We’d been traveling for over 24 hours before arriving in our new OCONUS duty station. I was so tired I couldn’t think straight, but my stomach was obsessing over food. What were we going to do about breakfast?
We staggered into our new house and found the most welcoming sight I’d ever seen: Cereal, milk, simple sandwich fixings, some foreign candies and a welcome note attached to a folder of base maps and information. I knew I was home.
Didn’t move this PCS season? Perfect. Pretend you’re an extrovert and say hello to those who did. The old-fashioned plate of hot cookies is always a great way to welcome folks to the neighborhood. Why not step it up a notch with a couple of these ideas.
Do we talk about wine too much? At the end of a long, chaotic day of mess and unpacking, your new neighbors will appreciate clearing some sitting space to sit back and have a glass of red wine (perfect at room temperature!) or a cold one (see below).
2. Local beer
A six-pack or growler of local beer has the dual purpose of serving as refreshment and notification of a local spot of interest! This is an especially great housewarming gift since movers won’t pack the good stuff.
3. Tourist Maps
Yes, we all have GPS and maps on our phones. But a hard copy map (like the free ones at hotels) to be unfolded and looked at with others is a great way to get your neighbors excited about their new hometown. Museums, dog parks, historic homes, walking trails, local beaches– you’re the expert. Fill them in on what you know.
4. Base Info
If your base offers great swim lessons or boasts an atmospheric O Club, pass on the info. Or, maybe the commissary is confusingly offsite, or the pharmacy has a killer wait time and you know of a drive-through base pharmacy just a little further down the road.
5. Invites to Local Activities
It takes awhile to get a schedule ironed out after moving. Offer to text your new neighbor when you’re on your way to First Fridays downtown, or Third Thursdays in the art district. Story time at the new tech-savvy library might be a hit, or maybe your neighbor has hot, grouchy preschoolers and needs to know which splash pads are open through mid-October. Local treasures like the best farmers’ markets and CSAs are good tips too.
6. Your Contact Information (in writing)
Anyone bad with names knows the panic of meeting many people at once. Those names are forever forgotten. When you introduce yourself, your milspouse neighbor will appreciate a business or note card with your name, phone number or email address and the names of your spouse, kids and pets. That way you’ll never be those awkward neighbors who wave uncomfortably on recycling day because the names were forgotten and it’s been too long to ask.
7. Something for the Freezer, and Something Fresh
Frozen lasagna, fresh muffins. Frozen pizza, fresh salad. Frozen waffles, fresh fruit. Frozen vegetables, fresh cookies! Frozen, fresh!
8. Local Newspaper and Magazine
Bonus points if they include local event listings or coupons.
9. Kid or Pet Toys
Yes, we have five million toys packed up somewhere and no, I cannot find them. Thank you, new favorite neighbor, for this well-timed distraction for my kid who’s about to go ballistic. If you are truly noble, adventurous or laidback, you might even offer to babysit.
10. A Tea Towel and Hand Soap
The first three days in a new house, no one can ever find a kitchen towel, right? Toss in one that nods to your city. And hand soap for the kitchen as well, because unpacking is messy business, and the movers won’t move the liquid stuff.
11. Bonus tip
Give your new neighbor SPACE. Be helpful, but not intrusive. This isn’t the right moment to wax poetic about, well, anything. A quick hello and drop-off, an offer of help, a sincere smile. Good fences make good neighbors. And good milspouses make good neighbors. Heck yeah we do.