The expression ‘An Englishman’s home is his castle’ is truer of a Frenchman than it is of an English person. In the UK, I had good neighbours. If I started cooking and realised that I had no eggs, I could ask a neighbour. It was reciprocal. To call on a neighbour or friend without an invitation, is just not done in France. I used to have a Dutch friend in Reims and when I worked near her apartment, I would call in for a coffee. Her house was not always in a pristine state as she had 3 young children. She was, however, always very happy to see me and begged me to continue ‘dropping in’ as no one else ever called unexpectedly. Because in general, neighbours do not know each other and because there were some terrible cases of people dying and lying undetected for months, a national ‘Fête des Voisins’ has been put in place. The idea is that everyone in a block of flats is invited to a barbeque, so that they can get to know each other. All the people in a cul-de-sac might organise a mini street party for instance. We have organised one on several occasions. One year, we had only one or two guests because neighbours, who were thinking of coming, looked out onto the street and, seeing no tables or activity, went inside again. They had not expected that we would invite people into our house!

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