Why Don’t We Get To Know Neighbors For Community Anymore?

Today, there is a clear social distance and disconnection between neighbors. Thinking through the time of events and how our society has evolved to its current construct, it all makes sense.

Neighbors became obsolete as new generations moved away from homesteads into dense city dwellings. In cities, people generate the resources to obtain their needs from money and markets rather than through neighbors and local community trade.

The way a city is designed to operate, we are naturally less likely to know our neighbors because we simply don’t need them. In the country, most people know a handful or most of the neighbors because it’s probably where they get their wood for the winter or their fresh tomatoes and zucchini for the summer.

No matter what neighborhood you live in, finding ways to engage with your neighbors and community has been shown in studies to be healthier; the American Public Health Association talks about “the importance of walkable neighborhoods.”

Is it normal to not know your neighbors?

If you’ve only lived on one side of the spectrum and tend to keep to yourself, it’s easy to wonder if it’s normal not to know your neighbors. You are likely on the outside of an existing social loop!

In general, it’s normal not to know your neighbors if there is no reason to interact with them. It takes extra effort to know our neighbors because our lives are busy making a difference elsewhere. Unless you create reasons in your life to put your neighbors to good use or be of good use yourself, it’s normal to simply be a friendly passerby.

The people we know are generally at work or hanging out somewhere away from our homes.

It might feel quite cold that we don’t interact with neighbors just because we don’t need them. On the flip side, it’s completely understandable that most of us are too busy to foster irrelevant relationships.

While it may seem that we don’t need our neighbors, we ultimately do! Because without everything that is, it wouldn’t be. As closely as many live in cities, we depend on each other from a distance.

Kindess is always a virtue.

Your neighbor could be the scientist that created the treatment protocol for the doctor that saved your cousin’s life. As disconnected as we may feel, our connection is simply so vast that we forget to recognize the importance of each other.

Our society is advanced the way it is because we mainly interact with people who we accomplish things with. If you have nothing to accomplish with your neighbors today, you are not out of the norm. Working physically away from home diverts your day-to-day life away from neighbors.

If you’re looking for something you can accomplish with neighbors to live more sustainably; look no further than community gardening!

What would happen if there were no neighbors?

When I first lived on my own, I didn’t need my neighbors so much it felt like I had none. I literally didn’t see a single neighbor the first year I lived in an apartment. I often wondered what would happen if I had none!

In general, you would be alone to fend for yourself if you had no neighbors. The place you would live would be a lot more expensive because all costs would have to be covered by you alone. In one way or another, your neighbors are who supply you with everything you didn’t create yourself. It’s unattainable to truly live life and enjoy it alone.

Even if you are building a self-sufficient-style homestead. It sounds independent, but in this case, you would value your direct neighbors as your life depends on them. (That’s what a self-sufficient homestead is all about! Harnessing your local community for a means of strength and independence from an owned currency.)

a harvest of wild black raspberries and wild thimble berries
A harvest with our neighbors

Even if you have all the money you need to do everything for yourself, many of your neighbors are likely supporting the business that generates your financial means.

What Could We Accomplish With Our Neighbors?

Whether you live in the city or the country, you could work from home and still not need your neighbor’s thanks to laptops and phones. Does this mean it’s in our best interest to ignore them?

The idea of working from home is appealing to most people because the time and money spent on commuting could be gone.

Now there is less expense freeing up double the time! For what?

We could be distracted more often with mindless entertainment and play beat saber all night…

Or create life-saving relationships.

Food relationships. Local community relationships.

Our food system is largely unsustainable which has an inevitable end unless we do something about it. The pendulum of mass imbalance swings back eventually and this is an opportunity to meet closer to the middle. What are we waiting for?

Anyone with the means to do so, could be out of their chairs and creating community gardens and food forests.

The results of these efforts could render a higher quality of living for everyone involved. Increasing the longevity of our feel-good bodies, regenerating soils, and repairing social skills.

The more unsustainable we allow our living systems to become, the higher cost of living there will be. Someone must inevitably pay. Our actions with extra time could be spent creating cushions with sustainable assets.

Pink blossoms of a young crab apple tree
Fruit trees, anyone?

How To Get To Know Our Neighbors for Community Again?

First, let’s assume there is no space in your area for growing food to build community. Your life’s necessities are likely fully served by the money you earn to buy things. The kind of neighborly community you’d be seeking is more about basic safety, peace, and trust.

To become acquainted you could start by introducing yourself. Bringing baked goods is not necessary to do this!

You could simply walk on over with a paper in your pocket that includes your name, number, and any other information you want to share.

healthy no sugar sweet potato brownies for the neighbors
Although you could bake some healthy treats and share if that’s your thing! I shared a couple of these sweet potato brownies while Chris did landscaping work for the neighbors.

If you knock and they answer, tell them you just want to say hello because you are their neighbor. From here you can decide based on their reaction if you want to tell them about what you do or anything else about you.

Asking questions about the local area you’d otherwise ask google can be a great conversation opener. If you need help with something, ask if they know someone who can do it or if they can give you a hand.

To end the quick meet and greet, either exchange numbers on your phones or hand them the backup piece of paper with your information! At the very least you can insist on exchanging information for emergencies.

Through this initial interaction, you might find a reason to know them a little further and vice versa. If nothing opens up, leave them with an offer to call if they need anything.

As you do this with a handful of your nearest neighbors you will naturally click more or less with each.

Building this rapport can lead to countless beneficial opportunities for all of your neighbors. How close you should be with a neighbor depends too!

If you want to know all the neighbors fast, get a dog! As soon as we got a dog, I suddenly knew everyone! Dog owners are brought together like parents with children.

Finding a reason to know your neighbors can simply be offering help and asking for it when you need it. You don’t need to become best friends with all the neighbors to create a safe space.

Second, let’s assume you and your neighbors have space to grow food! Build the same rapport as above and perhaps propose a fun garden swap! This is one of many ways to build a purposeful and functional community.

One neighbor could grow beans, corn, and squash. The other neighbor could grow potatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs. Another could grow brassicas and herbs. Another could grow tomatoes and peppers. Then you can all swap and share food while harvests are abundant.

Vegetable garden community

One neighbor could grow a crab apple tree with strawberries and sage. Another could grow cherry trees with cranberries and rosemary. Another grows grape vines, blueberries, and thyme. Another grows peaches, blackberries, and oregano. Now, you’ve all split the cost to grow an abundant food forest swap.

Food forest garden community

Of course, the list goes on and the crop exchanges are endless.

If you or your neighbors aren’t garden savvy, you could all spend time working with each other on each property or community plot and learn together.

What If the Place I Live Isn’t Community-Friendly?

If you are finding that the place you live has little opportunity to foster relationships with your neighbors in the way that you want, go support a place that does!

Many places offer community amenities, sometimes it can be as simple as a nearby spot to walk or hike.

This article was originally published on foodforestliving.com. If it is now published on any other site, it was done without permission from the copyright owner.


While Rachelle's hands are clean for the keyboard, she enjoys writing and designing creative content and resources. You will most likely find her outside planting a cabbage, foraging berries for breakfast, and collecting herbs for year-round tea or making food.

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