What is Neighbours’ Day?
La fête des voisins (neighbours day) in France is very similar to an annual block party.
La Fête des Voisins Pronounced / la fet day vwo zain /
On or around the last Friday of May, people around France meet in designated areas in their neighbourhood for l’heure d’apero (cocktail hour around 6 p.m.) to eat, drink, be merry, and get know their neighbours a little better.
There aren’t really any formal rules, so anything goes but usually, there is music, festive balloons and everyone is encouraged to bring something to eat or drink like a potluck or block party.
Some popular things to bring in France are quiche, cheese plates, anchoiade, tapenade, tabouleh salad, and wine.
If your interested in finding a fête des voisins near you in France, here is a map with all the locations.
The origins of neighbours day in France
La fête des voisins was founded in Paris in 1999 by Altanase Périfan after an elderly woman’s body was found in her Paris flat four months after she died. No one noticed, not even her neighbours.
Unfortunately, this type of thing occurs all too often.
Atanase Périfan was so moved by this tragic event that he decided he wanted to right what was wrong in his area, so he commissioned a survey that asked a very simple question.
“What makes an ideal neighbour?”
Sadly, the most popular answer was ”A NEIGHBOUR YOU NEVER SEE”.
That pathetic response confirmed the lack of community spirit, so, in 1999, Périfan created an initiative to tackle the anonymity and distance between neighbours and help neighbours across France meet and get to know each other to instill a sense of community and maintain strong bonds.
Today It’s known as La Fête des Voisins and also as “Immeubles en Fête” (building party)
Why you should attend your annual neighbours day if you live in France
Most of us never really take the time to get to know our neighbours. Life gets in the way, or an opportunity never presents itself, and before you know it, months and years have passed.
When we moved to France, my husband and I didn’t know anyone. It was hard to make friends, so when we heard about Neighbours day in the town where we lived, we decided to attend.
For four years straight, until we moved to another city, we attended this annual neighbourhood gathering. We made a lot of French friends this way. Our neighbours have given us so much insight into real French culture that you don’t normally get to see or learn about from guidebooks or going to museums, which is one of the biggest challenges of living in France as a foreigner.
10 compelling reasons to meet your neighbours in France.
- Improve your French language skills
- It’s fun and convenient:
- Borrow things: It’s nice to be able to run to the neighbours to borrow little things like sugar or milk. We once borrowed a car and even a ladder.
- Local Advice: Guidebooks are good, but sometimes your neighbours know hidden gems like best dive bars to eat at or isolated beaches.
- Kids have a place to go: Some of your neighbours may have kids the same age as yours.
- Emergencies: Neighbours can help you out in an emergency.
- Do favours: They can look out for your property or gather your mail when you leave for a short trip.
- Connections: You never know who your neighbours can put you in touch with. We have found music teachers and calligraphy teachers all through talking with neighbours.
- Camaraderie & Friendship: It just feels good to have friends.
- A sense of belonging: This is just plain human nature. This can also help you adapt more easily in France.
Neighbours day in other countries
Since the very first féte des voisins in Paris, over 20 years ago, it has spread to more than 49 countries around the world, with over 30 million participants.
Getting to know your neighbours and bringing people together to create a sense of community and solidarity is a good idea everywhere not just in France. So look to see if there is a neighbour’s day in your area.