May 20, 2011
Adrian Leeds is an experienced flathunter who has helped many dreamers find their perfect home in Paris. Over time, she has also become something of an expert in navigating residential building etiquette, but some quirks particular to Parisian neighbors continue to amuse her, 14 years later… -Geneviève
When you move into any new house or apartment in North America, you might expect the neighbours to drop by, introduce themselves, bring a small offering or just let you know that if you need anything, they’re there for you… Or you would do the same, just to introduce yourself to them. This is common practice, standard procedure and, in essence, what we hold to be the ‘right thing to do.’ That’s in North America.
If you do this when you move into your new house or apartment in France, particularly in Paris, you certainly should not expect the same treatment, nor would your new neighbours look kindly on such ‘friendly’ efforts. “Au Contraire.” This behaviour is considered aggressive and intrusive…at least it has been for quite a long time. For many traditionally-minded French,“étranger” = “danger” [foreigner = danger]. It seems, though, with the influx of foreigners actually settling in Paris, things are (luckily) starting to change and the neighbours are getting friendlier.
When I first moved to Paris, I heard a great story from an Italian friend living in the chic 7th district near La Tour Eiffel. She had a neighbour living on the same floor opposite her who never said more than “Bonjour Madame” for several years. One day they both entered the elevator at the same time and the neighbour, not wanting to seem presumptuous, actually asked, “Quel étage, Madame?” (“What floor?”), as if she had never seen her before. My friend was shocked!
Of course, I am certain that should you need serious assistance, a neighbour would certainly come to your rescue and behave just as one would expect a neighbour to behave, but the French are very private people and view this ‘getting to know one another’ as more of an intrusion in their lives than a way of making new friends. In 14 years of living in the same building in Le Marais (3rd arrondissement), only a few (of about 30) have ever invited me into their apartments…and for reasons that had nothing to do with being friendly. Still, we are all very polite with one another and “Bonjour, Madame,” “Bonjour, Monsieur” each other at every encounter.
As an owner in a Paris building run like a condominium with a “copropriété” (home owners association), apartment life is dictated by the opinions of the neighbours. They can vote to create regulations that obstruct what you might think is your natural ‘god-given’ right…like having a pet or placing a plant outside your door. Communal living is always more restrictive than living in a single-family residence. Like anywhere, you cannot control who your neighbours are and living with them peacefully is the key to a pleasant experience. If you demonstrate you are a good neighbour, then I have complete faith your neighbours will be good to you too, ultimately dependable and even, perhaps, friendly!
If you’re interested in having your own pied-à-terre in Paris, Adrian Leeds and her team of property professionals can assist you. Visit www.adrianleeds.com for all that the Adrian Leeds Group offers. You may also e-mail Adrian at [email protected] Make sure to let Adrian know you found her on the HiP Paris Blog!
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Written by Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds and her French Property Consultation team provides complete property consultation services including mortgage brokerage services and fractional ownership properties. She produces Living and Investing in France conferences and other types of workshops and seminars. She is also a published author, restaurant critic and she co-hosts the Parler Parlor French/English Conversation Group in Paris.
Website: French Property Consultation