Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
My French class ended today as it often does with discussion of a "petite article" from the news. The piece today was about La Fête des Voisins which is set for this evening. The purpose of this made-up European Union wide holiday (now in its 8th year) is to get city dwellers to be more neighborly. It seems to be an uphill climb as last year, the participation rate was only 10 percent and I can tell you for certain that there's no partying going on in our building tonight.
Come to think of it, I'm not really sure who actually lives here besides another American family above us and a British lady with two little kids somewhere else further upstairs. There's a doctor on the ground floor and an attorney on the first floor, but to tell you the truth, I couldn't pick them out of a lineup. I suppose it's not so different from living in a big apartment building in any large city although I think it's safe to say that the French are far more reserved than Americans and far less interested in starting friendships from thin air. When I told my French teacher that it was traditional in the U.S. to greet newly arriving neighbors with a cake, she was shocked. "Do they have to give you a cake too?" she asked incredulously. "Do you have to invite them over?" The concept of the block party really threw her for a loop, suggesting that the idea people behind la Fête des Voisins may have to go back to the drawing board.