Millions of Brits don’t know their neighbours – and are too busy or too nervous to introduce themselves, a study has revealed.
Research carried out among 3,000 adults by The Big Lunch – a Lottery funded initiative encouraging neighbours to share a few hours of food, friendship and fun on Sunday 2 June 2013 – found that more than half of those surveyed don’t know their neighbours, with one in four having no idea what their names are.
The key reasons holding people back from knocking next door include a lack of time, shyness, or worries about getting on with their neighbours.
However, the study also found that three quarters of people would like there to be more community spirit in their area, with 52 per cent of those saying it would make their neighbourhood feel safer while 53 per cent simply want to make new friends.
Sir Tim Smit, Co-Founder of The Big Lunch, said: “There was a time when everyone was very friendly with the people living next door.
“But as time has gone on, this seems to be becoming rarer, and it’s a shame to see that there are many people who haven’t got the time or are too nervous to get to know their neighbours. We’re keen to change this and were delighted when 8.5 million people took part in successful Big Lunches in their communities last June.
“If you get to know your neighbours, not only does it create a happier, safer environment to live in, but you will probably find they are happy to help you out with your pets or water your plants when you go on holiday. You never know, you might even end up with a new best friend, simply from knocking on your neighbour’s door to say hello.”
The study found one in five has never knocked on their neighbours’ doors, and when they have knocked, the main reason has been to collect a parcel.
It emerged that 36 per cent of Brits don’t think they would have anything in common with their neighbours. Almost a quarter said they are too busy while 18 per cent said they never see their neighbours to even say hello. More than one in ten even admitted they are too shy or scared to start up a conversation.
However, over half of us who have knocked on a neighbour’s door have had something surprising happen to us as a result, such as making a new friend, being helped when in trouble or even starting a new hobby.
Behavioural Expert Judi James, said: “It’s staggering that over half of us don’t know our neighbours, especially when we live in an era of crowded isolation, where we are often communicating with people via e-mail and text, at the same time as suffering feelings of loneliness.
“This research shows that the benefits of making bonds with our neighbours are practical, in terms of heightened security, and emotional. When we know our neighbours we can feel safer and happier. Our boundaries expand and our sense of loneliness and isolation shrinks.
“There’s no need to feel you’re taking a huge plunge when you start to get to know your neighbours. It’s the ice-breaker effect that is needed to convert strangers into possible friends or acquaintances. We need a good reason for knocking on the door and The Big Lunch is just that, the perfect ice-breaker that gets everyone involved in a positive experience.”
Sir Tim continues: ‘’With 8.5 million people taking part in The Big Lunch last year, there is clearly an appetite for getting together and having fun. Taking place on 2nd June this year, the idea is simple; if people start talking to each other, we see stronger, friendlier communities emerging in which people start to share things, from conversation and ideas to skills and resources.
“Feedback from previous years has shown that almost everyone who takes part feels closer to their neighbours as a result with two thirds going on to hold other events in their community afterwards proving it is not just about one day it’s about what happens before and after the event. We’ve been through some difficult times recently and if we start those conversations now and build stronger communities, we will be better equipped to face the future together.
“So what are you waiting for? Put your reservations behind you and take that first step towards creating a friendlier community, by knocking on your neighbour’s door.”
Researchers also found that just 35 per cent of people introduce themselves to a neighbour as soon as they move in somewhere new.
Forty six per cent admitted they want to get to know their neighbours better so they can ask them to keep an eye on their home, garden or pets when they go away.
Twenty per cent need to live somewhere for a while before they feel ready to meet the rest of the neighbourhood – taking an average of seven months before saying hello for the first time.
And almost two thirds of Brits think they are more likely to get to know their neighbours if they are around the same age.
Another 72 per cent also think you are most likely to have some kind of relationship with your neighbours if you both have children around the same ages.
Over a third of people associate chatting across the garden fence with older generations despite the under 30s being cited as the most likely to talk to their neighbours.
Another 31 per cent think it would mean a safer environment for their children to play in with another 59 per cent saying it would make people happier.
Bringing generations together and giving the area a better reputation were other reasons for wanting more community spirit.
Forty three per cent said the Olympics and Jubilee led to them talking more than usual to their neighbours, with 22 per cent attending some kind of community event during 2012, including The Big Jubilee Lunch with 8.5 million people taking part last year.
Taking place on 2nd June 2013, The Big Lunch is an idea from the Eden Project funded by The Big Lottery Fund, encouraging neighbours across the UK to come together on one day to share a few hours of food, friendship and fun.
For further information or to request your free pack containing invitations, recipes, posters and other materials to help organise your Big Lunch, visit: www.thebiglunch.com.