THE BLOG

Know Thy Neighbour

23/04/2014 17:22 BST | Updated 23/06/2014 10:59 BST

A huge Happy St. George's Day to everyone who loves their country. Or not.

England has been branded as the least patriotic country in the world. Apparently only one in three English citizens or residents even know the holiday exists - with 40% unsure of why St. George is their patron saint to begin with.

Growing up in a school where every day the National Anthem was sang, and if you didn't stand, you weren't welcomed in the room - I feel as if I have come from one extreme to the next.

The Fourth of July was no ordinary day, thousands of people flocked to their nearest park, cracked open their cans of beer, ate their burgers and rejoiced their independence with their neighbours.

You guessed right. I knew my neighbours. In fact, my neighbours were an integral part of my childhood. I grew up riding bikes, having BBQs, swimming in pools and jumping in mud with my neighbours.

My neighbours were black, white, orange, green and yellow. They came from America. They also came from Russia, Mexico, Canada, Israel and this list is indefinitely long.

These are the nations that apparently make you feel like you have 'no real sense of community'. These are your neighbours who you don't yet know, yet these are the neighbours who make your community.

The family down the road who comes from India is the family who you buy your groceries from every day. The other family located on the other side of the road, might just be the family from Kenya where you go to get your delicious takeaway once a week.

I recently came back from a holiday in Central America. I made friends with the locals and other than the insistent comments about the less than desirable weather (something that unfortunately cannot be helped), the other comment was about the distinct lack of community.

'Do you know your neighbour?' No, I don't. Now, I don't live on an island which has a mere 200 residents, however, I do live in a complex which probably houses 200 people. So in reality, I'm as guilty as the next person.

I walk to work with my music in, I walk home from work with my music in. I say hello to the people I know. I avoid the people I don't. I'm not frightened, however, I do keep my head down - just in case.

There's nothing we can do about the weather. But the overall gloominess can be diverted - and we can be the ones to do that.

It's time to open your eyes and see that not everyone is like you. English citizens and residents come in all different shapes, sizes, nationalities, colours - you know the rest.

They appreciate the country they live in - just like you.

This St. George's Day there's a lot to be patriotic about. Gay marriage has been legalised and we've invented a hell of a lot of stuff (including the internet). Our food isn't the best in the world, but we've perfected sausage and mash, fish and chips and we can drink a pint quicker than anyone else in the world. We're helpful and kind people too.

So take the time to celebrate that with not just the people around you - but your neighbours, and friends, and friends of friends, and that random person you see on the bus every day but have just never said hello to.

These are the people, afterall, who make our nation the beautifully diverse nation it is today.