What Happens On Neighbours Day In France at La Fête Des Voisins?

What? You haven’t met your neighbours? Here’s what you need to know about an annual event that happens every May in France called La Fête Des Voisins (Neighbours day).

What is Neighbours Day?

National neighbours day or neighbourhood day in France is called La fête des voisins and it’s very similar to an annual block party with food and drinks. 

La Fête des Voisins: / La-Fet Day Vwoh-Zain /

What Do You Do In France On Neighbours Day?

La fête des voisins National Neighbours day in France

On or around the last Friday of May, people around France meet in designated areas in their neighbourhood for l’heure de l’apèro (Apero time) to eat, drink, be merry, and get to know their neighbours in France a little better.

There aren’t any formal rules, so anything goes but usually, someone volunteers to organize the event in their community so each one is a little different.

There might be music. Often local musicians or bands will come and play for residents. There are usually balloons, tables, chairs, and of course food. Everyone is encouraged to bring something to eat or drink and share with others, like a potluck block party. 

Some popular things to bring in France are quiche, cheese, anchoiade, tapenade, tabouleh salad, potato chips, and of course wine.

Important things to learn about French culture.

If you’re not sure what an apéro is, you should read my guide about L’heure de l’apéro, because this sacred time of the day has many nuances and unsaid rules that are puzzling to newcomers to France. 

You should also read my guide about la bise; when, where and how to greet your French friends with the famous French cheek kiss in France. 

History of neighbours day in France

La fête des voisins: Neighbours day was founded in Paris France in 1999

Neighbors day 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 straightforward question. 

Atanase Périfan founder la fête des voisins

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. In 1999, Périfan created an initiative to tackle the anonymity and distance between neighbours.

Today It’s known as La Fête des Voisins and also known as “Immeubles en Fête” (building party)

la fête des voisins immeubles

Since, 1999, neighbours day has grown from a reminder to connect with an elderly neighbour, to an annual celebration to help neighbours across France meet and get to know each other, to instill a sense of community and maintain strong community bonds.  

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 it. 

We attended this annual neighbourhood gathering for four straight years and made many new 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 museums, which is one of the biggest challenges of living in France as a foreigner.

Here we are dancing at La fête des voisins in La Garde France, the village where we lived. 

Why you should attend your annual neighbours day event if you live in France

  1. Improve your French language skills
  2. It’s fun and convenient: 
  3. Borrowing 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.
  4. Local Advice: Guidebooks are good, but sometimes your neighbours know local spots and hidden gems like the best dive bars to eat at or isolated beaches.
  5. Kids have a place to go: Some of your neighbours may have kids the same age as yours.
  6. Emergencies: Neighbours can help you out in an emergency.
  7. Do favours: They can look out for your property or gather your mail when you leave for a short trip.
  8. Community 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.
  9. Camaraderie & Friendship: It just feels good to have friends.
  10. A sense of belonging: This is just plain human nature. This can also help you adapt more easily in France.
  11. It’s good neighbourliness

Neighbours day in other countries

Since the first féte des voisins in Paris, over 20 years ago, it has spread to more than 49 countries worldwide, with over 30 million participants.

Getting to know your neighbours and bringing people together to create a sense of community spirit and solidarity is a good idea everywhere, not just in France. So if you’re interested in finding a fête des voisins near you in France, Europe or the world, check out this link of countries that are also getting involved in Neighbours day.

Photo of Annie André: www.AnnieAndre.com

Annie André

About the author 

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.

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