PCSing to a new place off base means having to make friends the hard way. I say the hard way because when you live on base people always come to welcome you into the neighborhood. It’s easy because everyone is in the same boat. But what happens when you need to make friends when you live off base?
When you move into a civilian neighborhood you’re now dealing with people that have lived there for years and may not see constant turnover like you would in housing. It can be intimidating to meet other people but it is extremely important, especially if your spouse deploys and you’re at the house alone. You want to have people around you that you can ask for help, or just have people to pick up your mail if you go out of town. Here are some ways you can break the ice and start meeting some people in your neighborhood.
Use your HHG shipment as a way in
Those trucks are huge and can completely inconvenience your neighbors, especially in smaller neighborhoods. You’ll know your shipment date ahead of time. When you arrive at your new place, go around to your neighbors houses and let them know you’re new to the neighborhood and that the moving truck will be arriving on X day. Offer up your phone number so that they can contact you if they need the truck moved. This is the perfect time to ask the neighbors for any local information, small talk, see if they have similar interests, children the same age as yours, dogs that your dogs can play with at the park or in the backyard. This is an in, use it.
If you have kids, use them!
Using children is an excellent way to make friends. The first day of school, walk your kids if you can . See if anyone else is walking and walk together. Introduce yourself and and the kids…they’ll need some friends too 😉
Sign the kids up for some activities too. Sports are good for them and a great way to meet other people. If your kids aren’t into sports, look into other activities like art classes, STEM classes, etc.
If you have pets, use them too!
Take your dogs to a local dog park and meet other dog owners. Go for daily walks at different times and see who else is out walking their dogs. I’ve met more people with my dogs than anything else…but totally on accident. My children are really bad at closing gates and the dogs have gotten out a lot. I’ve met three neighbors who have met my dog Ghost first. When I go get my sheepish and guilt ridden dog, his story of how he was rescued from Afghanistan comes up and this opens the door to more conversation.
Do some landscaping to scope out the neighbors
Ok, this method sounds creepy. However it is all around practical. Instead of peeping out of your window to catch your neighbor, spend some time outside in your front yard. Sweep, pick up and relocate rocks, plant some flowers, pull some weeds. Do something outside where you will increase your chance of seeing your neighbors. Make yourself available by being outside a lot for the first month. You’re going to catch them at one point. When you see them, wave. Ask them questions about their yard. Ask about seasonal changes in the area and what grows well or what doesn’t. I found out a lot about the area I live in by doing this…including that my neighbor across the street killed 8 rattlesnakes last year. He is now my go to guy for when I come across a rattler and my husband is deployed…I also no longer do random “meet-people” landscaping in the front yard.
Nextdoor.com is a social website where people sign up based on their address. You have to confirm your address and once you do you can instantly connect with other neighbors that are on the site too. My rattlesnake killing neighbors told me about the site and sent me an invitation via e-mail. I was instantly welcomed into the neighborhood by everyone on the street and made a hiking buddy after I wrote on my profile that I like hiking (this was before I knew about the snake situation). This site also helped me connect to another mom with kids my age and we’ve gotten the kids together a couple of times to play. Its free to join and you can see your neighbors profiles (if they’re on).
There are several ways to get started meeting new people when you live off base. The sooner you start breaking the ice, the easier it will be. What are some ways that you make new friends?
Meet Your Contributor
Carmen Grant is a seasoned Navy spouse and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from USC. She has PCSed from Florida to Washington State, Sicily, San Diego, Virginia Beach and now happily back to San Diego. She has three children and two lovely dogs – one of which is a rescue from Afghanistan.