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

KatPhotos, Lindsey Tramuta

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.

Chris Gold

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.

Ilhan Gendron

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 for all that the Adrian Leeds Group offers. You may also e-mail Adrian at Make sure to let Adrian know you found her on the HiP Paris Blog!

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Written by Adrian Leeds for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.


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.


  1. So I have run away from home again for a few minutes…and as usual I always end up here…what beautiful pics, again.
    Thank you all for the inspiration.

  2. My next door neighbor here in Paris turned out to be.. American. Can’t say I have much to add to this. Except for the anonymous typed letter slipped under my door from other people in the building complaining about how my dog was currently barking and it was unacceptable. While we were out of town of course.

  3. I just moved to California, and my neighbors greeted me with apple pie, cookies and a neighborhood potluck. I still dream of renting an apartment in Paris someday, and the insight you shared into the French culture will help ensure that I understand why I may not get anything more than a bonjour! 🙂

  4. Fortunately in France you cannot forbid pets in rentals, that’s a great thing since my neighbours would sure wish the opposite simply because they hate dogs !

  5. Living with the French is definitely different then in other countries. Discretion is key. It is true that it may take years for an invitation into a neighbors home or even to start a conversation beyond bonjour. That said, I have been invited into a few of my neighbors homes and have even become good friends with a few of them, so it is possible!

  6. Bonjour Ladies,
    I am absolutely over the moon that I found your site. I going to add it to the sidebar of my blog.
    I have been to France, 2 times, and absolutely fell in love. However, the first time I was there for 3 weeks and I did find the people to be quite abrupt/rude. The younger parisians seems much friendlier and helpful. Also, the closer to a city we stayed, the more helpful people were and could speak some english (since my french is not very good?)
    I will be back quite often for my parisian “fix”.

  7. Very interesting, but I’m not surprised. My brother (who is French) was horrified when I went up to a woman to pet her dog, saying “We just don’t do that here!” 😉

  8. French living definitely requires an adjustment but I’ve also had seemingly stoic, cold neighbors come to my aid when I needed it. They’re not big on loud voices, however….

    Thanks for using my photo!

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