What is it like to be neighbors today?

Two difficult years have reminded us of the need to maintain relationships to keep our spirits up, to help each other or to lend each other an exercise.

Her name is Oasis and she is a star! This cow had honors from the regional newspaper of France 3 and an article from Figaro, and it united a good part of the inhabitants of La Chassagne, a village of 50 souls in Creuse. “It was a good evening here when we met, so we adopted a cow,” begins Catherine Peu, president of the Friends of La Chassagne Association. You have to milk Oasis twice a day, the kids love it, we exchange cheese recipes, we drink coffee after milking. We even have to hold a pancake night! »

In the city and in the countryside, poultry flock together

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, rural areas do not rhyme with isolation. It’s even here, life between neighbors is the most “intense”, consisting of visits and services provided according to the study “My neighborhood, my neighbors” (MQMV, conducted in 2018 by the National Institute for Demographic Studies and Max-Weber Center in 14 neighborhoods of the Paris and Lyon regions). A hallmark that is shared with the bourgeois neighborhoods or is about to become so. The leaders who live there exchange more than the other social categories and go without embarrassment from the trivial to the political. “Their conversations seem to combine both the interest in the exchange and the interested exchange,” the researchers point out nicely. These moderate conditions find their ideal setting in a single-family house – the dream of 80% of French people. “It is because it embodies the promise of peaceful sociability, the garden makes it possible to keep the neighbor at a distance without talking about a retreat,” assesses sociologist Anne-Claire Davy and geographer Lucile Mettetal in their March 2020 memo to the Paris Regional Institute. Everywhere, 30-44-year-olds are the undisputed champions of the neighborhood. “They go to parks and libraries more than others, participate in more shows and participate more […] by barbecues “, reveals the MQMV study, which explains this investment with the significant presence of families with school-age children.

Social proximity takes precedence over geographical proximity

We call ourselves a neighbor when we live in the same building or group of buildings, a neighborhood in the city, a village, or a block of houses in a rural setting. In fact, it is not so much geographical as social proximity that brings people together (or apart), the MQMV study reports. In 44% of cases, there are links between members of the same socio-professional group, or of a close group: 40% of the managers’ neighborly relations are managers, relations between employees and workers are 51% of the same category. In the city as in the countryside, attendance increases with income and qualifications. “We are close to those with whom we share an occupation status, tenant or owner, an age group, school children, a social environment,” comments Hélène Steinmetz, associate professor of sociology at the University of Le Havre. -Normandiet (Seine-Maritime). ). Seniority and local anchoring are the two factors that promote exchange between neighbors with the same status. We are neighbors in a “more contrasting” way in the social housing areas, Hélène Steinmetz also clarifies. “40% of the people who live there have friends in the neighborhood and 20% have family. But some people – older men living alone – are very withdrawn, without contact. Those who report the most ties are women with children. Far from the happy image of a home where everyone knows each other, the study shows that socially mixed neighborhoods have not succeeded in blurring this distinction between owners and tenants, the latter feeling poorly considered by the first and the two neighbors a little together.

Socializing is even better than the space: the kitchen garden

In the city, everything can be played around a stalk of tomatoes. Neighboring authorities create common kitchen gardens at the bottom of buildings. The social landlord Valophis (51,000 social rental housing) has opened 27 and has committed to creating three a year at the request of the Val-de-Marne General Council. In Bagneux (Hauts-de-Seine) we meet in AgroCité, a 1,600 square meter project initiated by the Self-Managed Architecture Workshop and developed with the town hall and associations. When she arrived in the city in 2018, Catherine Nicoli quickly rented a plot there. “We exchange seedlings between neighbors in the kitchen garden, helping hands, recipes, vegetables,” she says. Going to AgroCité gave me the feeling of belonging in a small community. We sympathize with people and we realize that we do not live far apart when we meet in the city. This facilitates local anchoring. At the same time, we do not invite each other. Catherine distinguishes between her neighbors in the building and those she greets on the street. “You don’t have to share your intimacy with everyone, it’s good too,” she says.

When urban planning promotes meetings

In addition to the proliferation of green spaces, the tendency is to remove cars to promote “meeting areas” between pedestrians, as in Poitiers (Vienne), where the center has become pedestrian. Architecturally, it is the creation of collective spaces (meeting room, communal kitchen, workshop or office, etc.) that is essential in real estate projects. The “fifth facade” – the roof – has been redesigned to house an outdoor cinema, a kitchen garden, a cozy room in the form of a greenhouse. “The climate emergency situation highlights this trend, according to city planner Sophie Melchior. In the city, we will offer more places to meet, connect people. Ring roads and city highways will give way to promenades, playgrounds to meet.”

What do we do with our neighbors?

Why not share instead of buying a tool that we will only use once a year? In Nemours (13,000 inhabitants of the Seine-et-Marne, 14% unemployment in 2018 according to INSEE), the confinement gave birth to a delegation between the residents of the center. It all started on a social network with the exchange of information about open companies or not. A resident set up a food delivery system with a local farm, then a gardener came to deliver door-to-door. One leads to the other, the 33 members do each other services (lend each other the famous drill), without necessarily having an aperitif together.

Unifying festivities

After a two-year pandemic, Neighbors’ Day, Friday 20 May 2022, promises to be a success. “We already have 3,000 town halls and social landlords registered as partners, against 1,400 usually, last March we welcomed Atanase Périfan, its founder. We get hundreds of calls every day from people who say ‘We want to party for the first time!’ Twenty-three years after its creation, the event confirms its success.After the health crisis, Atanase Périfan sees it as “the best antidote to isolation.” He has since created another mechanism to strengthen social ties: Civic Hour (lheurecivique.fr), which consists of hour a month for a solidarity action in his neighborhood or help a neighbor who needs it. Seventy cities are already members according to its creator, who are happy to see such great interest in these “untapped sources of generosity on the part of public authorities. “.

Coziness, a business like any other?

The village spirit has become a marketing concept. Thematic and secure social networks offer to facilitate contact between residents, such as the American nextdoor.com. Its fundraising is present in 11 countries and 285,000 neighborhoods and has reached 112 million euros. In France, the website mesvoisins.fr, created in 2017 on the model of its German parent company nebenan.de (2.8 million members), claims 500,000 users (below 44 on average, 63% women). Established in 622 towns and villages, this network aims to “revitalize local life”. On the platform, we exchange services and information, organize activities or send messages …


@ Internet

Institute of the Paris Region. The Danish Urban Planning Agency publishes studies on neighborhoods, single-family houses, etc. institutparisregion.fr

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