This essay will look at the term friendly distance which plays a huge part in how neighbours interact with each other. Many studies have asked the question what makes a good neighbour? and social scientists have found that despite different back grounds or settings the majority of people want the same set of standards from the people living near or around them. People need to be friendly and be there for each other but at the same time respect each others need for privacy and reserve (Willmott. , cited in Byford, 2009, p. 253). So you have to be friendly but keep your distance at the same time.
So how do we do this? Neighbouring relations comes with its own set of unwritten rules. These rules are constantly being portrayed and carried out in our day to day lives subconsciously. A 2004 study carried out in Manchester neighbourhoods further shows that this is a widespread practice. Neighbours of various areas demonstrated similar actions and practices of what is expected from neighbours, a common one being that they will chat with their neighbour when they are outside of the house if they see them but wouldnt they wouldnt go in each others house (Harris and Gale, cited in Byford, 2009, p. 55).
This type of understanding of what is expected of a neighbour is also echoed in another study where neighbouring is seen as an occasioned activity (Laurier et al. , cited in Byford, 2009, p. 256). This study showed that whilst neighbours can exchange pleasantries quite happily with one another if they meet in a public place, they would only directly go to the neighbours house and ring their door bell if there was something specific they wanted of if something was wrong.
Although similar studies were carried out in the USA and findings were very much the same as the UK, other countries and cultures can be quite different. In 1970, the anthropologist Stanley Brandes visited Spain to study how modernisation and urbanisation affected small rural communities there. He resided in the village of Becedas and observed the daily life of its residents. What he found there was quite different to the UK, in that neighbours would enter each others houses without knocking or a second thought.
They introduced themselves immediately by name and offered their help and went out of their way to make Brandes feel welcome. (Brandes, 1975, cited in Byford, p. 260). But as Brandes resided there longer he came to understand that what appeared at first as welcoming and friendly practices, it actually belied a community that in reality was quite mistrusting and critical of each other. Privacy was not seen as necessary and someone who required it would be considered rude and impolite. The poor status of the village meant that the villagers relied on each other for daily help with manual labour and other traditional activites.
Without each other they felt they couldnt surive even, but this high dependence on each other masked the underlying feeling of distrust they had for each other. But what about when neighbouring goes wrong? As human beings we cant get it right all the time and relations can break down leading to disputes and disagreements. Noisy neighbours is a common complaint and one that is suffered more commonly in overcrowded housing estates where insulation is poor. This in turn leads to a lack of privacy and leads to a neighbours making adjustments within their daily life to prevent embarrassment of being overheard.
These adjustments can referred to as distancing mechanisms (Bourke, 1994, cited in Byford, p. 266). Such adjustments could include turning the bed away from the adjoining wall, and other ways of preventing noise from being heard. So although people can do what they like in their own homes, they are expected to take necessary steps to minimise what others can hear. Another much more serious example of neighbourly relations going wrong is exhibited within the cases of the murders of Catherine Genovese and James Bulger.
Although neighbours assume they offer security to one another and look out for each other (Attwood et all. , cited in Byford, p. 271) the public exposure of both the above cases uncovered a massive breakdown in neighbourly relations. In both cases a large number of residents heard screams, or observed unusual behaviour which left them concerned but they failed to do anything. A number of studies were carried out to study bystander intervention to determine why these people didnt help.
One study carried out showed that if one person helps out then nother may do as well, but people are led by each others actions (Latane and Darley, cited in Byford, p. 279) and this was referred to as the bystander effect. In another study by Levine (1999) he found that the percieved relationship between the three boys in the Bulger case led to the reason why no-one intervened. People failed to get involved because they assumed the boys were all brothers and it was nothing to do with them. As neighbours we commonly share a social identity, or even a collective identity through our relationship with each other.
This shared identity should profer a loyalty to each other as people within a shared group usually stick together. However, it would seem neighbourly relations are alot more complex than merely a shared identity. Neighbouring practices are carried out without thinking within our normal day, and these practices allow us to manage the fine line of private and public space. Neighbourhood life is ordered and defines how people should live together, and go about their daily lives without interfering but also by being there for each other too.