A funny good neighbor policy

Written by Diane on. Posted in on everything else

A funny good neighbor policy

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!

Let’s read it together!

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.

palm trees west palm beach florida

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.

good neighbor policy residences city place west palm

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.
and
  • It’s not necessary to thump your feet around the kitchen in the middle of the night.
and
  • 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.
and
  • 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?

neighbor policy west palm beach

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.


 

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Comments (17)

  • Taste of France

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    That is pretty hilarious. Although…there is a senior community here (independent apartments in a gated space), and one of the seniors died but nobody knew. He traveled a lot, so they figured he was on a trip. When somebody finally checked the apartment, it was gruesome because weeks had passed. Also odd–the seniors are very social amongst themselves, though not with the rest of the village.
    Anyway, I know all my neighbors and socialize with quite a few of them. I would want to be friends with them even if they didn’t live next door or down the street. We do the Fête des Voisins and everything. I guess it’s luck of the draw what you move into.
    Taste of France recently posted…Time to WineMy Profile

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    • Diane

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      I really did have a good laugh, at first. As I mentioned to a commenter below, I think my time in France has changed how I view things like this. My social interactions have changed after being in France for 5 years and my natural inclination to ask questions (and be a good neighbor) has been dimmed because that whole private vs public sphere in France. So maybe I wouldn’t see this policy as strange if I was still in the US. I don’t know.
      That’s so sad about the senior who died. ;-(

      Reply

    • Joelle

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      Being french I can second what Diane said about socialiizing with your neighbours . I’ve moved house a few times . I havé always invited my neighbours for un apéritif which is the usual way of getting to know each other . We have most of the time been ignored . On top of that we adress them as Mr x or Mrs Y . French people like to keep themselves to themselves . They also make sure of it by building high fences around their houses !! Our next door neighbours had a high concrete wall built !
      On the other hand the french have the type of people that consider their friends as family members and are invited to big family évents .If it hard to get to know them , once the friedship has been established it will lasts for ever .

      Reply

  • Cynthia

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    Merciful Lord ! That’s like the rules and regulations of my mother’s senior community ! You are not out of touch Diane, you are perfectly normal ! In my mother’s community everything was written in 1964. They stick to it like glue and it’s written in stone. The problem is that now there are a wide variety of sex offenders in her community. You can’t be too careful, there have been a lot of issues. It needs to be updated to the current century but that will never happen ! Great Post ! Love it !

    Reply

    • Diane

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      You see, and in a senior community (or any special community), I could understand something like this! Even my parents who live a bit south of West Palm have HOA rules that are borderline neurotic but they make sense (and don’t touch on social behavior within the community). But in a regular rental building it just seems weird. But then again, as I said in the post, it’s coming from a good place, so not the worst thing in the world.
      Thanks for reading and commenting. 😉

      Reply

  • Tonya

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    I think it’s a sad reflection of our society (American and the world in general) that our societal etiquette and simple “niceness” and “decency” have slid down a vertical slope what seems to be almost overnight. To have to be told or given instruction is very sad. I know for me, as a military wife, I make sure to take cookies or brownies (or whatever) to new neighbors…and then I sometimes never see them again. Same with living in Germany…maybe this crosses all cultural norms now?

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Tonya, I agree with you. That is so sweet that you bring baked goods to new neighbors. You’re like me. 😉 I’d love to be your neighbor! I hope people are appreciative of your gesture. I have to believe that one kind gesture begets another and we can make little differences around us. I also think the good neighbor policy linked in the post is coming from a good place, so if they can make a difference in neighborly interactions for the positive, then it’s a good thing. But like I said, I, too, think it’s sad we have to tell people how to behave socially.

      Reply

  • Lizzy

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    Until the past few months, I have lived in South Florida my entire life. I never realized how utterly rude people there are until I moved away! Any reminders geared towards building a pleasant neighborly community are probably quite necessary

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi Lizzy, my family lives a little north of Ft. Lauderdale and I can’t say I’ve ever noticed people being markedly rude (or not more rude than the NY/NJ area) but I do know there are much friendlier areas of the US. How do you like where you’re living now? Do you miss the FL heat?

      Reply

  • Sydni

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    I don’t find it condescending! It seems like this apartment management company is just lse they wrote those explicit examples that they think people don’t knowooking for ways to increase camaraderie and a sense of community. I don’t think that becau how to do them, I think it’s just giving residents an idea of what kinds of things would create community (in a world where more and more we don’t see those things of things done between strangers!), and encouraging them to do SOMETHING (whereas if they didn’t give any silly examples, some people might read it and wonder “hmm, what CAN I do?” this goes ahead and gives them some practical examples!)
    Sydni recently posted…Cabin Weekend: Champagne & Hot TubsMy Profile

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    • Diane

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      Hi Sydni, thanks for your comment. I completely understand your point of view. I love that they are trying to increase camaraderie and the sense of community. We need more of that in the word… in places that shall remain nameless, ahem, France, ahem. You’re right about the examples too, that sometimes you have to spell it out for people and it’s better to give examples than to leave people wondering. I guess people that are already “good neighbors” do these things naturally, and if people don’t, it’s just a helpful guide.

      Even though I’m a friendly neighbor and try to help wherever I can, I think 5 years in France has colored my sense of social norms a little. The French can come off as cold, which I don’t really like, but I think now (after living here), I see policies like this one as over the top. Maybe it’s not as bad as I originally thought, but still, I think it’s a little sad that people have to be told how to be good neighbors. Thank you for your insight!!

      (also, looks like your comment posted twice so I’m going to delete the 2nd one since it’s an exact copy of the first one ;-))

      Reply

  • Sydni

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    Wow, what happened to my comment? Let’s try again –

    I don’t find it condescending! It seems like this apartment management company is just looking for ways to increase camaraderie and a sense of community. I don’t think that because they wrote those explicit examples that they think people don’t know how to do them, I think it’s just giving residents an idea of what kinds of things would create community (in a world where more and more we don’t see those things of things done between strangers!), and encouraging them to do SOMETHING (whereas if they didn’t give any silly examples, some people might read it and wonder “hmm, what CAN I do?” this goes ahead and gives them some practical examples!)
    Sydni recently posted…Cabin Weekend: Champagne & Hot TubsMy Profile

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  • fiona

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    WTF! I’m British and I find it condescending. Also, what a reflection on today’s society if the management company feels that it needs to spell out to it’s tenants how to behave. Give advice by all means but they’re not children! I recently got new neighbours, so went around and introduced myself and offered to lend them anything they needed. We say hello in the street and garden, no doubt I’ll invite them round for a glass or two at some point.

    Reply

  • Marta

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    It is possible that the management had some bad experiences with people who rent apartments. There are types who think paying $1700 or more per month gives them green light to trashing the place! It’s like, I pay you so can do whatever I want. Maybe in the past there were some tenants there who were noisy, obnoxious, and playing loud music at midnight, and the management was getting lots of complaints- so they kind of tried to be proactive and send a signal what kind of people they want to rent an apartment there (meaning quiet and friendly, and not too wild). My friend lives in apartment in Knoxville, TN, and the people above have two dogs that bark almost all the time. There ARE wild parties there and people coming and going, and the bunch acts like they deserve everything. Actually, if we Skype, all I can hear is those dogs barking! With relatively thin walls it sounds like they are in HER apartment! It is insane… I wish they had such rules there. Bet a certain type of people would not rent… /// In my neighborhood we do have street picnics, email list, and the majority is connected through FB. Is something happens, like a death or emergency, the whole street comes together, brings food, etc. It’s nice.

    Reply

  • Jo-Anne the crazy lady

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    I am lucky that most of my neighbours are ok, yes we have a couple who are drop kicks but over all most are nice and we get along with them, the drop kicks we just pay no notice to and hope they will at some point move or die
    Jo-Anne the crazy lady recently posted…Five Things FridayMy Profile

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  • Chris

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    Sometimes HOA rules can be a bit much, but I understand why they are in place, and in the long run they probably protect the community. I must say though this is the first time I have seen an open apartment building publicize such guidelines. I agree with some of the others who commented above — maybe they have had problems with renters in the past and want to lay down some good neighbor ground rules. It’s sad that people have to be reminded of this, and that it is not just common courtesy and human decency.

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  • ToddV

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    I thought it was unusual. Good suggestions but a bit overbearing. I’m from the Midwest where people do this sort of thing more naturally (but not as much as they used to). Now in NY, my wife and I had to make an adjustment. Although we are friends-ish with a couple down the hall (we love their little kids) and also are friendly with several others on our floor. Actually, as often as not, New Yorkers like the Midwestern friendliness after they get over the initial surprise. Of course, lots of New Yorkers are transplants like us. In the end , the stereotypes don’t explain as much as individual differences. The couple down the hall are actually have shown more concern about any troubles we have had than most of our Midwestern neighbors did. So there’s that.

    With my French colleagues years ago, I found that once they did take you into their home, it could be a less superficial friendship that many American ones. But first you have to “break through”. Actually, what struck me was the contrast between the initial formality and stiffness and the ultimate “acting silly like a kid” kind of warmth (with at least one colleague) once there was a break through. Just thinking about one of the silly conversations (which was also a bit “adult”) still cracks me up.

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