Monday, 9 May 2011

Making a Community

Our neighbourhood* is not very neighbourhood-y.

We live in a lovely area of north Manchester known as Whitefield.  Our little area is built on the grounds of what used to be a school.  There are a mix of flats and town house style accommodation. It's all located off of one street that has a sort of cul-de-sac at the end.  It should be an automatic community.  

Looking towards the main road from the cul-de-sac part where we live.

There are little areas of grass dotted along the street.  The entrance to the development has two fenced-in little gardens for public use.  I've seen people in them once- I think. 

Pretty church!  Fenced in garden on the left.  
This picture is from last February, it's much prettier and greener right now :)

 We live in a section that has 6 flats behind one main door.  I assume people live in the other five flats...  No one is rude or anything.  We say "hello" when we see each other.  We have a little polite chit-chat with the elderly couple when we pass in the hall.  So it's fine.  But shouldn't it be better than fine?

Us in front of the main door to our block of flats.  Someone had taped a note to the door because someone else had parked in their spot.  That's how communication happens.

The other day, Ross and I were leaving as a young family that has recently moved into our block was coming in.  We said a friendly hello and they were fairly warm in their response.  Ross noted that they were probably the friendliest people we'd come across the building.  This got us talking about why there wasn't more of a sense of community in our area.

I guess I would love to have a few people around our area to be friendly with.  I see women about my age, but can't find a way engage them in more than the simplest of pleasantry exchanges.  It's always difficult to make new friends.  Especially as an ex-pat.  Once you're out of school, you lose that ready-made pool of possible friends.  Most people make friends through work, but I work with Ross- and no one else.  We're in the limbo zone before we've got kids.  Once you have kids, you get together for play dates and school meetings and whatever else.  You've got an automatic "in".

So I'm toying with the idea of putting on a community picnic.  I'd make up little flyer inviting everyone on our street (there are a LOT of households) to come to one of the public lawn areas and bring some food item to share.  I'd put out some lawn games to play and try to get people talking and meeting each other.
Something like that...

I go back and forth between feeling gung-ho about it and feeling defeatist.
"I should just do it!  What do I have to lose?"
"It's dumb.  No one will come and they'll think I'm weird for trying."
"Who cares what they think."
"Me!  I want friends."
"But if that's going to put them off, then they aren't the right friends for you anyway."

Blah!  I can go round and round with myself with the best of them.

What have you done to help build or find community?
If you lived in my neighbourhood would you come to my picnic?

*Spell check gives me an angry red squiggly line if I spell this without a "u", so I'm leaving it even though it looks wrong.


  1. Thanks for popping over and commenting! That's so awesome you're in England - I spent a semester studying in Bath. I spend a bit of time dreaming of my time there. I miss tea from across the pond!

  2. Thanks for saying hello, Melinda! It certainly is an adventure living here. We really like Tea Pigs tea. If you go to you can get it shipped to America (though it's probably cheaper to just go get English tea at Central Market). They have lots of great flavours!

  3. If I lived in your area I would definitely come to your picnic!! I am also constantly wishing I could make more new friends here, but I must confess I have not made much of an effort. I think you should definitely send out those flyers. I'm sure you'll make at least one new friend and those who do come would be the kind of people one would want to be friends with. Go for it and let us know how it went!! Maybe I will copy your idea over here where we live!

  4. what a cute idea! I'd definitely come :)

  5. I had this same problem when we were living in London, and never got to know my neighbors til I had a baby! But you probably don't want to do that just to meet people :)

  6. probably no one will come, or maybe the weirdo's from around the corner will turn up.
    in the UK people tend to just want to get on with their own thing.

  7. Oh, this pulled at my heart because I am in the same boat. I don't work with my partner just don't work at the moment. It's kind of lonely. I have tried saying hi and starting conversations with neighbors but nothing comes of it. I find myself wishing and hoping someone will just start talking to me when we run into each other. But nothing.

    I thought about hosting a party and inviting neighbor but the idea of it failing keeps me from committing. I know how you feel!

  8. Ok, so I think you guys have convinced me. Maybe anonymous is right and no one will come. Or maybe I'll meet some people and make a few friends. Either way, I should end up with a fun story to tell y'all!

  9. So true about the difficulty of making friends. This is why I'm not compelled to be adventurous and move to a new city. :| I think the picnic idea is great, though!