Settling in to your new neighbourhood

Posted on Monday, August 17, 2015

After you've unpacked the boxes and hung the curtains, you may still find yourself feeling a little displaced in your new home. Most people don't really feel that they belong until they've been in a new neighbourhood for a year, seen their favourite tree in blossom, had some level of social interaction with the neighbours and worked out all their favourite local shops and restaurants.

While all of these naturally take time and trees only blossom in spring there are lots of things that you can do to speed up the process of settling in to your new community.

Get the utilities in your name and change your bank branch and post office
After buying a house, you probably never want to deal with paperwork again. Sadly, it's not over. Dedicate a day to sorting out all your utilities, the telephone and your rates, so that everyone who wants money from you knows where to find you and you get to enjoy their continued service. And move your bank branch and PO box address close to home to stop you from driving across town every time you have to do a bit of admin.

Make your new home secure
Identify a security company with a strong local presence and ask your neighbours for their recommendation. Find out from the security company how many cars they keep in your area and what their guaranteed response time is. Many security companies offer a free evaluation and alarm system on sign-up, so look out for those kinds of specials to save you money. But watch out for contracts that tie you in to their service for longer than two years. If they don't offer you an evaluation, carry one out yourself by walking around your property and looking for any weaknesses. Make patching them up a priority.

Update your insurance
You may already have household insurance and car insurance, but it can be invalid if you don't update your residential address. Your insurance provider will take into account things like whether you have burglar bars and an electric fence and where your car is parked at night to adjust your premiums, so be sure you're covered for your new home.

Introduce yourself to the neighbours
If you're lucky, your neighbours will have taken care of this by coming around with a tray of scones or a glass of wine when you were moving in. If not, don't worry about it people are busy and lives are increasingly insular. Pop in at a reasonable hour just after work is a good time to introduce yourself and exchange phone numbers.

Join the residents association or body corporate
Not every neighbourhood or apartment complex has a team of busybodies to make people feel welcome and boss them around, but if yours does, get involved immediately. These types of organisation are extremely useful for keeping you posted on things that are happening in your area, for security and for creating a sense of community. Sign up for their newsletter if they have one.

Find your local shops, restaurants and medical professionals
Give everything that's closest to you a try. Make a weekly date night at one of the restaurants on your nearest main road or in your nearest mall to work out which one's your favourite. Invite your friends over to try out your new hood. If you're not loyal to your doctor and dentist elsewhere, find a recommendation for someone local so that a trip to the GP doesn't mean a trek across town. Find out the best route to your nearest emergency room.

Go for a walk
South Africans live such harried lives, driving from one destination to another and always in a rush. Set aside a morning or an afternoon to take a slow walk around your neighbourhood. If you're up for venturing a little further afield, walk to your local shops for the Sunday papers or a cup of coffee, and make a point of appreciating your surroundings. And if you're a runner, do all of this, only faster.

Give yourself time
While some people feel right at home, right away, others feel a sense of loss or loneliness in a new place even if it's their dream home. Remember that moving is one of the three most stressful experiences that human beings routinely go through, so go easy on yourself. With time, you'll feel right at home.

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