Dos and Don’ts: Neighbors

How to get along with the people near you. And we don't mean family.
So you’ve just signed the lease on your new flat or home. The place is in working order. The landlord even seems half-decent. But what about the people living around you? How are you going to get along with them?

“Neighbors, everybody loves good neighbors…”

Well, kind of. There does appear to be some negative correlation between physical proximity and social closeness. That is to say, people tend to be more reserved in apartment blocks and a little more social if they live separately in their own house. Also, as elsewhere, people in cities tend to be less friendly than in small towns. Generally, a certain level of courtesy is maintained such as greeting people in common areas and saying goodbye when exiting a shared lift.

Having said that, there are some exceptions, and a lot is determined by attitude. One example concerned an old woman who lived across from the second flat I rented in the Czech Republic. When I took over the flat the former tenant, also a foreigner, warned me the old woman was nosy. This tenant said she often yelled at the woman because of this. I found that when I just hello to her I got a polite hello back. We never became close but when I left the flat she waved good-bye from her window.

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Monday – the Nováks, Tuesday – the Jones

In some apartment blocks, you may see a piece of cardboard with an arrow affixed to the middle and names written in a semi-circle. Those names are for the occupants/owners of the flats and whomever the arrow is pointing to should clean the common area in front of the flats and the stairs heading down from that floor as far as the floor beneath. I became aware of this system when the woman living next to me in my first flat banged on my door and presented me with a bucket and mop and pointed to the sign. I tried to explain I wasn’t the person indicated there. She wasn’t buying it.

The common area for the whole building, i.e. the entry hall and the staircase to the cellars, are cleaned on a roster system. On the notice boards – if there’s notice board in your building – there should be a list of all the occupants and when they have to clean. If it snows when you’re scheduled to clean, bad luck. You have to grab a shovel.

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In some more recent apartments you may find that a cleaning/maintenance person is hired to handle both the floors and the snow.

One’s Home is his castle…kind of
If you own your own place then you’re going to take care of all that yourself up to a point.  People are no longer responsible for the strip of road outside their house. The municipality is.

Remember, your domain only extends as far as the legal boundaries of your property. So, if any of your heavily laden fruit trees are hanging into your neighbor´s property you want to hope you have a friendly person living next door. Otherwise, you’re giving him or her a free gift.

You can park on the street in front of another’s house – but your neighbors might not welcome this, especially if they’ve shoveled snow to make a place for themselves. But as we said above, chances are the municipality may have done it.

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What are your experiences? Any other advice about getting on with your neighbors?

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