you're more likely to miss them.) Framing it as wanting to give them your contact details in case of emergency is a great social crutch to use.

(I'm looking at a 28 acre plot of land right now, and have been thinking about this issue, too.)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 3:18 PM on July 10, 2016 [19 favorites]

This is like the definition of neighborly. Not weird at all.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:38 PM on July 10, 2016 [18 favorites]

Sounds like it wouldn't be a lot of people, so how about inviting them over for an open-house?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:42 PM on July 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

People live in the middle of nowhere so that they don't have to deal with the neighbors. If they are social, they will come and find you.

That's completely illogical.

Not completely. I think your basic plan is good (with the hippychick addendum). Just make sure any note you leave allows your potentially isolated-by-choice neighbors an easy opt out.
posted by philip-random at 3:46 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Why don't you mail them a letter of introduction, with a cookie coupon?
posted by Oyéah at 3:53 PM on July 10, 2016

//Why don't you mail them a letter of introduction, with a cookie coupon?//

Pretty much every person I've ever known, rural or urban, would wonder why the hell you didn't just knock on the door and introduce yourself. Really, don't overthink this, or let us overthink for you. Knock on the door, say hi, and give them the cookies. If they are anti-social assholes that is something you'll want to know sooner rather than later anyway.
posted by COD at 4:01 PM on July 10, 2016 [65 favorites]

You are vastly overthinking this. Ring the bell and introduce yourself. This is a socially acceptable thing for neighbors to do.

Bring cookies if you want. Although it's kinda the existing neighbor's job to bring gifts to the new neighbor.
posted by gnutron at 4:01 PM on July 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yeah, I'm a little surprised that they haven't found you, but it's not weird to drop by and attempt to drop off cookies or other baked goods while introducing yourself. Even if they don't particularly want cookies it's conventional and friendly enough that almost everybody will take it in the spirit it's meant.

And maybe I've lived around bears too long, but I agree with others about not leaving the cookies in the mailbox (and even if bears are not an issue where you live there are still lots of other critters who are curious and food-driven).
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:26 PM on July 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

I went through this when I moved to the country 5 years ago. It's ok to knock on the door to deliver cookies, but it is also true that some people moved to the country to not have to deal with neighbors. Don't be surprised or hurt if at least one of your neighbors isn't interested in even 5 minutes of small talk. We had one neighbor two houses down who never spoke to us, never opened the door when I knocked, never waved when we passed each other on the street in our cars for the 3 years we lived there. It's definitely a thing in the country.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:28 PM on July 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

I live on a few acres with a long driveway and would find it outside local norms for you to open my gate and drive up to my house just to introduce yourself. Your community may be different.

There are lots of social events in small communities where you can meet people. We don't have a church but I that is one option, as is going to the library, bringing your car to the firefighter's charity car wash, spaghetti dinners, agricultural fair, 4H etc, and most importantly shopping locally, eating local, and using local service people (check the local hardware shop for business cards).
posted by saucysault at 5:15 PM on July 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

Another vote for please don't do this. It's just too big a gesture. TBH, I don't even think giving out your contact info is warranted. If you knocked on my door, I would forever avoid you as a nosy body who lacks boundaries.
posted by jbenben at 5:40 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I live in a rural neighborhood. It took us about 12 months to meet the three neighbors adjacent to our house.

I would personally appreciate the gesture if you came and knocked on my door, but I wouldn't be surprised if not everyone felt the same way. I thought about doing the same (cookies and all) but ultimately decided against it, it's just not really that kind of neighborhood.

That said, it's a nice gesture, and assuming you don't open any gates, trample any flowerbeds, etc. in the absolute worst case it would be a (very!) mild faux pas, so go nuts if you feel like it!
posted by so fucking future at 6:03 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would leave a note in their mailbox saying something like, "Hey, we just moved in next door. Thought I would give you our contact information in case you ever need it or just want to introduce yourself." I would put both my phone number and email address.
posted by AugustWest at 6:10 PM on July 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

As someone who grew up and has lived in several different rural areas: I agree, knock on the door and introduce yourself. You may indeed find a few people who aren't super interested in chatting, but it's doubtful anyone would be offended, and if they're not interested then it's better to know that than to wonder.

The problem with leaving a note with your contact details but not actually chatting is that it leaves a lot of onus on the other person. I can imagine being the neighbour in that situation: I in theory would love to get my neighbours better, but I'm awful about figuring out how to actually talk to people I don't know without a pretext, and I'm also awful about reading subtext. So I'd get your note and think: "Is there actually this subtext that they are open to getting to know us better, or do they literally just want us to have their contact details just in case? Do they want me to contact them just to say hi? And if I were to email them or knock on their door or something, how would I explain it and what would I say? Aargh!" and then the stress would make me dither and dither about it until so long had gone that it would just be weird to do or say anything, and then I would never respond and I'd probably hide from them out of embarrassment and wanting to avoid the weird conversation, and the long and short of it would be that it would virtually guarantee awkwardness somewhere.

Now, your neighbours might not be socially anxiety-ridden weirdos like me, or I might be precisely the kind of nutjob you want to avoid, in which case go ahead with the note idea. :) If not, though, I think broaching the in-person barrier yourself is a great way to avoid this scenario playing out. It also gives you a lot of immediate feedback about whether you like your neighbour.

So just knock on the door with the cookies! Be brave! Very few people, faced with a friendly person on their porch with cookies, would be actively unfriendly, and most will be touched and happy that you made the effort.
posted by forza at 6:29 PM on July 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

I grew up in a rural area on 90 acres. We met our closest neighbors while they were out riding their horses. We met our second closest neighbors while we were out riding our bikes.

Give it time. Let it happen organically.
posted by anastasiav at 7:04 PM on July 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

After growing up and living in cities for my entire life I headed for the sticks about a decade ago. I am 'in the village' and not on an acreage, but know a good whack of neighbours (anybody less than a 20 min drive = neighbour) on acreages.

Meet them through the village and the local gossip mills. Sign up for volunteer whatnot. Help organise the Xmas parade, stop and chat when you're at the post office -- here, even if there is a small queue, it would still be rude to not have a bit of and-how-was-your-weekend while you were picking up your mail -- go to the village events -- make yourself visible instead of hiding away on your acreage, and people will know (well, they already know, but) that Mr and Mrs Hippychick are on Concession 12 and can be counted on for a small sandwich platter for the Remembrance Day ceremonies in town, etc. Do an occasional volunteer shift at the local library.

When I first moved to my own boonies I thought the beach could use some help and had some thoughts about organizing a 'Friends of the Local Beach' society. I have never had the time to do this, but over the years discovered that Mr So-and-so weeds it and Mrs Such-and-such does some gardening work there. So I have yet to organise anything because it doesn't need it, but I've spent enough time at the beach to meet the other folk who are pro-beach-improvement, if that follows, and...

You know, I think I asked a similar question about a decade ago, something about 'gladhanding with pies?' I did not go around with pies. I know almost everybody in my area who wants to know me. You really just need the one social butterfly for the area to start inviting you to Xmas parties, and you're in.

Unless you have relatively recent ancestors who lived in the area, you will always be the new people, in my experience. This is not a bad thing; I am not shunned for being new -- but there is a palpable divide between the people who have been living here for generations and the people who are "new" ("new" lasts a long time). I did not quite grok this until I had neighbours on one side move in, renovate the place to the nines, and then bounce out two or so years later. Ah ha! Those people are gone. They had no connection to the area, and they are gone for good. But if you grew up in the area and dated so-and-so's kid in high school and you still have relatives scattered there, and you move away? No worries, you'll be back for holidays, you may well retire here; you never truly leave. Everybody knows you and your family, and has known everything about you and your family for decades -- that is a critical difference between you and the established folk. Respect that boundary. It doesn't mean not baking cookies; it just means taking the cookies to the town celebrations rather than...well, you see. Let them figure you out first.

In my ten years here I've received doorstep cookies once -- a nearby neighbour had to catch a flight but could not find her cat in time. She'd notified a business across the road to keep an eye out. I recognised the cat, took it in, cared for it, got cookies and a present for my kid and effusive thanks. Now I would have known that I should've checked in with the business down the hill, which has farm cats coming and going constantly and which would've been the default lost-kitty place, and told them 'Found the cat, when she comes back just send her up the hill...'

All that said, since the cookies are already baked, I would leave some with only the very closest neighbours, with a short note: best wishes from [names] at [address]; we've just moved in and wanted to introduce ourselves. Please enjoy the cookies, and we look forward to meeting you! Cheers, The Hippychicks.
posted by kmennie at 7:28 PM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Post office and coffee shop are really the best places to meet the locals in a rural community, I think. Or church, if you do church. The first year we moved out to our rural community, we dropped off boxes of chocolates and Christmas cards at Christmas, and it was well-intentioned but distinctly awkward.
posted by bluebelle at 7:39 PM on July 10, 2016

In a similar situation I let them come to me or ran into them while I was doing things that needed to be done around the edges of the property and I'm glad I did because something bad happened on that property during a time when such things went unpunished and some of the neighbors had a longish hate-hate relationship that we were able to stay out of because we eased ourselves in slowly.

And then there's the one couple who didn't like clothes except holsters and had dammed up enough water to grow...rice. Vietnam vet with paddies. Glad I met them on their own terms.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:50 PM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

I do think a note or cookies with a note is fine, and I've lived in plenty of rural areas. I have a relative who moved to a new country home and made "decorating her mailbox" one of her first priorities. She painted it black, re-stenciled the numbers on it, secured the stand it was on. She ended up also putting in a small flower bed at the end of her lane. This kind of stuff gave her an excuse to be near the road, brightened up a visible part of her property, and the neighbors who are friendly had an opportunity to stop and say hello. I agree that meeting people in small towns can happen at local events, but that doesn't necessarily introduce OP to her neighbors and it can be tough to just walk into those events and start conversing with strangers. And I'm jealous of people who live in a small town that has a coffee shop.
posted by areaperson at 7:34 AM on July 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback; I found myself changing my mind after reading almost every response! Ultimately, I would rather take the risk than wait for the universe to throw us together, since this town has no coffee shop, and I am not a churchgoer. I dropped off notes (no phone numbers) and cookies for my two immediate neighbors. One has a small farmstand with an honor cash box, so I left them there. The other I left on top of the neighbor's mailbox. Hoping they get to them before the bears do!
posted by hippychick at 1:57 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

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