mercredi 30 janvier 2008

Parisian soundproofing

I don’t know if this is a Paris-wide phenomenon, but we can see and hear absolutely everything our neighbors do. I can usually tell what the next-door neighbors are having for dinner just by going into our bathroom (I like it when they make the beef with pan-fried onions), figure out when a dog has walked past the building based on the downstairs neighbor’s dog barking, and understand the feelings behind the gardien’s wife’s surly looks based on the fight she had the previous night with her husband. I also know that the man that lives across the street eats dinner on his couch while watching TV (he puts his feet up on the coffee table, too), that a pretty good pianist and a less good vocalist live nearby, and that the hunched over little old lady I see walking around the neighborhood has some nice antique furniture. And based on the version of Knocking on Heaven’s Door one of our neighbors likes to play, I also know that I like Eric Clapton’s version much better.

Diego has a theory that people here care more about their looks than people in the US because everyone can see what you are doing. A lot more of your life also takes place in the public sphere, as opposed to in the privacy of your own home. For example, if you are wearing sloppy sweats around the house, the neighbors will know for sure. Also, you won’t typically spend a Saturday night watching a movie on your home entertainment system. Instead, you’ll be out at the movies where others will see you. Likewise, you might not have big dinner parties or barbecues at home if you live in a small apartment and will instead meet with friends for dinner at a restaurant or a picnic in a park.

Which makes me wonder: what do the neighbors see and hear about us? They can probably tell that we like wine by the number of bottle we throw into the recycling bin every couple of days and that Diego is not stingy with the garlic when he cooks. They also probably know that laundry days are Tuesdays and Fridays and that we use (thankfully for them) the “short” cycle on the washing machine (if you have one of the European front-loading washing machines, you know why I put the word “short” in quotation marks). They might be confused by the fact that we listen to music from the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa while speaking a weird mix of a number of languages. As for anything else the neighbors might be able to see or hear, well, let’s just say I’d prefer not to think about it too much.

1 commentaire:

Diego a dit…

Well, our yappy dog owning downstairs neighbor stopped me on the stairs the other day to tell me that we speak too loud. I should have replied "we have to in order to hear ourselves over your dog's yapping".