Arts, society & culture

Love thy neighbour

The loss of community spirit has often been bemoaned as something broken in today’s society. Particularly in cities, knowing your neighbours seems to increasingly be a thing of the past, but has the enforced lockdown revitalised neighbourliness this year? Abi Millar finds out

Over the past few decades, a sad trend has emerged in our cities: neighbourliness is on the decline. In years gone by, a person might have known everyone on their street, at least to the extent of having someone to water their plants while they were on holiday. More recently, the image of a thriving neighbourhood – children playing in the streets and everyone coming together for a potluck dinner – has come to seem like a relic of a halcyon past.

In one UK-based study from 2018, 68% of participants described their neighbours as ‘strangers’. Half said they did not feel part of a ‘good neighbourly community’ while only 7% of those polled said they regularly socialised with their neighbours. Data from the Office of National Statistics bears this out: in 2017-2018, 62% of respondents agreed they belonged to their local area, down from 69% in 2014-15.

A similar story holds true elsewhere. One in five Australians have never met their neighbours, despite the ideals propagated by the schmaltzy soap of the same name. In Singapore, just 23% said they exchanged greetings with their neighbours more than three times a week, with the kampung (village) spirit reportedly in its death throes.

Read the rest of this article in the Dec-Feb 2021 edition of Overseas

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