Is talking to your neighbours a thing of the past?

One in five British homeowners spend just an hour talking to their
neighbours each year

Is the age of knowing your neighbours a thing of the past? We facilitated a new poll of 1,057 UK homeowners which suggested it may be. However, where you live, the type of property you live in, and your age, may be playing a significant role in your willingness to converse with your neighbours.

The overall findings from across the UK highlighted that less than a third (29%) of those polled 'live in a friendly neighbourhood and all talk', and one in six (15%) feel they may have nothing in common with their neighbours. Only 23% class their neighbours as friends, 22% spent less than five minutes in conversation with a neighbour in the last month, and 10% have had cause to complain to those residing next door.

The top five reasons we don’t speak to our neighbours:

1.    Not wanting to invade their privacy (22%) 
2.    Liking our own privacy (20%)
3.    Concern that we would have nothing in common (15%)
4.    Being new to an area, and not having met neighbours yet (13%)
5.    Believing that our neighbour doesn’t like us (12%)

The leading reason that we will make the effort to speak to a neighbour is to pick up a parcel (40%).

Does age play a part?

The survey shows that those aged under 34 were more than twice as likely to not speak to their neighbours at all compared with over 55s (7% versus 3%), and four times as likely to feel very uneasy about potential interaction with neighbours (12% versus 3%).

Grace Jackson, 26, from Manchester said: “I live in an apartment block in the city centre. I really worry about bothering my neighbours. The walls are paper thin so every time I get in late from a night out, or put a bit of music on, I know they probably hear it. It does put me off speaking to them.” 

‘I don’t want to invade my neighbours’ privacy’:
•    Flat/apartment owners (26%)
•    Terraced home owners (24%)
•    Semi-detached property owners (20%)
•    Detached property owners (19%)

If a neighbour is aged over 65, they are most likely to offer acknowledgement, be it a courteous ‘hello’ or a friendly nod every day (38%), and over half (57%) will keep an eye on the next-door property if the owners are on holiday.

Derek Peterson, 67, from Swindon said: “My wife and I have lived in the same detached suburban property for over 20 years. We’ve known a lot of our neighbours for many of these years, and we’ve become friends over time. It wasn’t a quick process, but we tried to always be cordial and helpful and they returned the favour. Having neighbours that will keep an eye on your home when you’re away, or drop by if you’re ill is lovely.”

‘I class my neighbours as friends’:
•    Flat/apartment owners (19%)
•    Terraced home owners (21%)
•    Semi-detached property owners (24%)
•    Detached property owners (27%)

Does your type of housing make a difference?

Being new to an area, or living in a location where there is likely to be high owner turnover also played a part, with those living in a new build housing estate or town/centre yet to establish relationships with people living next door.

‘I don’t speak to my neighbours’:
•    Town/city centre (8%)
•    New build housing estate (7%)
•    Residential street (5%)
•    Housing estate that is more than 20 years old (4%)

Where are our friendliest neighbours?

Across the whole of the UK, the five locations with the friendliest neighbours (based on time spent chatting with next door on average per month) were:
1.    Norwich (50 minutes)
2.    Glasgow (43 minutes)
3.    Dublin (40 minutes)
4.    Nottingham (40 minutes)
5.    Newcastle (37 minutes)

Jamie Smith-Thompson, Managing director at Portafina added:

“We may not communicate as much as we did 20 years ago, but our neighbours always seem to come up trumps when we need them most. I think it is very encouraging that our poll shows between 1 in 3 and 1 in 5 people see their neighbours as friends.

The survey does also suggest that the under 30’s don’t seem to communicate with their neighbours like the older generation. As much as attitudes have naturally changed due to the digital culture we live in, my feeling is that this outcome is largely due to the huge time pressures on our young people. In our later years we tend to have more time and inclinations to build stronger relationships with our neighbours - often building lasting friendships.”

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Important information

1Independant survey of 1,057 UK homeowners; no firm date but between 21st June and the 29th June

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