Community – Do you live in one?

Forget online communities for a moment, do you have a real, live one on your doorstep?

In Spain the collection of neighbours in a flat block is called a ‘comunidad’? But I wander what that means?

In our case it means saying hello to everyone, chatting to the occasional neighbour, feeling safe about the other people in the building. But there isn’t much ‘popping round for tea’, or ‘could you look after the kids for a minute while I nip out for (fill in the emergency)’.

Part of that is our fault. If our lovely English neighbour at the end of the corridor is reading this, then a million apologies for not having you all round for that cake yet – we will soon, as soon as a weekend looks like a weekend!

But I suspect that in big cities people don’t just pop in and out of each other’s houses any more for a cup of tea, or look after each others’ kids at the drop of a hat – like they did in the old days, didn’t they?

Do you live in that kind of real, close-knit, sociable community? Does it exist any more? Can it exist in big cities? We’d love to live it better, but wonder if that world still exists these days, or if people just don’t have time any more…

I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you live in Spain, Ireland, Australia, or Timbuktu!

16 thoughts on “Community – Do you live in one?

  1. steve w

    I guess if you feel a lack of community, then the best thing to do is to do something neighbourly for someone. If you wait around for others to make the first move, you might be waiting a long time. “You must be the change you want to see in the world”. Gandhi would have loved to be invited round for a cup of tea I’m sure.

  2. Bea

    Inviting someone over is something that takes a looooong time in Spain (imho). First you should invite them to have an aperitivo or a beer in the bar around the corner and then, after a couple of aparitivos, you may invite them over, but, whether in the city or in the village, inviting someone to your house is a BIG responsability :-D, so maybe that’s why you don’t do it lightly.

    1. anna

      As I do not live full time yet in Spain our experience of communidad living is a little limited.
      However, we have progressed to the point of being greeted by everyone in the building (just 9 apartments) during our 3 week breaks. I take my turn at washing the top staircase, sweep the roof and indulge in the odd bit of gossip!! I am sure that they have heard some of our animated conversations as we have theirs. Some close neighbours have shown remarkable patience with limited Spanish.
      Bags of oranges have arrived at our door, in return, if we ever give a gift.
      It feels safe and comfortable and never lonely.
      One lad helped to bring up our new (very heavy) t.v.
      He refused a little gift saying no, no you are my friends.
      That says everything about communidad living.

      1. Ben Curtis Post author

        What a lovely comunidad you have Anna! AS for “I am sure that they have heard some of our animated conversations as we have theirs.” – yup, we’ve heard some choice ‘exchanges’ coming up through the patio interior over the years!

  3. Greg

    In my experience Spanish people have a very different approach to ‘popping round for tea’ as they do their socialising outside, they just don’t do the dinner party/drinks party thing in their own homes. What I think they still do, which seems to have been lost a bit in the UK, is look out for each other.

  4. Parubin

    I have a friend (Spaniard) who lived in London for a few years and said to me that Spaniards base their ‘community ties’ on children (i.e. if you have kids the same age as your neighbourg’s) whereas in England this ties are more established through pets and gardening.

    Of course he was being funny but he believed there was some truth in this observation.

  5. ValenciaSon

    I would like to think so. We do have a community association that aspires to achieving that. There are scheduled events designed with that goal in mind. Though I can’t say I know most in it, my neighborhood does have a community feel to it, for the most part.

  6. Gary

    We dont spend much time in each others houses but we get on well with out immediate neighbours – snow shifting was a community effort this year. We sort out their PCs when they screw up, occasionally theyll watch our dog if we’re stuck and one has all the tools you need once a lifetime so never buy. Everyone pokes their noses out and has a stroll on to the street if a burglar alarm goes off – so yes, we are a loose community that outs in a small amount of effort thats beneficial to us all. Best of all we currently have no knobheads!!

  7. luke

    For me in London, once I had children in nursery, a big community opened up for us. We share babysitting, the kid’s birthday parties become long drinking sessions for the adults, we have fathers’ or mothers’ nights in the pub, we hang out in each other’s homes, some strong friendships have come out of it. It may not be an English thing, I don’t know, since the parents are from Spain, Brazil, Italy, Germany, France, USA etc as well as England.

  8. Berti

    I would add that “la comunidad,” as well as covering a block of flats, may also cover a group of houses/ parcelas and their shared amenities (parks, and development of potential land owned etc.)

    Small, medium or big comunidades; they all bring their respective challenges.

    Mine is fortunately quite small, and for the most part with forward thinking people, looking to protect, maintain and improve their quality of life, within la comunidad.

    Half of the owners are from distant Spanish parts and two thirds of those care, really care, for the development and maintenance of their second homes.

    To make progress, I think it is about communication, you may be surrounded by an entirely Spanish owned comunidad and your own Spanish not at their native level, but through common sense, explanation (technical or otherwise) you can gain trust.

    Through trust (if you wish it) comes the “Tea party”, better to say “La merendar” and more if you wish.

    For me as el presidente/chairperson de la comunidad I would stick with these objectives:

    Keep the community very well informed.

    Ensure you are clean from comicion.

    Understand how the administrator operates.

    Always seek advice from those within the community and from out- with, the experts that know their respective onions.

    Accept that someone has/ will have in the future a personal agenda- expose them as gently as is possible as what they are : selfish and accept the verbal riot that follows, then stick to the solid plan that was researched ,presented, and voted by the community.

    When the criticism gets to you, indulge yourself a little moment that that one “Wally” who read the same legal document as you did in Spanish, and failed to understand it, and you did- ok you read it three times before being sure.

    But know that many native speakers in your community read it once and saw “Wally for what he/she was all about
    After all these steps you will have shown that you are only doing the best of your ability as chairperson for the benefit of the community. And hey that law stuff gets easier.

    Sleep sound- and remember how many did not wish to take it on.
    Un saludo a todos.

  9. Joey

    Hi Ben. Talking about a community: I’ll be joining a big one next week when I’m scheduled to do my “acta de juramento” and pledge loyalty to the King and the constitution at the local civil registry. I’m curious what kind of ceremony is involved, if any, or is it just another “tramite”.

      1. Joey

        Yes, I will. I know friends who have become US citizens and it’s quite a ceremony over there, somewhat formal and celebratory. I wonder how it is here.

  10. Stephen

    I guess I have a somewhat larger community here, I live in a small town in the Sierra de Guadarrama. I have to say that I have never felt more a part of the community than I do here. Mind you it drives you nuts sometimes especially when you just want to sneak out for a quick beer and you end up staggering back several hours later, cos the world and its dog insist on buying you a drink.
    I’m not sure if it is because it is a village community rather part of a block of flats or urbanisation but we do have fairly regular dinner parties here. Mind you I think with my friends there is a bit of friendly “one-upmanship” going on. They keep trying to prove that Spanish cuisine (and them as cooks) is/are the best in the world and we keep trying to show them that there is more than Cochinillo or Merluza by introducing curries etc.

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