A jar of honey goes a LONG way to happy neighbors!
In my instance, I conversationally engaged my neighbors and told them that I was a beekeeper. Most found it interesting, except one. That neighbor in particular claimed SEVERE allergies to bee stings, but had never been hospitalized or had his throat close up, which are common to severe allergic reactions. In reality, only 1 in 100 people truly are allergic. What people percieve as an allergic reaction (ie; pain, swelling, redness, itching, etc.) are just common reactions.
So, two years ago, I brought home empty hive boxes and set them up in my yard. The neighbor in question promptly accused me of having bees on the property. That year, and the next, I showed him that there were NO bees in the boxes, and that it was just spare equipment that I brought home to work on. (Wink!) What I was doing was preparing "decoys".
This year, however, I brought a couple hives into my yard. So far, no one has noticed them, or mentioned anything to me. My bee friendly neighbors have noticed no increased bee activity, and my bee's flight path goes up 20 feet before they leave my yard, and usually up and over top of my house. And, like Paul, I'm routinely out 6 feet away from my hives in a t-shirt and shorts. My neighbors seem to be none the wiser.
But... if they do mention something, a jar of honey is coming their way post haste!