Everybody needs good neighbours

There has been a fair bit of discussion on the network lately about neighbours and it has inspired me to share some of our experiences.

When we first moved to France, we lived in a small hamlet in Brittany. There were six houses including ours. Four were inhabited by pensioners of 80 plus. Three of these were siblings who hadn’t spoken to each other for the last 42 years, following a dispute over the sale of the fourth house. Needless to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of neighbourly activity going on. The remaining house was inhabited by a lovely couple, Monique and Michel. They were related to the warring three and were delighted when we arrived to dilute the atmosphere. They became surrogate grandparents to our three and Monique would save the milk from the prize cow (it had the highest fat content) for Max’s bottle. I howled when we left and despite being at the other end of the country, seven years later, we are still in touch.

We then moved to a series of isolated properties and as a result of their isolation, didn’t really have any real contact with our neighbours. There simply weren’t any. At this point, I made one of my worst decisions ever and decided we should try village life. I thought it would be good for us to interact more and that it would improve our French. So we dived in and bought a huge Maison de Maitre. The house was fantastic, the only problem was that we had bought in the village that time forgot. When I told my (French) friends, the reaction was unanimous, “Where? Oh my God! You do know what that place is like don’t you?”

It turned out that the entire village population was either over 80, mad or alcoholic. Or all three. Living there was like being an extra on the set of ‘Night of the Living Dead;” processions of people staggered past the door, weaving from side to side with glazed expressions in a zombie like manner at any hour of day and night. As our house fronted the street, they would inevitably bang on the door to shout “Bonjour Voisin” before continuing on their way. We took to closing all the shutters, day and night and hiding out in the back half of the house.

Even this didn’t deter our nearest neighbours who would happily ignore the firmly closed shutters if they needed us to ‘help’ them out. On one famous occasion, we caved in at ten ‘o’ clock at night after persistent banging on the side gate. They wanted James to ‘come quickly’....Fearing the worst and feeling guilty for having ignored them for the last hour, he dashed round to find Monsieur sitting cackling in the corner wearing nothing but his underpants and Madame waiting for James to remove the lid from her pressure cooker. She had forgotten how it worked and Monsieurs dinner was inside.

We moved on.

Now we are back in a hamlet and have lovely neighbours. All sane, around our age, helpful and there when you need them but not ’curieux’ as they say in French. I’ve come to the conclusion that neighbours need to be just close enough to be neighbours but not close enough to annoy you. What have everyone else’s experiences been? Is my theory right do you think? Or does it depend on the personalities involved?

We live in a village with around 1000 habitants in le Midi, it’s great and we have learnt lots of French by interacting daily with the villagers. Our neighbours include the local cafe which hosts live music events throughout summer which is fantastic & creates a great atmosphere. Last night our little one was dancing to the music & loved it (we broke the usual bedtime as it’s summer holidays of course :slight_smile: We are well integrated into our village and I’m sure this is because we speak to people every day. We don’t live in each others pockets though, we’ve made friends with other people similar ages to us (one thing about moving to France is so many of the other anglo speakers are retired so don’t have the same interests as us) but we have made great French friends and this has further helped our development in speaking French and understanding the way of life in France.

When we go away we have a number of people who look after our house and one lady who takes great pleasure in looking after our cat, in fact he now has 2 homes!

There are downsides, the noise of one group of neighbours who have 8 kids can be a bit tiresome on some days when they play their music too loud (we unfortunately don’t have the same taste in dodgy 80’s french music) but generally the bustle of village life is a comfort to know we’re not isolated & we really feel part of the community.

We were away recently and 2 people went to collect bin liners from the Mairie for us (an occasion which happens once a year & would be whilst we were away)…people are just like that, thoughtful.

We’ve only had the odd problem with a not so close neighbour & one with a rental neighbour who has now moved in the past 5 years and we think the benefits of living in the village far outweigh the cons.
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I’ve lived in a remote farm house with a few surrounding fermettes and now in the centre of a village. Everyone is pretty ancient, but all very sweet. One or two nut cases, but they are similarly regarded by the village, so no real problems. There are younger families, and we even have a village school with 19 pupils in it. My sister still lives in the fermette, which is a few minutes away on my bike.
I suppose choosing where you live can be a bit of a lottery - very much like the UK.

I’ve never lived in a really small village and never wanted to. I like to enjoy a certain degree of anonymity where I live.
That said, I live in a house in a cul de sac designed for families, so there are children. Then one day a couple bought one of the houses thinking it would be peaceful and calm (or that’s what the agent told them anyway). They don’t like children, don’t want any of their own and object to the kids already sur place.

On one occasion they overheard my son moan about his dad to his friend, found out where the dad lives (in Paris) rang him up and told him! I went to the police who told me if it happened again to porter plainte. Unbelievable. Needless to say I don’t speak to this couple of bloody-minded sods and ignore them pointedly if they cross my path.

My other neighbours are fine, and most of the neighbours I’ve had in France have been fine, and if they are a bit off, I just keep my distance.