Welcoming the Joneses.
Let’s get neighborly, shall we. Welcoming new neighbors into the community has been a tradition for centuries. So the question arises, what is the proper etiquette for welcoming a new neighbor into your neighborhood? Meeting new people can sometimes be awkward, however sometimes you get lucky and things just happen naturally. Either way, when greeting the newcomers, you don’t want to come off as pushy or weird. Your introduction of yourself can set the tone for the relationship that you have with your neighbors. Historically each culture has its own way of greeting the neighbors, most of the time a small gift is given. Here are some traditions from around the world, and some gift ideas for welcoming the neighbors.
In China, each welcoming gift signifies something different. Traditionally the Chinese give candles as a housewarming gift, in hopes that you will always have light in your life. Bread is also a traditional gift, it is given with the message that your neighbor hopes you will never go hungry or be without food. Wine however is given as a way to say we hope your life will be sweet. Salt is another gift that is given in China, in hopes that your life will always have spice and flare. Neighbors beware; in Chinese culture it is never appropriate to give a gift such as clocks, books, or umbrellas. These are considered bad luck in the Chinese culture and it would not be taken as a sign of welcome.
In Italy, a gift of olive oil would be appropriate. Olive oil is given with the wishes of good health, and is customarily given to newlywed wives, as it is believed to keep the husband faithful. A gift of rice might be given along with the olive oil to younger couples. This is meant to symbolize fertility and wishes for you to be blessed with many children. Italians also give the gift of a new broom, this is to sweep away any evil in the home, and to make sure the home stays clean of any negativity.
In Germany, ancient Norsemen felt that the great oak tree held a lot of significance. In older German culture they would collect acorns from the oak tree and place them in the windowsills to protect the home from evil spirits. In today’s culture it might seem a tad odd to give your neighbor an acorn for their home. So the culture has adapted, and now it is customary to give the newcomers a gift of cookware that is adorned with the image of an acorn. It was also believed that a rooster as a pet in the home would keep away unwanted trespassers. Just like the acorn, you wouldn’t want to give your neighbor an actual rooster as a gift in today’s society. Instead most settle for decorative items that have the rooster image on them.
In Kenya, as well as many other African countries, it is customary to welcome your new friends with a three legged stool and a traditional oxtail fly whisk. The three legged stool is used in Kenyan culture primarily by the women of the family for cooking and grinding. The three legs of the stool represent the balance in our life, and without one of the legs we would be out of balance and unsustainable. The oxtail however is given as a sign of power in the home, and generally signifies the man’s role in the household.
In Korea, toilet paper and cleaning supplies are the go to welcome gift. In Korea’s earlier days, it was a very poor country and toilet paper and detergent were very pricey items that not every home could afford. So it was a tradition to welcome new people, especially newlyweds, with the gift of toilet paper and detergent. The length of the sheets of toilet paper symbolically represents the prosperity wished upon your marriage and life. The bubbles of the detergent were well wishes in hopes that your life would “bubble over” and be abundant. Strange as it may seem, I think toilet paper is a great gift to give!
Lastly, in the United States we have a more simple culture. Traditionally in the US it is customary to gift a house plant to show wishes of growth in the new home. According to Martha Stewart it is becoming more popular to give a symbolic gift that other cultures have adapted to giving. Bread in hopes that you never go hungry, salt in hopes that your life always has flavor or spice, honey or wine for wishes of a sweet life, a broom for tidiness and to ward off evil spirits, or a candle to bring light into the home. Of course you can always go with a nice plate of cookies too, everyone likes cookies.
Regardless of the culture, the point is to wish your neighbors well. You should greet new homeowners with a smile and a pleasant introduction. Who knows, you might just meet your new best friend. Even if you don’t become BFF’s, you still want to be friendly and welcoming. The last thing you want is to make enemies with your new neighbor; after all, you do have to live right next door. I leave you with a quote from Mother Teresa… “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor? “