Meeting the neighbours

Novello viewI think we might be bad neighbours. Not like Channel 5 documentary bad, we’re not “From Hell” or “Who Kill”, we’re just not very good. We don’t do neighbourly things. We’ve never organised, or even been to, a street party, we’ve never given a neighbour some coffee when they’ve run out (they’ve never asked to be fair) and we’ve never looked after anyone’s houseplants when they’ve gone on holiday.

In our defence, we’ve had some pretty bad neighbours over the years. We lived in Brighton for a while, next door to a drug den. I didn’t really want to be friends with them. They once keyed my brother’s car because he parked outside their house. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but it wasn’t even really their house, they were squatting. I was always lead to believe there’s a lot of money to be made in drug dealing so these guys must just have been really bad at it. Not only could they not afford rent on a house, but they didn’t even own a BMW. Maybe they should have concentrated a bit more on their careers than on scratching people’s cars.

The next place we lived was Bristol. In the nice bit, Clifton. No drug dens there, just lots of students. Thinking about it, a drug den would probably do quite well around there, maybe I should mention it to Brighton’s least successful dealers.

Everyone looked friendly and we decided this was the sort of street to be neighbourly in. We started out with lots of waving and smiling and then eventually got the courage up to introduce ourselves properly. It was just before Christmas, so we took our neighbours a card. They took it, looked at us pitifully and said: “We don’t actually celebrate Christmas, we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses.” And that was pretty much the end of that. They barely spoke to us again. A bit harsh I thought.

So, we don’t have a great track record. But now we’ve moved to the country, we really need to befriend some locals. We’re in a Località, which is a small, slightly spread out collection of houses. This basically means we have three neighbours close enough to introduce ourselves to. So, the other day we went and did it. (Well, my wife did, I just stood behind her nodding and doing my best to look neighbourly).

First off was Mauro. It turns out our house used to be his house. He was born here, as was his father, but they sold it 20 or so years ago and built a new one just up the road. They still own all the vineyards around us so I’ve spoken to both Mauro and his father quite a lot already. His father speaks dialect and I… well, I don’t. Still, we manage to have fairly long chats about the weather, the vines and the house. My wife always looks on with amusement when she sees the two of us chatting. She knows I can barely understand a word and am largely just nodding and smiling. I think he does too.

Next up was Antonio. He wasn’t so friendly. I think he’s probably just a bit like us. He was perfectly polite but clearly not bothered about neighbourly stuff. We left him in peace.

The final place is a Bed and Breakfast. We wanted to check the place out as much as meet the people, and it turns out that not only is it a very nice place, but they’re also lovely people. My wife even got a hug! They seemed genuinely excited to meet us, took the time to tell us all about the neighbourhood, showed us around their B&B and were incredibly welcoming.

So, two out of three isn’t bad, but let’s see what happens now. If I find out that Mauro is a drug dealer and the B&B owners are Jehovah’s Witnesses I’m going to be very disappointed.



23 thoughts on “Meeting the neighbours

  1. Ha ha, great! Sounds like you’ve finally hit the neighbour jackpot 😉 I’ve been living in my current flat for around 9 months now and despite seeing my neighbours on the stairs almost every day, only one lady has ever said hello to me. The others just glare, walk past me without acknowledging that I’ve held the door open for them, hit me with their shopping bags on the stairs and look at me like I’m going to kidnap their children. Friendly bunch, the Latvians 😉

  2. It’s always wise to introduce yourselves to the neighbours when you move in. Then play it by ear – the ones who are interested in getting to know you better will soon come out of their shells, and you’ll know not to bother (or be bothered about) the others 🙂 Our neighbours are all over 75, and we all get on, apart from one sad old guy who only likes our cat and dog, and hates human beings, so we just leave him alone.

    1. Ha ha, so wise! And you’re right, introduce yourself and then see what happens. I think there’s one or two that will end up being quite good friends, but the others I’m not so sure on… Still, we’re already doing better than we ever have previously!

  3. O Dio! You must go beyond your neighbours immediately, and adopt your local village for early morning coffee every day, and watch the world go by. You will be made most welcome and gradually you will build the locals trust including your neighbours, who probably go there anyway. We have a lovely relationship with our local village of Fiano. Your neighbours will soon pick up on the fact that you are happily intigrating and will become much more friendly. You don’t have to cross their threshold or them yours to be on good terms!

    1. Good advice, thanks! We’ve already integrated a bit further afield and have a few friends in local villages, we just thought we should try to do things properly. We’ve already started seeing the neighbours around, so I think we’ll get there pretty quickly!

  4. All your previous neighbor’ issues pale in comparison with ours! We live next door to a convent……… Honestly, the CIA and MI6 could take lessons from these ‘ladies’!!!!! NOTHING goes un-noticed, not only with us, but for all the surrounding residents. So much for for their alleged vow of silence….. And then, to add insult to injury, we are constantly being hit up for monetary donations! It has got to the point that when I see them out and about I dodge into the nearest bar and order a quick grappa!!! “Love thy neighbor” my @$$!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Yep, we’re slowly realising that they do. We met a few more by coincidence today and they already knew a decent amount about us. Word travels fast it seems! Is friendly curiosity is a very polite way of saying incredibly nosey!?

      1. In my opinion it not “incredibly nosey” because that is a cultural norm. It differs from culture to culture. In Italy it is part of the zest of life to discover new things and new people. It is rarely done maliciously. But there is a term that indicates people who are too nosey and carry it to a non-acceptable level by asking questions and acting very nosey: it is INVADENTE. People who push themselves and their questions on you. They are not liked by Italians either. Now maybe you will recognize them. Others are just interested in their new interesting neighbours, that’s all….

      2. I think you’re right… and I didn’t actually mean ‘incredibly nosey’ to sound so negative. It’s taken a while to get used to it, but I’m starting to like the fact that people here ask a lot of questions and always have an opinion. It can sometimes come across as nosey, but on the whole I think it just shows that they care, there’s usually a real desire behind it to help. It’s better than not being interested or not caring. It does take a bit of getting used to though!

  5. After my rant about our nosey nuns earlier, I would dearly love to add that all our neighbors, shopkeepers and Venetians we have come in contact with have been utterly delightful. They couldn’t have been more welcoming, despite the fact that we are ‘foreigners’, and brought us food when the kitchen still hadn’t arrived, offered us showers when our new hot water heater went on the fritz, the terrazzo guy restarted the central heating when it ground to a halt and the temperature dropped to minus 10F indoors (!!!!!), and the mailman was even on hand to help plug a hole in the leaking roof during a severe storm!!! How can you not love them all? We, in turn, frequent all the local stores, bars and markets and have formed some of the best and most sincere friendships in our entire lives. Italians are truly wonderful, genuine people…………….. We are extremely fortunate to share our lives with them.

    1. They sound like great neighbours! Not as funny as the nosey nuns, admittedly, but exactly what you need as a ‘foreigner’. I hope ours will turn out to be just as good, and maybe we will even be just as good to them… you never know! But minus 10F indoors!? Wow!

  6. It’s true — if you’re a drug dealer and don’t have a nice car, you’re doing something wrong!

    I’ve met some of my neighbors — mostly just to yell at me to close the door more quietly :/

    1. That sounds very familiar!

      And it did always amaze me… there was a constant stream of people buying drugs from them and yet they didn’t appear to have any money. Maybe they were too cheap!?

  7. Like you say, 2 out of 3 is pretty good going. We introduced ourselves to all our neighbours here in Rome when we first moved in and, without exception, they were all flabbergasted! Not sure if it was because no-one had ever done it before or because we were English??

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