While their homes were being built, future neighbours at Blossom Residences were already building friendships.
Two years before the executive condominium in Bukit Panjang was ready, internal auditor Ethan Lim arranged to meet with about 30 of his future neighbours over coffee and sandwiches at a cafe.
“Where I lived previously, neighbours weren’t very close,” said the 35-year-old, who set up a Facebook group where buyers of the 602 units could connect. “I thought it might be nice to see familiar faces when you come home.”
Running enthusiasts used the site to ask about running routes, photography fans posted shots of the building progress, and others shared ideas for renovation and furniture shops. The group has since grown to more than 700 members.
The kampung spirit continued to flourish after the residents moved in about two years ago. They organise regular activities such as running, basketball and barbecues.
Many of the residents are young parents who help to look out for each other’s children. They share recipes and meals, and keep in touch via WhatsApp group chats. Some like to keep their doors open, as in the kampungs of old.
“As long as someone’s at home, we keep the door open and our neighbours do, too,” said 15-year-old Joel Goh, a Secondary 3 student who lives with his parents, a younger brother and two grandparents. “It’s a better feeling than being isolated as a family.”
Relations are not always perfect and there is the occasional complaint in the Facebook group – for example, about a noisy party going on or cigarette ash dropping onto a balcony from above.
But Mr Lim and some of the more active users try to promote positive sentiments, chipping in with suggestions when possible conflicts arise. Over time, people started using the site to ask for help to solve problems and even offer help, too.
“We’re just so fortunate to get to know such nice neighbours,” said financial consultant Paul Tay, 46, who has become known as the cun zang, or village leader, for his efforts in getting to know his fellow residents. “To have a close neighbour is better than a distant relative.”
The father of three hopes to continue organising gatherings for the estate at least once a month.
Marketing manager Selina Ang, 40, once had to call on her neighbours for help when her nine-year- old son Caleb Lim went missing during a family run with the estate’s running group.
The running group, which has about 40 members and organises runs three times a week, took part in two races together last year.
“Even those who weren’t running came down to help us look for him,” said Madam Ang, who found him with a group which was running further ahead.
She has also found her neighbours keen to lend a hand, even if it is just sharing pandan leaves when she ran out. “It’s heartwarming to know that there are people ready to help, whether in emergencies or ’emergencies’,” she said.
Mr Lim acknowledged that it is impossible to get all the residents to participate in activities, but said that he was happy just to provide a platform for them to get to know more people.
“Even if your spouse is not around, you know there are friends around and activities to do,” he said.
“You always find that you want to come home.”