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How to Be a Good Neighbor

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

How to be a good neighbor in small and rural towns

A big part of the small-town culture is being neighborly. Being neighborly is expected. In urban areas, a good neighbor passes as someone who lives on your street; you know each other's names, you mutually respect implicit neighborhood norms, and you occasionally make small talk with them. In small towns, you get to know everyone, and everyone is loosely considered your neighbor, therefore we take the extra second to be friendly to those we recognize. Good neighbors are more than just friendly to each other. We are trustworthy, respectful, helpful, and genuine. Let me break this down a bit more for you.

We are friendly.

In a small-town culture, when we pass by anyone, we greet them in one form or another. For those like me who live in a touristy town, we ease up on greeting people we don’t recognize during peak tourist times. We wave to cars we pass in the neighborhoods or recognize on the main roads. We might even yell your name from across the street. When crossing paths with someone we know, it’s considered common courtesy to make small-talk. Kindness doesn’t cost you anything, so pass it around generously.

We are trustworthy.

A huge weight is lifted off your shoulders knowing your package will be on your porch when you get home. It’s pretty common in my town for the mail to get delivered to the wrong house, so we go out of our way to get it to the correct person. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.

We are respectful.

Don’t be the bad apple on the street. Maintain your yard. Keep the noise down. If you see trash on the ground, pick it up.

We are helpful.

We do not turn a blind eye to our neighbors. Sometimes this means giving out a cup of milk; other times it’s eating breakfast at the Legion for the fourth time in a month to raise money for a good cause. In small towns, the government isn’t always there to help out a friend, so it’s up to us to lend a hand. When you see a need, fill it or help find someone who can. The individuals who live here hold the community up. Small favors go a long way in this neck of the woods.

We are involved in our community.

Volunteerism is at the heart of rural communities. In small communities like Julian, most local groups depend solely upon teams of volunteers to help them do their work. Our locally run organizations provide essential services, offer help to worthy causes, help people in need, and support the community as a whole. Without donations and volunteer hours, this wouldn’t be possible. Being involved in the community also means remaining loyal to local businesses. Shopping locally is so important for the long-term survival of our community, and it’s a great way to show you care about the town. Local businesses are owned and operated by our neighbors who care about and are invested in the well-being of the community and its future. Regular shopping with local businesses is a sign of respect for the efforts of business owners who work every day to make an honest living. The more we shop locally, the greater the variety of unique products business owners will be able to carry. By buying local goods we can help secure our neighbors’ jobs and ensure that Julian’s small-town charm is preserved for the people to enjoy for generations. Without local business on (and off) Main Street, the Julian we all know and love couldn’t survive. As I always say on #TEAMJulian, together, everyone achieves more for Julian.

We are the neighborhood watch program.

The neighborhood watch program is an active group in small towns. Unlike in the city, your neighbors pay attention. We know what is out of the ordinary and we are very community-centered people. We look out for our neighbors, and they look out for us. Simply checking in with each other every so often really goes a long way. When there is a natural disaster or something that affects everyone, we make sure our neighbors are aware. People from small towns not only watch out for each other, we are incredibly nosy. We are nosy neighbors with eyes like hawks who aren’t afraid to say something. We “know” everyone, so when we see a strange car, we stare it down to make sure it’s not going to cause trouble. For example,a year ago, my car got tapped by another car while I was at work. A few local witnesses saw the incident. They took photos of the car that tapped mine and came into my workplace to inform me of what happened. Nothing “interesting” ever happens around here, so a minor hit-and-run, FBI investigation taking place a the healthcare clinic, and the improvement project you start will definitely be more interesting than the five o’clock news. Which brings me to my next point.

We take things with a grain of salt.

When you make the move from the city to a small town, you will be flooded with culture shocks. We do things differently around here. As I just mentioned, we are very observant and will question things for the safety of the community. When something is a potential issue or an inconvenience, we respectfully confront a business or individual about it. It’s a mature way to handle a situation. Just be fully aware that nothing may change after the conversation. For the record, in no way am I employing that it is okay to tell your neighbors what they should do on their private property. That ain't cool. As I said, we are not tattle tales and we are not bossy. I just want you to know life is different in small towns and that may mean our conversations are slightly bold. Buttercup, some things you just have to suck up and live with. You learn to move on quickly. No matter what tension causes a divide, you have to learn to move on, run around like a chicken trying to avoid someone, or move out of town. You’re going to see people you don’t get along with around town. It’s incredibly hard to avoid someone. Most of us are forced to learn how to be acquaintances, at the very least, to keep the peace.

We are not tattletales.

In small towns, we have a looser interpretation of rules... within reason of course. In the city, there are overly nosy tattletale neighbors who call all sorts of bureaucrats and have them keep everyone in line. In small towns, we do not turn people in for every little thing. I don’t know about your town but where I live every house in these woods that has been altered to some extent without county approval. The deal is kinda like this: As long as no one is disturbing the peace, we don’t turn each other in. A word to the wise: tattletales usually don’t stay long in these parts.

In conclusion

People who live in small towns tend to stick around, so your relationships with your neighbors can really make or break your small-town experience. I always say what you put into your community is what you get out of it. I highly encourage you to maintain good relationships with your neighbors.


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