My friends and family know all about my neighbor woes in France. In case you’re new here, my neighbors pretty much keep to themselves. In fact, the people right next door moved without evening mentioning it. We found out when the movers asked us to move our car at 7 a.m. so the truck would have space to load up in front of our house. I’ve also mentioned that when we moved into our house 3 years ago, I went next door to a family with kids to introduce myself and brought some homemade cupcakes for them. The mother looked horrified as if I had a plate of bloody cow brains. We’ve never said more than a bonjour to each other since. So long story short, I haven’t had much luck in getting to know my neighbors. I’m not looking to be best friends with everyone in a 2-mile radius, but I think there’s value in knowing people’s names and being friendly.
OK, now that you know the neighbor situation, you’ll understand why I found this “good neighbor” policy so funny. You see, a family member was searching for an apartment to rent in South Florida and came across a very interesting link on one property management’s website. Not only would something worded like that never work in France, but it even left me scratching my head!
A funny good neighbor policy
We all value our privacy. In France, I feel this is even more the case. Social norms in France can seem a little cold, especially at first. This stands in contrast to what you might experience in many areas of the US. Generally, Americans are friendly and introduce themselves and make small talk. Sometimes it is genuine and other times people are just going through the motions. Normally, when you live in an apartment and there’s a strong possibility of seeing others in the elevator or on your floor, you say hi. It’s the right thing to do. Do you go beyond greetings? Well, that’s your prerogative and you’re free to do whatever you’re comfortable with.
Unless you live at The Residents at CityPlace in West Palm Beach Florida. The property management company has put together a “Good Neighbor Policy” document that helps us clueless types to be better neighbors. It gets wild!
My relative who sent this to me had a good laugh and told me I should translate it and pass it around my neighborhood here in France. Ha ha. Ha.
First, here are a few things I’d expect to see from a property management company or a building’s super:
— Instructions on trash removal, so perhaps a word or two about putting the trash out by a certain hour or bringing in your garbage can promptly
— Noise/party rules, so maybe no loud music after 11 p.m. on weeknights
— Visitor & pet policies
— Parking rules
But this policy goes so far beyond that, it’s comical. (or maybe that’s just me? though I doubt it). This is the Good Neighbor Policy for The Residences at CityPlace in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida.
Here are some highlights.
- If you see someone who can clearly use a hand, offer to help, whether it’s carrying groceries, holding open a door or closing a car trunk. If you see their mail piling up or you don’t notice their lights on at night for an unusual length of time, knock on their door and see if they’re doing okay.
- It’s not necessary to thump your feet around the kitchen in the middle of the night.
- Make a good first impression by introducing yourself! A friendly introduction can be as easy as “Hi, I’m Becky I live just down the hall from you.” Ask some basic questions, learn a little about them and share a little about yourself.
- Willingly repay a neighbor who does you a favor with a small thank-you gift or note. Let them know you appreciate them.
I feel like these rules are common sense and fall under the “Be a decent human being” umbrella.
To explicitly tell people to behave in this manner seems a tad patronizing, doesn’t it? Do people really need to be reminded of these things? Am I that out of touch with American society?
To be fair, I fully understand why the property management company penned the document in the first place.
I fully agree with what they’ve written here,
A strong network of neighbors will help make your apartment more secure by actively watching out for each other while you or your neighbors are away. Neighbors are great for watering the plants, checking the mail, removing flyers or packages left at the door that could otherwise alert people that you aren’t home.
Good neighbors can come to the rescue when you are in a bind, whether for something small like lending you an iron or a cup of milk for a recipe; or something major like providing assistance in the unfortunate case of an emergency.
It’s a great thing to want to foster a sense of community and harmony in the building. It just feels over the top to me. I first read it and thought parts of it were funny, but maybe it’s more sad if we need to be reminded about how to be decent humans. I don’t think the management company would have taken the time to write a policy like this just for fun if it wasn’t necessary. If people weren’t behaving badly, maybe this wouldn’t even exist?
I don’t think most of the things on the list are insane, so let me be clear about that.
What is insane is that the property management company feels that they need to tell people how to behave. Common courtesy and respect go a long way, but is it not so common anymore? Do people really need to be told these things?
Who are the tenants? Surely working professionals able to afford $1700/month for a 2BR would know how to be good neighbors?
Call me crazy, but telling people about many of these rules/suggestions/policies seems to be better suited for college freshman adjusting to dorm life. Or maybe those who just got out of prison looking to assimilate back into society. Or a sober living community for people who have had a rough time.
Again, the policy comes from a good place — we all want good neighbors — but formally telling people how to conduct themselves socially seems condescending in my opinion.
I sent it to Tom and he said that not only would something like this never work in France, but that if any French people were considering an apartment there, after reading the Good Neighbor Policy, they’d probably steer clear and look at other buildings! It’s not because the French are impolite (some are and some aren’t, like people anywhere); it’s just because they don’t want everyone up in their business.
Is this policy a little over the top or are they just trying to encourage people to be kind to each other? I think a little of both.