Grand Rapids, We Need to get Better at Welcoming New Locals – It Starts with a Simple “Hello”

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Hi, I’m New Here!

I’ve been there. New state. No family. No friends. No babysitter. Just a hardworking husband and two energetic boys. Moving can be exciting, but it can also be very hard to leave the life you had behind to start from scratch.

Having that experience helped me empathize with other families that struggle with feeling isolated in a new community. We love our city, and it’s important to help newcomers to love where they live!

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4 Ways to Help New Locals Feel Like They’re Home

1 – Say Hi!

The start to making new neighbors feel welcome is a friendly introduction! It surprises me how many people in West Michigan do not know their nextdoor neighbors. When I was growing up, we knew everyone on our block. All the families looked out for each other. All the kids played together and the parents spent time together.

Many families, especially those with kids, want a sense of community. So, say hi and let new neighbors know who you are and make the effort to get to know them. You never know when you might need to borrow some sugar (or make a new friend)!

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2 – Give Them the Inside Scoop About Where to Go and What to Do

New neighbors need the skinny on everything! Be willing to give recommendations about great places to eat, fun places to go, and ways to get involved in extracurricular activities in your community.

And be even more willing, if there is a family with kids, to recommend where to find awesome babysitters. That was one of the hardest things I had to face when my family and I moved to a new state. No one wanted to share! If you know someone that’s amazing with kids, share the wealth! Moving with kids can be challenging in many different ways, so moms and dads need a break and time to explore their new surroundings, too.

3 – Extend an Invitation

Does your family order pizza from your favorite restaurant on Fridays? Are you planning to take the kids to the park this weekend? Is there a weekly neighborhood guys’ night or girls’ night that’s coming up?  Encourage the new neighbors to join! It’s a great way for everyone to continue learning about one another and find things you might have in common.

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4 – Be Friendly and Approachable and Encouraging – to a Point

You may hit it off great with your neighbors. And you may genuinely enjoy the company of your newfound friends, but that doesn’t mean you have to be attached at the hip! It’s good to have healthy boundaries in order to avoid invading personal space. If you notice your neighbors are outside enjoying family time, don’t automatically include yourself in their fun. Once you’ve built a rapport with them, wait for an invitation.

And let’s just be 100% honest for a second. You may even find that your personalities and values don’t mesh well with your new neighbors. It happens! You don’t have to overstep your boundaries to force an unnatural neighborship. A wave and a smile still goes a long way.

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These simple tips can turn any new neighbor from feeling isolated to feeling included. It can spark new friendships among adults and kids, and it just enhances the sense of community altogether. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, when you’re joining a new neighborhood you wanna be “where everybody knows your name.”

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