Neighbor Etiquette in the City

I live in South Boston, home of the recent embarrassment “Southie Rules.” The A&E show is about a native South Boston family who are “battling the relentless gentrification of their neighborhood that’s been overrun with yuppies, sushi restaurants and $5 cups of coffee.”

Due to its sheer awfulness, I will not grant the scripted, stereotypical 30-minutes of nonsense any further mention or attention. But in light of the recent snow storm, I’ve come to a few conclusions about getting along with your neighbors—in any city where you are renting in close proximity to lifelong residents and homeowners. The reckoning I had was dealing with snow removal etiquette. Here are some tips on keeping the peace:

#1: Being Social Pays Off

Our apartment is flanked by hard-nosed Boston Fire Fighters and families who are entrenched in the proud Irish Catholic South Boston community. My boyfriend and I, plus the useless girls upstairs who leave their trash everywhere and follow not even a semblance of propriety, are transplants who rent to a neglectful landlord. At first glance, I’m sure we may be deemed “yuppies.”  For example, our landlord sent out six workers last night to “clear out” our narrow pathetic excuse for a driveway. Their shoddy job resulted in piles of snow dumped on top of a neighbors car.

winter cars hspace=The Southie resident who slaved over his buried car the next morning was not happy. It appeared as though I or my boyfriend were the culprits since the girls upstairs clearly have never picked up a shovel and were sleeping until noon. Before a brawl broke, a nice guy named Tony who lives next door diffused the situation by explaining our landlord’s mismanagement. The lesson I learned: All that small talk, including getting to know Tony’s daughter’s favorite toy and keeping him abreast of our landlord’s tendencies, were enough for him to calmly convince a livid neighbor to trust us; that we really weren’t all that bad.

#2: Keep up with the gossip

Through tidbits of gossip here and there, we’ve learned that the landlord prior to us built our back steps against code, that the lady across the street is related to a Bruins player so THAT’S why we keep seeing that Porsche double parked, and that some moron down the street puts cat food underneath cars to feed the stray cats. All are almost negligible pieces of information on their own, but they are key to starting conversation and commiserating with neighbors you’ve never spoken to before. Just make sure you’re not the OBJECT of any gossip.

#3: Fight against stereotypes

Whether you are a grad student renting for a relatively short time, a West Coast native here on a job assignment, or simply trying out the city until you inevitably move out to the ‘burbs, just remember: these neighborhoods are your neighbors’ true homes. It means something to them; they are not transient like you may be. They work hard, care for elderly parents who’ve been lifelong residents or are struggling to afford the rising taxes or rental rates. Whatever their situations may be—respect your neighbors and show them that you are not the self-absorbed 20-or 30-somethings they may [unfairly] assume you to be. Just because you’re renting and may not consider your apartment home, treat it as if it is. I guarantee you’ll reap the benefits of friendlier neighbors, people who’ve got your back in dicey situations, and maybe most importantly: new friends.


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