Although it might seem like a very shallow and superficial thing to want to do at first, impressing the neighbors is something that everyone should try to do, for several reasons.

The main thing is to make a good impression and get off to a good start. Impressing the neighbors doesn’t mean showing off, bragging and starting an arms race. Those things will end up annoying your neighbor and causing them to mistrust you. Your neighbor really wants to know that you are trustworthy, clean, reliable and friendly. They may or may not be interested in the fact that you can speak six languages, you could have made the state baseball team had it not been for your bad knee and the fact that you once said hi to Bill O’Reilly. They may love Bill O’Reilly, but first and foremost that’s not what they’re interested in. They want to know that you’re going to be a good neighbor. For this reason, it’s better to be over-clean, and perhaps better dressed than usual the first few times you meet them. After a few years of living next door to each other, they’re not going to bat an eyelid if they see you checking the mail in your nightgown. But if they see that on the first morning, they’re going to assume that you are a family of slobs.

Bring a gift with you when you go to introduce yourself. Nothing fancy or expensive, but something with a personal collection. Things like home-made jam and honey work well, as do items from your home town which may have a story associated with them. Do your research on cultural differences – don’t give Chinese neighbors a clock, for example, as this is taken to represent their imminent demise. Don’t surprise your Jewish or Muslim neighbors with a cured ham. They will, at very least, correctly ascertain that you are an ignoramus.

Invite them over for a coffee and a chat and to introduce your family. Make sure the house is clean even if it’s not organized the way you want it yet. Understandably, in their effort to find out as much about you as possible, they will be looking for clues and hints as to what they can expect from you in future. If someone in your house is playing music too loud or has the TV turned up, this may be taken as a sign of things to come. If your car needs a wash, they might assume that you couldn’t be bothered to make the effort and that you are, indeed a dirty good-for-nothing.

Show off your exquisite taste effortlessly by offering coffee made with a home espresso machine you chose from You don’t have to get out your best porcelain or anything – that might smack of one-upmanship, but you don’t want to serve it out of plastic cups either, unless that is the way you plan to live, in which case you’d better hope that the Joneses drink out of plastic cups at breakfast, too.

Try to find common ground with them and expand on it. For example, if you both happen to like the same sport, you could agree to get together on match days to watch it. If you have both served in the military, exchange a few light-hearted stories and try to figure out if there is any chance they were dishonorably discharged.

The way you decorate your house allows you to make non-verbal impressions on your guests, as do the items placed around your home. Walls punctuated with paintings by local artists, classic novels and bonsai trees make a very different impression from Playboy prints, back copies of Guns & Ammo and a dying houseplant.

More than anything, don’t try to hide anything and be yourself. If you feel nervous, just say that you’re keen to make a good impression on them. They’ll understand and be happy that you’ve been so open with them so early on. They’ll appreciate the fact that you want to make a good impression and take it as a good sign of things to come. They’ll be a little nervous too, and it will help them to relax, too.