Neighbourhood Chit-Chat Builds Community

Over the holidays we enjoyed neighbourhood party chit-chat at a couple of events held at the homes of cottage neighbours.  One couple had a big neighbourhood party to entertain folks living in the immediate area so we could see their newly built home.  Another couple who used their house as a seasonal cottage until last year when they sold their city home and moved to the lake held a gathering as an incentive to put up seasonal decorations. 

It’s been a change for both couples to move from city living and make this small resort community their full-time home. At both gatherings, we met other full-time and seasonal residents. Interestingly, after cottaging there since 1984, we were introduced to people we greeted on walking trails or at the beach but had never met in a social situation.

Although there is much turmoil in the world, the conversations at these gatherings covered light topics such as grandchildren, pets, sports, weather, winter travel plans and neighbourhood news.

It was lovely to devote time to laughter and leave serious concerns about controversial topics such as war, politics and the economy for another day.

Chit-chat gets a bad rap

Too often chit-chat gets a bad rap. People find it boring. Many consider chit-chat a waste of time. Talking about unimportant matters leaves them feeling awkward, embarrassed, or angry by the lack of stimulation.

Nonetheless, these idle conversations help people to establish a level of rapport and become familiar with each other.

Low-stress chit-chat during those evenings led to more important discussion topics as people warmed to each other. Once comfort levels increased, more challenging conversations ensued.  People discussed worrisome topics such as managing relationships with adult children, serious health issues, and the heroics of growing older with grace.

Chit-chat can energize

Casual interactions can be energizing when held in a pleasant environment and fueled with food and drink. Talking to people connects us and brings warm feelings of belonging to something bigger than the self. Some researchers label it as making ‘friendly noise’. People are happy just talking to each other without expecting to dive into deep discussions of politics, economics, or philosophy.

We felt closer to each person when we said goodnight to neighbours after each of these events.   The spontaneous conversations helped us to know each other better. We established a sense of rapport with neighbours that will help us have each others’ back if necessary.

A Positive Outcome

During the past week, when Ontario experienced one of the first cold snaps of the winter, two major power outages occurred in our cottage community. The first outage lasted about ten hours and a few days later a second outage lasted more than twelve hours.  We learned of the first outage after a call from a neighbour. Upon checking our smart thermostat, we noted it was offline indicating that the power at our place was off as the wi-fi was offline.

gray concrete road during daytime
photo courtesy of Peter Geo on Unsplash

The hydro company sent a notice about the outages along with periodic updates stating that lines were disrupted because of severe winds coming over Lake Huron and trees falling on power lines. As well as updates from the hydro company, we received updates from neighbours about the outage.  

On both occasions, we worried about the potential of frozen pipes. We discussed driving to the cottage to drain pipes and pour antifreeze into the toilets.  The main waterline was shut off when we left after the holidays but pipes to the kitchen and bathrooms weren’t drained.

To keep us from making an unnecessary trip, a neighbour offered to help us by using the hidden key and going inside to drain the pipes.  Another person offered his extra generator. Fortunately, power was restored before heroics were required and the furnace kicked in to warm the cottage.  

What we learned

We learned that people in our neighbourhood did ‘have our backs’.  I can’t attribute these offers of help to the relationships that started over chit-chat at neighbourhood holiday parties.  But, I know we are in a community of people who care about each other and are ready to help when problems arise. 

Since the outages, I’ve also heard that several people stayed warm by huddling together around a wood-burning fireplace.  Another group cooked a community dinner using gas barbeques.

Perhaps the chit-chat we enjoyed at parties led to connections that will support stronger bonds within our neighbourhood. Friendly neighbours are invaluable in a time of need or a crisis. Such positive connections enhance everyone’s sense of well-being.

Thanks for reading my post. I hope you live in a community where neighbours spring into action to help each other when a need arises.


4 Replies to “Neighbourhood Chit-Chat Builds Community”

  1. I agree. Personally, I enjoy chit-chat as a way in to another’s personality. You are right, it does get a bad rap, unnecessarily.

    1. I was never good at chit-chat. I told myself that I was too busy for idle chatter. I’m training myself to like it as a means of getting to know people!

  2. It is nice to live in a neighborhood where people are friendly. It adds to the day – even if it’s just a normal day. We are fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood with many good people. I am glad you are, too!

    1. Good neighbours are a blessing. We are fortunate to have good people around us — especially as we grow older!

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