who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neigh-bor-hood?


JUST THOUGHT you might want to know about our neighbors here in NZ, in a summarized sort of way.  The average neighbor here is a couple, married, Asian / Kiwi, with kids, and low-income to low middle-income level, and usually friendly.  But because it’s an average, it really doesn’t tell you anything much, unless we make a little sense out of the averages.

Before anything else, let me tell you that in a street known for quiet, well-manicured stately homes owned by high middle-income European New Zealanders (known more popularly as Kiwis), we live in an exception, an 11-unit block of houses owned by a retired couple living out-of-town.  Until very recently, the demographic majority was Asian couples living with multiple children, but a few transitions changed that, but as usual I’m getting ahead of myself.

We’ve been here over 18 months, and for the first 75% of that time it was the same set of tenants throughout, two Chinese families, two Indian, two Filipinos and the rest Kiwis.  It would be natural for us to be friendlier to the Asians but this wasn’t always the case.  The single moms (who were both Kiwi) had sons who were quite visible on the expansive, child-friendly lawns, so we got to be familiar (but not that friendly) with the moms as well.  The single Kiwi guy next door to us owned a cat who always welcomed Ganda whenever she visited us, so it was unlikely that we didn’t get to know the owner as well (Ganda is a cat person).  The Indians always smile whenever we met near the parking area, and of course the other Pinoy family (with four kids) became our buddies almost immediately, exchanging cooked meals with us and inviting each other to impromptu salu-salo at least once a month, or maybe borrow from each other odds and ends like cooking ingredients, bike pumps, or tools.

But it’s not always ideal and picture-perfectness in our neighborhood.  Once Mahal received a hand-written note on her windshield that said : Please use common-sense.  Park properly.  We didn’t know if the note meant that Mahal had parked on the note-writer’s spot (all the parking spots are free-for-all) or that the parking angle was awry, and I considered asking the possible sources of the note how we could, indeed, park with greater common sense.  Mahal, confirming what I was thinking, opined that it would be nearly impossible not to be misinterpreted, since (1) no one probably would admit it, since it was an anonymous note, and (2) the direct approach would, at least in this case, not be appreciated.

Then there was the single mom who sometimes left her small child for hours and hours in the playing area, seemingly without bothering to check if her son was hungry or cold.  Long after other children were already inside and having dinners, this child was still playing by himself on the trampoline.  I knew this was a sensitive topic, actually intervening in a home’s parental care, and in fact I found out that other mothers in the compound had made observations similar to mine.  It didn’t help that the child looked frail and neglected (although it could just be my opinion, colored by the situation) and that mom wasn’t at all friendly to other neighbors, least of all to other mothers who discouraged their children from getting too close with the child.

Not sure if it was just me, but one of the least friendly neighbors was a blended Kiwi-Chinese couple three doors down.   The Chinese in me (I’m part-Chinese) naturally wanted to reach out, and I always make an effort to be personable to Kiwis, but neither of them even made an effort to connect, with either our flat, those of other Asians, or even with most of the Kiwi neighbors.  This, despite the fact that their daughter/stepdaughter was a regular playmate of the Kiwi and Pinoy kids, even the one in the previous paragraph.  It was almost like, since they considered themselves neither Asian nor New Zealander, they felt no affinity for both groups.  A bit unfair as an observation, but again, that’s just me.

But on the whole our small community has reaffirmed our faith in the common goodness of neighbors who don’t need to know each other well to be decent to each other.  The proverb good fences make good neighbors (though there are no actual fences around here) comes to mind; no neighbor (besides the Pinoy family of course) is what I would consider anything more than nodding acquaintances to us; that doesn’t stop me from helping them move furniture or big purchases between the car and the door (and hopefully vice-versa); and Mahal always takes the time to deliver a Pinoy dish to new neighbors just to make them feel welcome.

For sure, the kaldereta and afritada might hit their taste buds a bit strangely, particularly when Mahal is in a spicy mood, but it nevertheless signals that as Pinoy neighbors go, you’ll never get a raw deal.

Thanks for reading!

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10 thoughts on “who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neigh-bor-hood?

  1. Oh, my goodness, it’s the same here, even worse. We are neighbors to groups of people whom we have not talked to in the 12 years we’ve lived here/ We’ve stayed put all these years, but the rest have come and gone. It’s a strange culture, indeed.

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