A lot of New Orleanians know their neighbors. It’s a stereotype that people are friendlier in the South, but it feels true to me. Here, it’s rude not to smile and say hello when you walk past people.
I also believe that the city’s architectural style and weather attribute to more people sitting on their porch. Before most houses had air conditioning, many people sat outside to catch the breeze. Additionally, the porches of our pervasive shot-gun houses are aligned in such a way that when you walk out to the front door and look to the left or right, you are staring directly at your neighbor. It’s more awkward not to acknowledge someone.
Inner Conflict Over Neighbor Chats
I live next door to a set of brothers. I’ve spoken at length with two of them. One Saturday, I brought my computer out front to do some work and the youngest brother talked to me for an hour. He was really nice and entertaining, but part of me kept thinking “Dude, I got work to do.” Similarly, a few weeks ago I brought a chair onto my porch. I had an Abita Strawberry in one hand and my cell phone in the other. I was going to call my dad and catch up, but the oldest brother was outside. And he wanted to talk. Casual conversation ended twisted into an hour-long saga about this man’s nasty divorce, his crazy ex-wife and his concerns about raising his children. Was it interesting? Hell yeah! Did I talk to my dad? Nope.
Overall, I’m grateful to know my neighbors and it feels genuine to say hi and ask about the day as I enter my house. I love that about the culture here: the warmth and slower pace– the sense that you ain’t got no where to be, let’s just chat. But what if I have to go somewhere?! Or I’m doing something? I have an anxious tendency to overfill my life, so I’m nearly always on my way to do something. Is this me having a “northerner” attitude? Perhaps this aspect of New Orleans living will help me to embrace new relationships and teach me to the joy of the laissez-faire lifestyle.
- I do have a little green space in my backyard. I guess I can go back there if I want to be outside, on my own.
- I’m a little bit shy (which is hard to believe for those who know me.) Although one set of neighbors take care of the talking for me, I keel over in awkward when encountering my other neighbor– and he’s actually my landlord!
- My chatty neighbors are also really chatty with their neighbor. I can nearly hear everything they say when I’m in my front room. I can’t ask them to be quiet… right?
What about you? Do you know your neighbors? Do you want to know your neighbors?