If you’re new to an area, introducing yourself into a close-knit community can feel a formidable task. But, according to recent research by the Big Lottery Fund, feeling part of a local community can bring lots of positive benefits1. The key is to be open to new experiences, to take your time and to try out a few tried-and-tested ways of making new connections.
Get to know the neighbours
The best way of meeting neighbours when you move to a new area is to go door-to-door, introduce yourself and strike up a conversation,” says Nick Lisher, UK Country Manager for nextdoor.co.uk – a free and private social network connecting neighbours to each other and their local community. “Loneliness isn’t just an issue that affects the elderly: here at Nextdoor we found that 28% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 29% of 25- to 34-year-olds admit to feeling isolated; and getting to know your neighbours is a great place to start feeling more at home in your local area.”
Malini Stevenson, who downsized from a 4-bedroom house to a flat in South London agrees. “My one tip would be to walk everywhere,” she says. “And if you use the local shops and chat to the shopkeepers, you soon feel you belong.”
Become involved in the community
To make new connections in your community, it helps to be proactive. Margaret Littlejohn, a retired social worker from Manchester, who moved to Newark-upon-Trent two years ago, found the best way to make new friends was to sign up with local groups and societies. “It’s a really good way of meeting people,” says Margaret, who – as well as getting involved in university-style study sessions – also joined a book group, a health club and a community choir.
Alternatively, if you’ve time, you could sign up as a volunteer for a local organisation or charity – another good way of feeling part of the community. Do-it.org lists over a million volunteering opportunities all around the country and you can apply online.
Shaun Delaney, volunteering development manager at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) comments, “The data2 tells us that meeting new people and making friends is one of the top reasons people decide to volunteer. If you’re new to an area, volunteering gives you the perfect opportunity to learn about, and contribute to, your new community. It’s also great chance to meet people with similar interests – if you volunteer to referee for a local amateur football club, for example, you’re likely to meet people nearby who you can watch the next big game with.”
If you want to get involved in your local area and get active, GoodGym could also be a solution. It’s an initiative that combines running groups with community projects, so you can run to plant trees for the local park or to sort cans for the food bank, for example.
Read up on the area
If you know little about your new home when you arrive, do some research. “When I moved, I decided to look into the history of my surroundings,” says Malini. “I discovered that it was originally populated by Victorian philanthropists and that made me proud to live here.”
For more up-to-date information about where you’re living, put your postcode into StreetCheck. This website, updated every week, filters complex information from census and Land Registry data to extract key statistics, from employment rates and house prices, to crime rates and broadband speeds.
“It was created to make life easier for house hunters and give a snapshot of different areas,” says StreetCheck director Peter Bailey. “It can also help you pinpoint the nearest GP surgeries, hospitals and schools.”
Research schools and services
If you want to know more about schools in your new area, explore school-rating website Locrating as a starting point. With an easy-to-use, interactive map, it provides information such as inspection reports, catchment area indicators, parents’ approval ratings, school fees and pupil-to-teacher ratios, which can help to inform your choice.
For an instant overview of what’s on your doorstep – from banks to coffee shops, Google Maps is a useful resource, giving you general information, plus reviews of everything from restaurants to petrol stations. And don’t forget to check out the latest openings and events in your area on Instagram.
Alternatively, look at Barclays Local Insights, which reveals surprising facts, figures and insights about everything from income bands to shopping trends in your neighbourhood.
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