How Neighbourly Are You?

Brits borrow a cup of sugar, but neighbours rarely become good friends

New research in May from HSBC on Britons’ relationships with their neighbours has found that we are a nation of functional acquaintances, using our neighbours for practical purposes rather than sociable.


The survey of 2,000 UK adults conducted to coincide with Neighbourhood Watch Week found that 92% of people say they know some of their neighbours yet just 12% consider them friends. Fifty-five per cent of Britons know their neighbours’ names but just 9% feel that they know their neighbours well.


When asked for the interaction they have with their neighbours, it seems the majority of relationships tend to fulfil a practical role. For example, 28% of people have lent their neighbours something, 16% have fed their neighbours pets or watered their plants and 12% keep a neighbour’s spare keys. In contrast, very few have done something more sociable such as a barbecue (11%), street party (6%) or a Christmas drink (6%) with their neighbours.


Top 15 Interactions with Neighbours

  1. Been inside their home (41%)
  2. Have invited them into my home (37%)
  3. Lent them something (28%)
  4. Have been lent something (26%)
  5. Feed their pets/water plants when they are away (16%)
  6. They feed my pets/water my plants when I am away (13%)
  7. I keep their spare keys (12%)
  8. We’ve had a barbecue (11%)
  9. They keep my spare keys (10%)
  10. We have social gathering (10%)
  11. Our children play together (7%)
  12. We’ve had a street party (6%)
  13. We’ve had Christmas drinks (6%)
  14. They look after my children after school (2%)
  15. I look after their children after school (2%)


Apathy to neighbourly relations was particularly marked among the under 35s. Eleven per cent of people in this age group said that they do not know their neighbours at all, and 21% said they say hello in passing but do not know their names. Just 5% said they know their neighbours well and see them often.

This is in stark contrast with people over the age of 55 who tend to be friendlier with their neighbours and do more to help them. One in five (20%) over 55s said that they know their neighbours well and see them often and 37% said they know their names and speak regularly. Just 5% said they didn’t know their neighbours.


While older people put the most into their neighbourly relations, they also get the most back in return. Over 55s are most likely to lend their neighbours something (41%), keep their spare keys (23%) and feed their pets or water their plants (26%), but they are also most likely to value the security of having neighbours (26%), to have had a neighbour feed their pets or water their plants (24%) and to have their spare keys kept by a neighbour (20%).


This generational split in relations with neighbours seems to go back to when people first move into a new house. Three times as many 18-24 year olds (29%) did not introduce themselves to their neighbours when they first moved in, compared with the over 65s (9%).


Stuart Beattie, Head of Secured Lending at HSBC said: 

“The findings show that there is an element of Brits keeping themselves to themselves and relations seem to be largely cordial rather than friendly. In the summer of bank holidays and street parties, it would be good to see more people engaging sociably with their neighbours.


“As the findings from the over 55s age group show, people can have a positive and worthwhile relationship with their neighbours beyond the odd hello in passing. Acts such as leaving a key with a neighbour show a level of trust and this research shows that older people in particular value the security to be had from good neighbourly relations.”


Regional Findings – Londoners least neighbourly:

  • Londoners are least likely to have introduced themselves to their neighbours with more than one in five (21%) saying they have not.
  • People is East Anglia are most welcoming to new neighbours, a third (33%) have gone and introduced themselves when someone new has moved in next door. Thos in the South West are least likely (20%).
  • While 51% of people in East Anglia say they like their neighbours, this halves to just 26% of people in London.
  • Londoners are also least likely to have invited their neighbours into their home (33%) while those in the West Midlands were most likely (44%).


June 16, 2011