Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Are You Friendly and Sociable?

'Why, of course!', you reply, slightly indignant that we've even asked the question. And no doubt at work or down the pub or gym, you are. But what about with your neighbours? Do you know the other people who live in your street? And would you leave them a set of keys to your house?

These were questions asked by recent BBC research into neighbourliness. In response:

  • 36% of us wouldn't trust anyone on our street with a set of keys.
  • surprisingly, in the younger age group (25-34 year olds), this is a whopping 48%!
  • 22% of us believe our neighbourhoods have become less friendly in the last five years.

A lot of this has been attributed to the loss of local institutions (like schools, small shops, and Post Office closures), and the fact that people work further and further away from home. There are fewer and fewer reasons for people who live near each other to get together.

It's interesting (and concerning) that British people are far less trusting than other Europeans - when measured by the World Values Survey, which asked 'Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?'. Britain is one of the few countries (along with the US) in which the levels of trust have been falling.

In 1981, 42.5% of British people said "yes most people can be trusted". By 1998 this had fallen to 30.4% The levels of trust in other European countries has actually been rising over this same period of time - take Denmark for example, where the number who said "yes" rose from 45.9% to 64.1% between 1981 and 1999. Apparently Britain is the only European country in which levels of trust have been falling. Hmmmmm, makes you think doesn't it?

But back to the more immediate question of you and your neighbours...if you think your neighbourhood is unfriendly, you can bet that they feel the same way. So, be bold! Invite a few round for a cup of coffee, or a drink one evening. And now that summer is on its way, you could even bring out the BBQ. Go on, take the first step - you'll be pleasantly surprised how human your neighbours turn out to be.

1 comment:

Yang-May said...

At the Dulwich Festival every year, a number of local residents open their houses to exhibit art. Anyone can wander in and browse as if these local homes are art galleries. I'm impressed by how trusting the home owners are - and so far, I've not head any bad news of thefts etc. In the first year we moved to Dulwich, we didn't know anyone at these events. This year, five years on, we could hardly move a step without bumping into someone we knew locally!