Neighbourhood – the first social network


What come to your mind, when reading the word ‘neighbourhood’?

For me the image of the place where I grew up occurs. It is more than seeing buildings or simple things. I can feel an atmosphere of passed days, childhood years, the feeling of playing around in my small and peaceful world. Neighbours would greet each other every time or even chitchat about the latest news and rumours. When I first moved to my own apartment I used to introduce myself to all other parties of the house. And used to greet my neighbours once in a while, but I was not sure whether it was appropriate or not. But I think being open to neighbours makes you more comfortable and creates the feeling of being home.

The definition of a neighbourhood is a social community with considerable face-to-face interaction within a spatial unit. Neighbourhoods are somehow closed systems. They could be a network with different relationships and support for each other. They as well bear potential for participation and acceptance for each other. A neighborhood exists through interaction of its residents and its infrastructure as spatial unit.

I have the impression that nowadays something has changed. The modern lifestyle in cities includes being more independent of and anonymous to neighbours. I mean, if you need an egg, the next 24/7 supermarket is right around the corner, or if you need some social contact, you could just call your family, friends or connect to new people via social media. So there is no necessity to socially connect with your neighbours. But as soon as something is changing in your neighbourhood people seem coming together. Neighbourhood in the manner as being a valuable space for its inhabitants rather than only a social community. The modern lifestyle might not necessarily need a social community within the close surrounding. People seem to value the space itself with all its characteristics and understand a neighbourhood not anymore as strong social community only.

Neighbourhood as one of the first social networks – offline. From my perspective I have the impression that there are two kinds of neighbourhoods. Firstly there is this somehow ancient understanding of a strong community knowing, helping and needing each other as it was/is the case on the countryside. Secondly there is a modern understanding of a neighbourhood which is more about shared space and interaction only if need to be. When it is planned for example to demolish valuable buildings from top-down, people tend to organize themselves into groups demanding civil dialogues.

Neighbourhoods can have different potentials. For example it can trigger the sense of community. Or a neighbourhood could gather to stand up for cultural heritage and preservation. There are a lot of NIMBYs (NotInMyBackYard) or initiatives to preserve some old houses or groups that organize urban farming. People come together when they either want to protect, fight or complain about something they value or somehow care about.

Does people living together in an area automatically mean they also have the responsibility for it?

Where I come from the inhabitants were responsible for the safety of the part of the dyke where their property lied. But that is already history. Can you think of similar characteristics of the place you come from?

Neighbourhoods play important roles for a city, because what is a city if not a gathering of neighbourhoods? Isn’t it great when a city consists of multicolored quarters where atmospheres are changing and offer various things to explore to everyone?

I think neighbourhood is something difficult to describe specifically, but important for the live in a city. Being neighbors might not mean the same as it did 50 years ago, but it is still a great thing which is important to keep alive.

It is nice to get to know your neighbours. You might suddenly feel more home than before.

About the author


Hi there, I am Jo. Currently, I am a blogger and student, based in London, UK. Living in urban settings with a passion for sustainability inspired me to create this blog. Here, I want to capture and share some of my urban explorations, experiences and thoughts. Feel free to click around, give feedback, share the blog or connect with me. Cheers!

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