Neighbours

Neighbours-Kylie-Minogue--008

One thing that can make a big difference to how quickly (or otherwise) you settle into a new home, not to mention, new town or, in our case, new country is the neighbours you randomly end up living alongside.

By way of background, our neighbourly experience in Sydney was a little underwhelming to say the least.

Despite living in a small, some would say intimate row of just 8 terraces, we only got a quick glimpse inside two of them and that was over a period of seven years.

One of these was a neighbour who was obsessed with Christmas and invited ‘the hood’ over for an annual drinks party where we were required to admire his large Christmas tree and also gasp as he turned on the fairy lights which adorned his small balcony.

The other house we penetrated was a little more opportunistic since I had locked myself out and had to ask the next door neighbours if I could come through their house and clamber over the adjoining wall into our backyard. Not really a social interaction per se.

Beyond that, nothing. Not even a measly cup of tea.

Sure, everyone was friendly enough when you saw them watering their plants or putting out the rubbish, but if there was any deeper sense of community in our little street, then we were clearly excluded from it.

Maybe it was a demographic thing. Perhaps being a married couple with two children, we were a little bit on the fringes of our little microcosm of society, being neither gay, elderly or interested in local politics.

We even started to wonder if maybe it was us.

Perhaps everyone else was peeping out from behind their net curtains to check we were safely home before all emerging and shuffling up the street to whoever was hosting that night’s social event, all the while chuckling about that boring family up the road.

And so, we approached our new neighbourhood, full of hope, but also tempered with a little bit of trepidation. What if the Sydney patterns were repeated and it was indeed us that were the social pariahs?

But fortunately, it seems that our fears were unfounded.

Maybe we are seen as a sort of Aussie novelty act in what is a fairly well-established street, but so far we have had loads of people introducing themselves to us and better still have already equalled our Sydney record for houses entered.

Saturday night was a case in point. We were invited to our first English BBQ since returning and as a veteran of many Aussie BBQs, I feel qualified to make a couple of observations about my new neighbourhood.

Firstly, there was a much wider age range than I had come to expect at Australian BBQs, with teenage kids happily chatting away to the 75 year old pianist from up the street.

And secondly, I can reveal that the Aussie stereotype of men round the BBQ and women chatting in the kitchen (of which I admit I was guilty of slotting into) seems to be less overtly practiced over here.

As I looked around, I noticed far more actual conversations going on between men and women and once I got over my initial panic – looking around for a clump of men so I could chat about sport with them – it made for a really enjoyable evening.

But it didn’t stop there. We backed up on Sunday morning with another set of neighbours who invited us over for coffee which merged into beers and we walked away hours later with some invitations to future social events, not to mention a potential babysitter for the boys.

Returning home after so many years in Sydney, one of my biggest concerns was the need to re-establish a social life.

I knew that I’d miss the many great friends I have left behind in Sydney and also realised that it would take time to establish a social network in my new location.

But whilst admittedly it is still early days, it seems that we may have lucked out and landed up in our very own version of Ramsay Street.

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