This a friend next door

June 18, 2023

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year – but for many, it is also the loneliest time. Being surrounded by a society buzzing with Christmas songs, baking, social gatherings, gift shopping and planning to whose home to gather this year for Christmas eve, makes many people feel more lonely than ever. 

What we often don't think about, is that these people might be actually living in the next house from ours, or just behind our own wall, if we live in an apartment building. You never know. 

The celebratory mood of others can make you miss the people you have lost, and also remind the elderly of the days when they had more people around them. Whatever the triggers, Christmas can easily amplify the feeling of loneliness. And loneliness can have serious health consequences.

For us at Hococo, fighting loneliness is close to our hearts. And this is why we want to challenge and encourage you to be an extra good neighbour this December. With little things, you can spread warmth and a good spirit around you, and you can make someone feel less lonely, and happier than you think. You can save someone's day, or even someone's Christmas time.

This Christmas, we hope that you take this challenge: don't be a stranger, don't be just a neighbour - be a friend next door.

24 ways to be a friend next door

This December, we will roll out altogether 24 different ways to be a friend next door this Christmas, divided into 4 themes. Many of the tips are useful also for any other time of the year, so we hope that these different ways to be kind, do good, share and connect will inspire everybody to continue on this path even after Christmas.

We wish you happy encounters and the joy of sharing, and getting to know who lives next door!

1-6: Spread Goodwill

1. Bring joy with friendly messages

Brighten your neighbours' day by putting up friendly messages on the board in the hallway of your building. It could be a Christmas poem, your favourite cookie recipe, holiday wishes or anonymous friendly notes to cheer up people’s day.

2. Decorate the common areas

When decorating your own home for Christmas, take a few decorations into the common areas of the building to create a cosy and festive atmosphere. It can also be drawings of your children on display, for example.

3. Share the season treats

Are you baking Christmas biscuits or other delicious treats? Bake a bit more, and leave a basket of season treats in the hallway with Merry Christmas wishes to everybody. You might even start a virtuous circle!

4. Make Christmas cards

Make Christmas cards for your neighbours and drop them directly in their mailbox. This is also a fun activity to do with the kids!

5. Play a mini-concert

Do you play an instrument or can you sing well? Organise a mini Christmas concert in the building, even if it's just 2-3 songs, it will surely spread the Christmas magic. Maybe you can even get other musicians in the building to join in.

6. Smile and make eye contact

The power of a smile should not be underestimated. Make it your goal to smile at every neighbour you meet and look them in the eye. You'll find that it makes you feel good too!

7-12: Make Contact

7. Say hello, and ask how are you

Instead of mumbling into your scarf and walking away, make it your goal to greet every neighbour, and ask at least one a day how are they doing today. You might even find you have something in common.

8. Hold the door

Hold the door for your neighbour. It's not only a polite gesture but also a good opportunity to exchange a few words, look each other in the eye and smile.

9. Start a conversation

It's not always easy, but it can open many hearts. Make it your goal every day. It can be about the weather (it's easy, works every time!), current news, or a new shared space in your building.

10. Give a compliment

Compliment your neighbour's outfit / fragrance / other features – see how many people you can make smile.

11. Borrow something

You were about to start baking, but you're out of eggs. Do not abandon the project or rush to the store. This time, try knocking on your neighbour's door and asking if he/she has any eggs to lend you. It will open up a connection between you and your neighbour, and maybe next time she'll dare to knock on your door when she needs a splash of milk.

12. Connect digitally

Take the neighbourhood to the next level by creating a group for the residents on a digital platform. If your property does not have an app where to do it, you can use for instance WhatsApp or Facebook, if many people enough use these platforms.

13-18: Do good & share

13. Offer help

If you have elderly people, single-parent families, or others in your building who could use help with their daily lives - take the initiative and offer it. Cleaning, airing the carpets, going to the grocery store or maybe walking the dog are all good ways to offer help and make someone else's life easier.

14. Initiate a book-swap

Winter is a good time to stay warm at home and read a good book. Make it a common thing - set up a book swap point, perhaps a small shelf in the hallway, where all residents can bring their old books and pick out a new one for themselves.

15. Carry their shopping bag

You arrive at the main entrance at the same time as your neighbour, who is carrying shopping bags in both hands. Ask if he/she needs help, and offer to carry the bags upstairs. Even if they don't need help, just offering to help is a warm gesture that will be remembered. You're no longer the anonymous neighbour, but the kind person who once offered to help in the stairwell.

16. Organise a flea market

Organise a residents' flea market, where you don't pay but exchange goods. Everyone has something in their home that they are thinking of getting rid of. A flea market in your own building is an easy way to offer your unneeded items to others and to find new bargains for yourself. One man's junk is another man's treasure.

17. Promote sharing economy

The sharing economy is booming. Not everyone needs to own expensive, big equipment or tools themselves. Your neighbour might be happy to borrow your couch cleaner before Christmas. Or maybe you're going away for Christmas yourself and could lend your flat to a neighbour's relatives who are coming into town. Offer to share your appliances, car, apartment or other stuff – and encourage others to do so as well.

18. Do good together

Christmas is a time for good deeds. Post a notice in the hall or on the building’s digital app chat group that you are planning to volunteer or donate to charity this Christmas - who else wants to join in? Doing good things together creates good spirits and connects people.

19-24: Get together

19. Invite for mulled wine and cookies

Invite your neighbours for some mulled wine and cookies. You'll get the chance to get to know your neighbours in a completely different setting to the one you'd normally meet them in. And maybe you'll cheer up an otherwise lonely neighbour’s week in an unpredictable way.

20. Make Christmas decorations together

Organise a joint event in your home or in the common areas of the building where you make Christmas decorations together. Doing arts and crafts together is a good way to learn to know each other.

21 .Organise a casual get-together

A relaxed Christmas party together gives you the chance to meet neighbours you don't usually see. If you don't have a common area in your building, you can gather outside with a hot drink, Christmas music and cookies. Or perhaps make an event especially for children, if you have a lot of families with children in your building?

22. Bake together

It's more fun to do things together - organise a joint Christmas baking session between neighbours. Christmas music will accompany the fun activity, and everyone can bring their best recipes and ingredients. Or you can bake at home and get together to taste the results together!

23. Initiate community dinners

Initiate a monthly community dinner club, starting in December. This can be organised in the common areas of the building, or alternately at the homes of each resident who wishes to participate. Everyone prepares a dish, you cook together, or the cooking rotation changes each time. This is a priceless opportunity for residents to get to know each other and find social interaction in their building.

24. Share your Christmas eve

It's a bold proposal, but it could save someone's Christmas. Put a note in the hallway or to your building’s digital community channel inviting a neighbour to your home for Christmas dinner, in case they will be spending the evening alone.

Merry Christmas, friend next door!

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