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Get to Know Your Neighbours

Get to Know Your Neighbours

MILLIONS of neighbours are encouraged to become good friends at the Fête des voisins on May 28. More than eight million people participated in last year's fête - a huge jump from its origins in a quartier in Paris. It was founded by Atanase Périfan in 1999 who was moved to action after hearing how an elderly woman’s body was not found in her flat for two months after she died. Mr Périfan said: "It was so sad to think that nobody knew the woman was there.”

Mireille prieur 2009 - Fête des voisins - Savines-le-lac, Hautes-Alpes ( by Sylvie Jaubert)Mireille prieur 2009 - Fête des voisins - Savines-le-lac, Hautes-Alpes ( by Sylvie Jaubert)He started the first fête to encourage people to get to know those living nearby and instill an increased sense of community - the central ethos of Fête des Voisins.

“Society has become more and more isolated and I wanted to break down walls and get people talking to each other and looking out for one another. Around 30 people turned up to the first fête - I didn't receive a good reaction."

“The French have a tendency to keep themselves to themselves and many people thought I was from another planet for suggesting such a thing. Around 800 blocks of flats took part the first year. It attracted media interest and snowballed from there.”

Vienna (Austria) 2009Vienna (Austria) 2009Mr Périfan travelled around France, meeting mayors and explaining the initiative which went nationwide in 2000. He said: “I had a lot of energy and would be coming back at 3.00 and only sleeping for four hours."

“I definitely noticed differences between different parts of France in terms of accepting the idea. It was harder at first in Brittany and the south-west in particular as people there tend to be more reserved. It was easier in the Côte d'Azur and Alsace where people seemed to find the idea a bit more natural.”

By 2004 it had spread to Europe becoming known as European Neighbours’ Day, with seven countries taking part and 22 joining in by 2006. Although the event is supported by local authorities and housing associations, the main aim is to encourage local residents to take the lead and organise parties themselves.

Mr Périfan added that English speakers living in France should be particularly encouraged to take part as it can be a great way of helping with integration into the community.

Fêtes des voisins - Montigny le Bretonneux (êtes des voisins - Montigny le Bretonneux ( said: “There was one case where an English couple in the south west were finding it very hard to be accepted into the community.

“They organised a fête and the first year three people came. Last year 50 people came - all in the space of three years. Thanks to organising the event, people have had the chance to get to know them and now they have integrated into the community.”

He added that a language barrier is not a problem.

“Turn up with a traditional English dish, teach people about your culture."

“The problem is often just that people don't make the time to get to know and understand each other."

“The society in which we are living is becoming more and more isolated - not just with neighbourly relations but those between teacher and pupil, parent and child and so on. We have to break down these barriers."

An offshoot of the Fête des Voisins - Les Voisins Solidaires- was recently launched to encourage people to build on relationships made at the fête and reinforce the aims of the initiative in day-to-day living.

Advice for anyone thinking of organising an event includes simply naming the place and informing people by putting posters up in apartment blocks and invitations in letter boxes (downloads are available at

Mr Périfan stressed that organising an event is very easy. He added: "You don't need money or any qualifications, all you need is a heart and the will.”

(Source: The Connexion France's English-Language Newspaper - Connexion edition: May 2010)

Immeubles en Fête
  - "la fête des voisins " est l'occasion de rencontrer ses voisins pour développer la convivialité afin de rompre l'anonymat et l'isolement qui règnent souvent dans nos villes.

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