You're all settled into your new apartment and you're feeling pretty good. The cabinets are fully stocked, the cable's hooked up, and IKEA just delivered your snazzy new sofa. In fact, you're sitting on it right now, watching Walker, Texas Ranger. It's Saturday night. You're a loser.

But before you start speed-eating Oreos, you should realize it's not as tough as you think to meet people in your new neighborhood. After all, Mary Tyler Moore met Rhoda, right? With a little personality and bit of perseverance, you too can have a few wacky neighbor friends to call your own. Just follow these steps and you'll fit right in.


Fine. You're in a new neighborhood and you don't know a soul. But unless you've relocated to a ghost town (which would explain the "no soul" thing), chances are that you'll see people walking in and out of the apartments and/or houses nearby. These people are called your "neighbors." They also represent socializing prospects, so suck in your shyness and say hello.

Remember who it was who said "first impressions count?" Neither do we, but we think you should take those words to heart anyway. Like it or not, your first interactions with your new neighbors will determine your fate - inside of 20 seconds, they'll decide what they think of you. Mess up, and you'll forever be branded a weirdo. But don't let that stress you out. Adhere to the following, and your first impression will be stellar:

  • The spotting. Check out your neighbor from a distance. Is she pushing a baby carriage with one hand and trying to keep screaming kids at bay with the other? If so, now may not be the ideal time to approach her. On the other hand, if your new neighbor is whistling as he moseys inside, hands down in his pockets, smiling at nothing in particular, the timing is probably right.

  • The approach. Don't sneak up on your neighbor. Walk in view of him/her - even wave as you approach. This may sound obvious, but think about how freaked you'd be to talk to someone who scared the living daylights out of you.

  • The greeting. As soon as you reach your new neighbor, introduce yourself in whatever way you feel comfortable. "Hi, I'm Sam. I just moved in," is fine (if your name is Sam, that is). Unless your neighbors are complete social idiots, they will pick up the slack at this point and offer an excited, welcoming reply.

  • The conversation. Keep the conversation steered toward common ground: living in the area, neighborhood activities, things to do about town. Most importantly, watch for signs that your new neighbor is finished talking. Don't keep them there any longer than they want to be there. And don't start asking invasive questions about your neighbor's personal life. In good time, you'll learn more private details. A nice quick conversation involving something like "What's the best grocery store 'round these parts?" will be fine.

  • The exit. Regardless of what was said or not said, how you finish it off is the most important part of "being friendly." Leave your new neighbor thinking that you are relaxed, easygoing, and someone he/she is going to look forward to running into at a later date. If you followed these steps carefully, odds are your new neighbor is going to say something like, "Hey, would you like me to show you around some time?"

Besides meeting and greeting people on the street, you could also "invent" a reason to talk to them. We like to call it the "cup of sugar" technique. Yes, it's desperate, but it works. Just go up to your neighbor's door (preferably at a decent hour and while fully dressed) and ask to borrow a cup of sugar or some equally non-threatening ingredient. Maybe you need a screwdriver to put on your new window blinds. Whatever the reason, seize the opportunity to start chatting your neighbor up, perhaps even inviting him/her over in a couple days to sample the cake/pie/whatever you're making with the help of the ingredient you borrowed. (Remember to actually make the dessert, or they'll be on to you.) If you borrow something, return it immediately. We're talking within the hour.