who are the people in your neighborhood?

The only time I ever moved was 11 years ago when I married my husband & definitely left home for France. My family moved a lot before I was born & when they had me, they finally settled in one place. So, you can say that I have never really experienced the heartbreak of leaving a best friend, or having to change schools and make new friends (I went to school with the same kids for 12 years).  In my 11 years of France, we already moved three times.

Finding your house is also about the place & the neighborhood you are likewise moving into. I ignored the significance of a neighborhood having to live in one place for 28 years & realized the void from a lack of it in 11 years. My parents became really good friends with our neighbors of forever. A little like Wisteria Lane but a lot less of the drama. I played with the kids of our block. We used to have the yearly summer block outings & the New Year Block Party where each generation gets a chance to organize it. I always looked forward to it until of course I reached a certain age where hanging out with your parents & neighbors on New Year's is not cool at all. I got to organize a couple of block parties right before it just disappeared, when everybody just felt old for it. These days you can surely count on my neighborhood for group prayers & vigils if you need one.

Although we are not Mr & Mrs Friendship, we are courteous & polite and we have always respected the people we live with. Especially when you all live in one building. Even if all I remember in our Paris building is
the creaking sound of our upstairs neighbor's bed together with a woman's uncontrollable moaning, or all our old neighbors who always took the chance to let us know that they don't really like young people in our building in Carry le Rouet, I have good memories of the places we called home & made good friends. Except, they were not really my neighbors.

So much for block parties. Not that I would want to organize one here. The French neighborhood is such a mystery. A silent decorum like anywhere except here, there is almost a sign post in every house that says "Private, disturb just a little". Our Paris building always seemed so void & the one in Carry le Rouet, half of the tenants were seniors. You'll be sure to give a minimum of half an hour when you cross one in the hall. I've carried all their groceries up the stairs & had tea with one of them . I  even crawled the wall to open an accidental lock out. Those & despite the disputes of probably living together long enough in one building, it never went over the bumped into chitchat & heroic errands.

My current neighbors have all those sign posts. Although when we moved in, I tried to connect more with them & have a good relationship now that we're sure to be staying here for a long time. But there's always like an invicible wall, or it's like a game of yoyo. One neighbor just disappeared when they asked us to watch their house while they were gone & in return would invite us for dinner. Another invited us for appero for the Fete de Voisins & I never bump into her anymore. One of them would only say hello to me when we're in front of our houses & if not, she won't even budge nor look at me. But there's the young couple we seem to be connecting with but only at a certain distance. Then there's my widowed & retired Swedish neighbor who we connected with instantly because of our foreign status.

Maybe the sign post came with our house, or we're not really likeable people but I noticed that my French neighbors really allow us to disturb them just a little bit. They really don't want you to get the wrong idea. "I invited you only for tea & not to be friends in that way. Just for someone to watch over my house in case I'm gone..." Personal or cultural, France has a problem with solitude. As of 2010, there are about 4 million people facing solitude & isolation in the country* It does not only comprise of the senior citizens but also between the ages of 35-49, even in big cities*. And somehow, I feel this solitude as a result of this privacy even in my own neighborhood. 

We have yet to invite some of our neighbors for tea. Not just for someone to look over our house when we're not here but to again attempt to make a little more opening. It might not really happen but I sure do hope I can knock on their doors for salt (might also not happen). Even if I'm okay with my neighborhood's ambiance, I wouldn't ever want nosy neighbors with stories to tell anyway, there is such as a thing as luck when it comes to your neighbors.

*Les Solitudes en France en 2010
*Le Figaro, December 12, 2010


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.


  1. I feel you. As soon as we got the chance, we left the beautiful but cold as ice, boring France. I can only hope never to live there again (w/c is unlikely coz the hubby is frenchie as well).

  2. I guess it's just not a cliché, eh? I was wondering if I'm not "integrated" enough. But I still like living in France. I hope not for forever though. I also hope that you won't need to come back here. Or I hope you'll get a different view if you do :)

  3. I don't know any of my neighbors, and judging from the music they play (so loud that I hear it through the walls) I don't really want to know them anyway!

  4. It's funny and ironic that I found a french friend outside of France. I don't know if we could have connected like this had we been in France or whether she'd be as friendly if we were in her home country, or we're just connected now coz we're both a foreigner in a foreign land and she can't speak english much. I sure wish I had at least one friend like her in our neighborhood back then. I swear I speak more french now compared to when I was actually living there.

  5. Kala, you didn't like their taste in music? :)

    I really know what you mean, anonymous, but the French women is another entirely different story. I have very few friends here whom I just lost touch with over the years & I say they're very rare. Too bad we just all live in different regions because if we were neighbors, the French neighborhood would have felt a little warmer.

  6. Hi Makis, I don't think it's just France. I'd been livng in my neigborhood since 2004 and I don't know any of my neighbor. Oh, I'll take that back. A branch of one of our trees fell and destroyed our neighbor's fence. So, she came and introduced herself. I told her I am contacting our insurance company. I found out that our insurance is not liable to pay for her damaged fence because it is not our fault. It was God's act thru the strong wind. So, she is not happy for that. Oh, well, that's probably the end of it. Hopefully...

    Here in Iowa, people are family oriented. People are just so darn busy with their own lives. No one has time to socialize outside their circles. Don't get me wrong they are nice. We say hi and wave at each other. But that's about it. Our neigbor also allowed my husband to use his phone when we locked ourselves out about 6 years ago. Oh, I forgot, we know one neighbor, Buck's his name. He gave Benji a silver dollar. The thing is we don't know his last name. We gave him a thank you note with just BUCK written on it.

    Also, aside from being family oriented, people here are so darn mobile. About 75 percent of our neighbors just moved in within about 2 years. We feel like, it's not worth it to go through the pain of introductions and investment of our time and emotion when they will just move anyway.

    Oh well, maybe, it's just harder to make friends when you get older and when you have a lot of baggage. And we're not very social people anyway.

  7. I totally agree on your last paragraph, Loraine. I really believe it's harder to find that kind of friendship when we're older. I think it's because our prioties change & we actully find friends through a common interest.

    I've read that Iowa's population is even less than the students who live in the dorms there. Human nature is strange sometimes - you'd think that the smaller the population would bring them closer.

    But I've always had the impression that the American neighborhood is so much warmer & more friendly. Or It's just in the movies? :)

    The other day my husband was caught overspeeding just a few kilometers away from our house. The police who was handling the radar was our neighbor. We paid 90€ for it.

  8. hi makis, the older people here are friendly. My new found friends seem to be above 80 years old. also, it is more social in rural areas because they have to. they need to help each other due to long winters and farm accidents are just too common. our neighbors in our property are very nice. one of them mowed our lawn and they watch out for our property. in return we let them bale our hay and they use it to feed their cows for winter...