When you move apartment or house in Japan it is custom to give a gift to the neighbours. This is especially important if you have a baby! The meaning of the gift is to apologise in advance for any disturbances you may cause, the chances of which are increased if you have a baby or children. Even if your apartment has concrete walls and is relatively sound-proof, your child may stomp along the floorboards, or cry or talk loudly while on the balcony or in the corridor of the building. By giving a gift to your neighbours, you are asking them in advance for their understanding and patience.
Here is a video which shows the washing powder I bought for our neighbours this weekend.
What gift should I give?
A common gift is a box of washing powder – a practical and consumable product. Another common present is soap, cookies, or green tea for example.
At first I thought the washing powder was too impersonal, but it was explained to me that this is a simple, practical and consumable product, perfect for first introductions with your neighbours. You can add your personal touch in the gift-wrapping or card if you wish. I had the gift wrapping done at the supermarket – it was so cute that in the end I thought it was a delightful little present:-)!
How much should I spend?
It is not necessary to buy anything expensive. A budget of about 500 – 1000yen per household is sufficient.
Who do I give it to?
The neighbours on your floor, as well as those directly above and below your apartment.
When should I give the gift?
Within 2-3 days of moving into your apartment.
How should I give the gift?
Gifts should be delivered in person, preferably with all family members present.
A common scenario is:
1. Knock on neighbour’s door
2. Neighbour will talk through the intercom and say “Hai?” (meaning “Yes? Who is it?”)
3. Explain who you are – for example:
– “Hello my name is Kate. We just moved in next door in apartment 304. We have come to say hello to introduce ourselves.”
– “Sumimasen. Tonari no heya no san maru yon goushitsu ni hikkoshite kita Kate to moushimasu. Hikkoshi no goaisatsu ni ukagaimashita”
4. Neighbour will say “Ah, hai!” and come and open the door.
5. Bow and say hello, and explain again who you are (repeat the sentence above). The neighbour will tell you their name. Make a mental note of their name (don’t forget! write it down as soon as you get back into your apartment).
6. Offer neighbour the gift and say:
– “It’s just a small thing, but here is a gift. We look forward to being neighbours with you.”
– “Tsumaranai mono desu ga, douzo. Kongo douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.”