Tuesday, 15 January 2008

"Pensez à vos voisins, Madame"

I was quite calmly standing in our entryway, with David and our neighbour from downstairs. It took him a whole two weeks to come upstairs, after our return from holidays, to complain again. Our sins this time - me, wearing high heeled boots inside (forgive me for just wanting to get myself dressed in the morning, so I dont run outside in the rain wearing my ballerines as I have been known to do when we are late for school) and David for daring to vaccuum the house during the hours of midday and 1pm when Monsieur likes to have his lunch.

I was doing quite well with staying calm until he told me to think of my neighbours. I told him in a voice that quickly dissolved to near tears that I did think of my neighbours every time the baby woke at night (which for the record was 7 times last night) as I quickly tried to calm him and settle him back to sleep (Jasper, that is, not Monsieur). At that I left the room. If only, I'd been wearing my boots, I could have stomped out. Its hard to stomp in ballerines!

However, it seem that the latest faults lie not only with the kids (whom Monsieur is prepared to show a small amount of leniency to) but with the cumulative affect of all our noise. While David took him outside to pacify him, I fumed inside, wondering if he knew how lucky he was that he didn't have a family of loud-music-playing, TV-watching teenagers living above him. For now, David's words seem to have done the trick and we will add the above changes to the list of compromises we have already made. And wait for the next time...

11 comments:

dw said...

French neighbors are a funny thing. Apparently my flat shoes were driving the man below me "fou" (he left a note saying so). So now I wear just socks and try to walk softer. But he still blares his music at 4am. Darn drug addicts and the nocturnal habits. It seems as though the French don't really think of their neighbors on a daily basis but God forbid you not cater to their every whim. As my British friend would say... "bloody French".

Samantha said...

Personally I think that this guy is taking advantage of the fact that you guys are foreigners. I think you guys need to stand up to him the next time - the more you keep apologizing, the more he'll keep coming back with more things to complain about. Unfortunately our anglophone ways of wanting to apease and apologize only exacerbate the problem because to them, by apologizing, you are just proving their point and admitting they are right.

Next time, tell him you've made enough of an effort, and that you pay just as much as rent as he does, so he'll just have to deal with it. And I bet he'll back off. (Though I know this isn't easy, there's no way I would've said that to someone less than a year after my arrival in France - it's taken me 4+ years to get to that point, but believe me, it works!)

JP said...

I agree with Samantha. You are doing nothing wrong. I hear my upstair's neighbors shoes every morning from 7:30 to 8 while she gets ready for work... but you know what I do? I deal with it! I understand that she is running around trying to get herself ready as well as her child for school. Tell him you have made enough sacrifices and it is his turn to adjust his life for other people.

Now if only I knew how to actually say that in French... I struggle just like you and find myself apologizing way too often. Try not to let it bother you. Remember you are the better person. :-)

Emily said...

What an ass. And I know this isn't the first time you've heard it from a neighbor. You have every right to live your life in that apartment and should just ignore those neighbor as much as possible or stand up to them even stronger.

I just don't answer the door anymore.

Rosebank Magic said...

I also agree with Samantha. You've made enough of an effort and now it's his turn to adjust to the fact that he has upstairs neighbours with 2 small children.
Think of how you would have dealt with a similiar situation at McWhirters.
You could possibly make a concession on the boots in the morning!
Talk again soon, Love M

kate said...

How do you say 'Get a Life' in French. I mean seriousy what does he expect you all to do - tip toe around in silence!

I think you're being way too accomodating with him. I'm with Samantha stand up to him and tell him to quit his bloody whinging!

Chat soon
K

Colleen said...

That must be very hard on you with a baby. There are enough things to worry about in the middle of the night than to add neighbor worries. There isn't anything that you could do that would calm the downstairs devil...apart from not sitting on a chair breathing quietly or discovering how to float above the floor.

Penny said...

Thanks for all the comments and advice. I do agree that to a certain extent we should be standing up to him. And perhaps if I didnt have kids I might do so. But we had a hard time finding this apartment and had to put up a big caution bancaire. Whilst I feel sure that we couldn't be thrown out for the amount of noise we make, I don't want the added hassle in life if he did take it to the owner, as he threatened yesterday. And if we had to move, if things got so unpleasant that we couldn't stand it, we have a very small number of agents prepared to rent to us in the centre ville without requiring an even larger CB, and we don't want to move out of this area having found such a wonderful school and friends for Lily.

The two major problems as I see it are his lack of experience with inner city apartment living (they have just retired, sold their house and moved into town) and this building which has very little insulation and carries every noise. Of course, being so annoyed with him, I haven't done all the things I could too - I am a bit slack about leaving my boots on, if I know I'll be going out again soon and for the sake of a few minutes peace for me, I let the kids get away with things I shouldnt.

In any event, its nice to read so many people who think its not just me! Thanks again :)

Space Mom said...

Sigh,
This is why I hate apartment living!
I would try to keep shoes off and invite him up to see the place. Ask him when is a reasonable time to vacuum? And just to let him think about reasonable limits....
At tlease this way, he knows you are Pensez a vos voisins!

megan said...

Ahhh. We have a number of crazy neighbors like that. One who threatened to call the police because our children had the nerve to play, and another who told us we are not allowed to wash our dishes before 8:30 am because they are sleeping. Samantha is right about standing up to them-it does work. One man now sneaks out the cave door when he sees my husband coming!

Anonymous said...

Grr! But I just read your update post that says you had some time together afterwards; indeed, perhaps now that he knows how awesome you are, he'll lay off a bit! Yeesh! CLMama