Being “neighborly” has generally positive connotations. It insinuates being friendly, considering others, and being helpful to those who live nearby. But in a more literal and less figurative way, what does being neighborly actually mean in today’s world? And how has COVID-19 changed what it means to relate to the people who live right next door?
We recently surveyed more than 1,000 people in the U.S. to find out what it means to be a neighbor today. We asked them how they introduced themselves to the neighborhood and what levels of comfort they had with their neighbors. We noticed a few generational differences, as well as some positive influences on neighborly relations from the pandemic. Keep reading to learn all of this and more.
There are many approaches to getting the lay of the new land today. With the internet and thousands of reviews at your fingertips, there’s no real need to ask your neighbors for their recommendations. But do people ask anyways? The first part of our study asks respondents if they researched their neighborhoods before moving and how.
Research preceded the move for the majority of respondents. In other words, 61.5% of people researched their neighborhood before moving there. Millennials, however, were the most likely to do so, with 63.6% completing pre-move research, as compared to just 55.2% of baby boomers. This may have to do with the technology gap that separates these two age groups – without as many comparative technological skills, research may be a more consuming task for baby boomers than it is their younger counterparts.
Nevertheless, when we asked respondents how they familiarized themselves with the new neighborhood once they moved, all age groups leaned toward an off-screen methodology: walking around. This was, by far, the most popular way for new people to get the lay of the land. Only 26.8%, however, took this opportunity to engage in conversation with the neighbors by asking them for recommendations in the area. For most, Facebook and walking around were better options.
In a post-pandemic world, offices and the respective commutes to them aren’t always top of mind when wondering where to move. In fact, today’s version of professional success can generally exist independently of location. So what does matter in a location? Perhaps another type of establishment for which COVID-19 forever changed our perception: essential businesses.
To see how much store locations mattered to movers, we asked respondents to select the stores they most wanted to live by. Most people wanted to live by a Walmart (48%) or a Target (36.3%). With “Everyday Low Prices” or “EDLP” as Walmart calls it, this store can provide the convenience and savings that make a neighborhood more enjoyable. That said, these big-box stores had already been putting immense pressure on local small businesses, who then faced the brunt of the pandemic’s fallout. Perhaps prioritizing local businesses is a good way to give back to the small businessman as well as get to know your new neighbors.
There are varying degrees of knowing your neighbors. From being able to recall their names to asking them to babysit, respondents were next asked to share exactly how close they felt with the people in their neighborhood.
The vast majority could recognize their neighbors and could even tell us their names. An additional 68.6% also agreed that it was important to know your neighbors, and baby boomers were especially knowledgeable of other locals, but comfortability with the local crowd dropped dramatically after general recognition.
Most agreed that they would feel comfortable with giving their neighbors a ride (63%), but less than a third would be willing to give their neighbors a copy of their house key. Things like getting each other’s mail or borrowing a cup of sugar were easier to do and felt more comfortable for about half of respondents.
But neighbors had some annoying habits as well. When we asked what these were, the top five responses we received were as follows:
Perhaps if more people were comfortable babysitting each other’s children, the fifth complaint of unsupervised children wouldn’t have been as common. That said, COVID-19 does appear to be influencing a few neighborly relations. Keep reading to see what we mean.
Socializing and maintaining distance may sound mutually exclusive, but COVID-19 taught us that they weren’t. Wanting to know how neighbors related to one another during the ongoing pandemic, we asked them to share if they had made an effort to get to know their neighbors since March of 2020 and if they had helped their neighbors out in any way during that time frame.
COVID-19 did, in fact, foster neighborly bonding. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they made an effort to get to know their neighbors, and more than half said they had helped their neighbors in some way since the pandemic started. Interestingly, younger generations were more likely to have attempted to socialize locally during COVID – perhaps a reflection of their lowered risk associated with contracting the disease. That said, more than a quarter of baby boomers also made the effort to connect with neighbors during these times.
Many respondents took it a step further and offered their help, often in the form of physical labor. Twenty-four percent helped their neighbors shovel snow, 22.9% assisted with yardwork, and 18.8% even offered a hand with grocery shopping. Rarer, but not totally unheard of, were things like creating pods for social interactions (11.2%) and helping with home schooling (8.9%) – all heartwarming statistics to hear in a time when they’re needed most.
As mentioned earlier, many local businesses have been hard-pressed to compete with both big-box stores and the pandemic. And so, our study wraps up with a look at the ways in which respondents both shop and want to shop locally.
People were even more likely to believe that it was important to buy local than it was to know your neighbors. Seventy-seven percent not only agreed that it was important to buy local, but were willing to spend more money to do so. This is proven to help money stay in (and benefit) your local economy but can also help you get to know your neighbors.
More specifically, people were hoping to buy their produce locally. Buying food locally significantly cuts down on transportation costs and emissions and even helps food remain fresher and taste better, all while supporting the local entrepreneur. That said, 42.2% said they would find local businesses more appealing if the price point was lower, as local produce, as well as local offerings in general, typically comes with a higher price tag.
Small businesses will have a hard time beating the prices of the likes of Walmart and Target, but they can make up for it in other ways. Many appreciated great customer service (49%), locally produced products (34.4%), and community events (21.8%), all of which can foster a sense of community as well.
Before we redefine the idea of being neighborly, we may want to give more weight to the original concept. While respondents today weren’t often comfortable to go as far as sharing their keys with or babysitting for the neighbors, they were in general agreement that knowing their neighbors was important. They also had made an extra effort to get to know one another during the pandemic and even offered help where they could. Feeling neighborly might just have earned its old meaning back.
Stoneside Blinds & Shades has always had the neighborly spirit in its core. We offer superior customer service in everything we create – professional and beautiful custom window treatments. Wanting nothing more than to make your home and your neighborhood look beautiful, Stoneside is available locally wherever you need us. For a custom window treatment that serves your needs and aesthetics, head to Stoneside.com today.
This study uses data from a survey of 1,006 people located in the U.S. Survey respondents were gathered through the Amazon Mechanical Turk survey platform where they were presented with a series of questions, including attention-check and disqualification questions. 50.9% of respondents identified as male, while 49.1% identified as female. Respondents ranged in age from 19 to 81 with an average age of 38. 55.5% of respondents were millennials, 29.9% Gen Xers, 13.7% were baby boomers, and 0.9% were Gen Zers. Participants incorrectly answering any attention-check question had their answers disqualified. This study has a 3% margin of error on a 95% confidence interval.
Please note that survey responses are self-reported and are subject to issues, such as exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping.
The neighborly feeling doesn’t have to stop with the conclusion of this article. You’re welcome to share the information with neighbors of your own, far and wide. Just be sure your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page.