Pretty much everyone has one. They tend to live in close proximity to us and, depending on our relationships with them, they can either enrich our lives or be a source of constant irritation.
They are our neighbours, and according to a new survey Yorkshire folk make the best people to live next door to.
From looking after each other’s homes and children to lending power tools and returning mis-hit footballs, we have set an exemplary record.
More than 1,000 homeowners from across the UK were asked to rate the people who live around them against a ‘blueprint’ for the perfect neighbour drawn up for the study on behalf of the MoreThan insurance firm.
Our region might have taken the number one spot but evidence would seem to suggest we are less involved in the lives of the people living near us than we once were.
The Yorkshire Evening Post has taken a closer look at what community and neighbours means to you.
Dr Lucie Middlemiss, lecturer in sustainability at the school of earth and environment at the University of Leeds, specialises in communities and how our quality of life has changed over the years.
Community is less important to us than shared interests, she said.
“It doesn’t really surprise me more from an instinctive point of view than an academic one that Yorkshire people make friendlier neighbours than perhaps some in the south,” said Dr Middlemiss.
“I can’t comment officially about our neighbourliness in Leeds or Yorkshire but more broadly over time these days we are less dependent on community and local relationships, neighbourly relationships, and more closely aligned with people who share interests with us.
“It isn’t so much geographical as interests that tie us to people.
“People we work with, people we are educated with, who share hobbies with us.”
But there are exceptions.
“Of course it doesn’t apply to everyone,” added Dr Middlemiss.
“The big exception would be the working class.
“If you are poor and less educated you’re more likely to be close to your neighbours but as this survey shows there are probably regional differences too.
“I live in Otley and have lived in Beeston and there’s a really different feel to them both.”
Asked why we are willing to travel further for friendship, rather than looking to the people in our immediate vicinity she said: “The main thing is that people are much more mobile than they were.
“This means that they might not live in the same place they were born, they travel to work, and are happy to travel to socialize too.
“This is connected to all sorts of social trends, such as the flexible labour market which requires people to be prepared to travel to work.”
She added: “The working class aren’t as mobile, they don’t tend to work as far away from home as other class groups.”
Of course the internet has influenced the way we interact, an experience that has been “liberating” especially to people who do not conform to “social norms”, she said.
Not that an individual’s community spirit can be measured purely on income and mobility.
Age and outlook plays a great part too.
There has been a particular resurgence in neighbourliness in people with a passion for the local environment and those with time and energy to spare.
Dr Middlemiss said: “People interested in the environment have a very strong interest in community.
“It’s a way to give them more meaning in life.
“In a consumerist society a lot of people find meaning in life from what they own, but others might see the community or neighbourhood as a way of creating more meaning and to feel less alone in a competitive consumerist world.
“The Jubilee [year] has got people rallying around in a community sense – and perhaps the Olympics is doing that too.
“If you don’t have as much money you can’t get away in the same way, but you might have lots of energy and time to spend in your neighbourhood.
“The ‘just retired’ group suddenly find themselves with time and energy.
“If you are long retired you’re likely to be needing to help yourself rather than giving other people your help.
“But in my studies the ‘newly retired’ is the age group most likely to get involved in local activities.
“There’s a lot of retired teachers and other public sector workers who have spent their lives in caring professions who have retired and become volunteers within their community.”