Do urban folk get along better than suburbanites?

I grew up in the suburbs and have lived all over the place. I now live in Washington DC and in my experience, cities have more of a sense of community than the burbs. Is this other people’s experience?

I ask because I have seen a number of threads from people living in the suburbs complaining about neighbors who park in front of their house, don’t take care of their yard, etc. etc. A lot of times, people will report their neighbors to home owners’ associations or even the police. This just doesn’t seem to happen as much in the city.

I’m not trying to belittle other people’s problems. I know a bad neighbor can make life hard, but it seems to me that a lot of these problems stem from lack of communication between the participants. Here in DC, I’ve had problems with neighbors, but it has always been addressed directly in a discussion on the street between me and the neighbor, no one calls the authorities to report the other person (maybe because no one in DC gov, would particularly care, but that’s a different issue).

It seems to me that living in close proximity with a diverse group of people forces urban people to get along. It would never occur to me to complain about someone parking in front of my house, it’s the city, everyone parks everywhere. Also yard care just isn’t that big a deal for people, some folks have nice yards, others, not so much.

In my experience, cities just have a better sense of community, people say hello to each other on the street, neighbors for the most part try not to tick each other off and everyone pretty much gets along.

So people who have lived in both city and burb: what do you think? Do you think people in cities get along better and if so, why?

You say “urban people” as if people living in the suburbs weren’t urbanites. Plano, Texas has a population of over 200,000 people. Is it a city or a suburb? Both, they’re not mutually exclusive terms after all, and I can tell you that the people living there are every bit as urban as those living in Dallas or Houston.

If you have a lawn, houses next door, and houses across the street then your neighbhorhood is not significantly different from those living in the suburbs. I’m sure your area has it’s own distinctive flavor but you’re going to share a lot of the same advantages and disadvantages of your suburban compatriots.

Your experience in the city pretty much matches my experience everywhere. For the most part neighbors are going to say “hi” and for the most part they’re not going to tick you off. People write about the bad neighbor because they stand in stark contrast to the rest of their neighbors.

No, I don’t think people get along better in cities. I don’t think they get along any worse though.


My experience in Sydney (pop 4 000 000, with sprawling suburbs and also a densly-populated inner zone) is that the people in the inner city are probably more likely to know their neighbours and be friendly, but when they’re not being friendly, they’re busy poisoning one another’s trees, ringing the council to report by-law infractions, and generally being litigious. The suburbanites, on the other hand, tend to stay out of each other’s faces more, in both ways. I live in the suburbs, and apart from my next door neighbour (who is my landlord), I don’t know a soul here. There are no street parties or home-cookin’ being passed neighbourly over the back fence, but also there’s no trouble with disputes. It’s a bit like living in a hotel or something.

I think you nailed it LoadedDog when you said the burbs are like living in a hotel. People seem to be more detached and less tolerant of small differences there than in the city. I read about people not mowing their lawn or parking in front of their house and I think “who cares.”

I don’t mean that life in DC is utopian (far from it), but the expectations are different. We live in close proximity to one another, we’d better get along or this gets ugly real quick.

I grew up in the burbs and I’ve lived in them off and on and it seemed like people there were more afraid of crime and strangers than people in the city. When I lived in the burbs in Maryland, people didn’t really say hello to you on the street, there was this real effort by a lot of people to avoid making eye contact. I think a lot of it comes from the suburban car culture: get in the car go to work, come home go inside.

I don’t care what the population is, if your city has homes that look like THIS you’re a suburb.

That was from following the Plano link here.

To the OP: I don’t know. I live in a city. Plenty of my friends and workmates live in the county. They definitely know a lot fewer neighbors than I do. Some have those “covenants” which seem absurd at first, but might tend to be necessary because they’re living around people wo aren’t respectful of other people’s space.

Where I live you wouldn’t need a covenant because people are aware that they’re living in a community where your space isn’t just yours – you don’t do things that disrespect other people’s property. I come home from work sometimes to neighborhood kids playing in my yard, chalk drawings on my walkway. They put up with my dog barking, me yelling at football games, whatever.

We’ve had some sons-a-bitches on the block before, but in general, when you’re all living in close proximity, if you don’t make the choice to “get along” you’re going to be constantly miserable.

Just by it’s nature, the city attracts the kind of people who are neighborly. People aren’t just randomly assigned to the burbs or the city. If you don’t like living near other people, I don’t know why you’d live in a place where you share walls with them. (that’s if you have a choice – may don’t)

I agree Trunk. I hadn’t thought about the kids playing in my yard thing. That would have driven my dad nuts back in the burbs, but what do I care? I also know my neighbors pretty well, and often times I know a little too much about their personal lives because of the proximity.

When we bought our house in DC, my wife couldn’t get over the sense of community. People look out for each other’s kids. If they are mowing their yard, they’re likely to mow your’s as well and in general keep an eye on one another.

BTW, this is one DC doper who likes everything about Baltimore, except the SOB who owns your baseball team :slight_smile:

Having grown up in the suburbs, and living there now (not a homeowner though), the common thing I hear when bitching about a neighbor is “it lowers my property value”.

Many people in the suburbs have this somewhat mystical reverence for “property value”. I understand that real estate values increase and decrease, but these people are somewhat ridiculous about it- they get aggravated about almost anything that might change their “property value”, even when it’s completely ridiculous, like having a black family move in, or the building of a bridge, or shopping center, or something like that.

It’s not like these people are really investing in their houses- they didn’t buy the house as a commercial transaction, but rather as a place to live, and if they buy as opposed to lease or rent, they keep more of their own money.

But these folks don’t see it that way (they’re probably the same retards that look at cars as ‘investments’).

As for the parking in front of your house part… most (all?) houses have a driveway or two, as well as a garage for people to park their cars in, as well as space in front of their own houses. When they start parking in front of your house, the general feeling is that they’re impinging on your personal space, whether or not that’s true.

I for one, get highly irritated with our next door neighbors because they park in front of the house I live in regularly. They have:
[li]A 2 car garage and driveway in the back, but their garage seems to be full of shit, and half of their driveway is filled up with some sort of camper-thing.[/li][li]The entire front of their house to park in front of[/li][li]Something like 5 cars, because their loser adult children won’t go away.[/li][/ol]

I see no reason that I have to park my truck out in the hot sun instead of under my roommate’s tree, because our neighbors can’t keep their shit under control, kick their loser children out, or store that camper-thing somewhere else.

I think that this really depends on where you live. My neighborhood in DC is fairly congenial, but I don’t think that the neighbors are quite as friendly as in your neck of the woods. People here do keep a look out on what is going on in the neighborhood but that may be enlightened self interest. I also think that there is a tendency here to mind one’s own business with regards to housing. If you want to paint your house with stripes, go for it. (True example of this about two streets down from me.)

DC doesn’t seem to have very many covenants for a few reasons, the main ones being the age of the neighborhoods, and the powers of the city to regulate what gets built or doesn’t on a lot. Getting a permit for a retaining wall and fence has been a pain to say the least, and some neighborhoods are designated as historic which complicates things further.

People in my neighborhood are very fairly concerned about crime, but for good reason. Ten years ago, my neighborhood was pretty dangerous. We still have a good bit of crime with one neighbor’s house getting broken into by day, and another neighbor getting robbed at gunpoint. The break-in was at noon when no one was home. They broke through a window which had metal bars on it.

I think this is true, and it does manifest in city-living, just in other ways. I wouldn’t dream of getting annoyed at someone for parking in front of my building, because we’re a block of apartment buildings. You park where you can. I get doupleplus annoyed if someone parks like an idiot and takes up more than one spot, however, because we’re a block of apartment buildings, dammit!

But the space in front of my building isn’t my “personal space”, so I don’t get uptight over it. Leave stuff out on the stairs, leak your garbage on my porch carrying it to the dumpster and don’t clean it up, leave your laundry in the machines for hours - these things piss me off, and will cause confrontation, where in the 'burbs, they’d simply not happen.

But I think a lot of it depends on your neighborhood and your building. I’ve now lived in 4 apartment buildings in Evanston and Chicago (the crappy, “city” part of Evanston) and this is the first one where I even know the names of the other people in my building. I lived at my last place for 4 years, and we knew the couple below us was getting a divorce 'cause they screamed a lot and the ones on the first floor always piled their porch (which we had to walk through to get up to ours) with loads of empty boxes, kid’s toys and crap. That’s it. That’s all I know after 4 years. I moved into this building a month ago, and I’ve had actual conversations with all my neighbors, the gal on the third floor is feeding my cats when I leave on vacation on Friday, and there’s already been one back-yard barbeque for the whole building.

Did I mention that I really, really, love this building? OTOH, my friend in another neighborhood of Chicago has a convicted rapist living next door to her who has threatened to rape her and shoot her husband, and people in her building regularly steal her laundry cycle by moving her clothes out of the machines and putting theirs in at her expense. So, yeah, she’d be better off in the burbs. Or in my building, as I tell her repeatedly.

I think this really get to the point for me. I suspect that cities were the source of the saying that “Good fences make good neighbors.” Essentially, what your neighbor does on his side of the fence is his business, as what you do on your side is yours.

OTOH, however, living in close proximity with neighbors makes you aware of how your actions impact your neighbors. I grew up in a bungalow on a standard 30’ wide Chicago lot. As an example, I wouldn’t dream of sitting in the back yard and playing music loud enough to disturb my neighbors. Or letting a dog bark excessively. And you intentionally avoided staring in your neighbors’ windows which were as little as 6’ away from yours. In the burbs, it seems like folks believe they are squires of vast estates, where they can do whatever they want without even considering how it might affect their neighbors.

To some extent a city kid adapted your behavior to accomodate the preferences/quirks of your neighbors - to the point of not hitting a baseball into Mrs. Green’s yard, or not stepping on Mr. Brown’s lawn. (Or stepping on his lawn if you wanted the thrill of having him yell at you.) Of course there was the other side of the coin that if you pissed off an adult neighbor and they spoke to your parents, you as the kid would catch hell, instead of the modern-day suburban response of “How dare you criticize/discipline my angel?!”

I feel that most city dwellers - being more crowded - are more aware of the need to “share” things. On one hand they are able to deal with minor inconveniences - crowded traffic and parking, or lawn care for example. OTOH, being aware of their neighbors’ close proximity, they are more aware of the impact of their actions on others and - at least to some extent - generally try to minimize such impacts.

The suburb I grew up in in NJ was the same way. Just about every house had kids that grew up and went to school together, so just about any yard and the woods between houses were fair game, as long as it belonged to one of the kids’ families. As we grew older and found friends outside the neighborhood this happened less and less. Now it’s almost like a ghost town and kids playing in the yard is more the exception than the rule.

Our parents really didn’t hang out together much. They had their own social circles. They were still friendly with each other, though.

Now we’re in the city with kids and playgrounds and people look out for each other’s kids more or less. There’s more a sense of community now that I’m a parent than there was when we didn’t have kids. I think a lot of it is because we do a lot more things in the neighborhood than we used to. Before kids, we’d go to the village, the west side, whatever. Now we pretty much keep our city outings local.

For every one of those, though, there’s one about the neighbor in the upstairs apartment that sounds like they’re moving a refrigerator at 3:00 in the morning or the loud drunk assholes next door screaming at each other for two hours before having loud sex for another two hours before warming up their harley that’s parked outside your window for two hours.

If a neighborhood is to be more than housing stock, people have to have more in common than they live in the same building or street. I think common ages & pursuits (going to college, raising a family, just getting started on their own) and a certain amount of longevity and investment (not just financial) lead to the more friendly neighborhoods. It doesn’t matter where it is.

Who get’s permits to do work on their house in DC? Just kidding.

Caffeine, what neighborhood do you live in? We’re in Petworth, although I’m currently in Baghdad which is surprisingly uncivil for a city.

I believe that expression came from the Robert Frost poem, and he was definitely NOT living in a city.

If so, I stand corrected. I am not familiar with the poem you refer to, and heard the saying more often from Chicagoans than in the smaller towns or burbs in which I lived.

I live on the edge of Trinidad and what some of my neighbors refer to as North Capitol Hill (I don’t think that it was called that originally). (It’s north of H Street, NE).

I know that you are kidding about the permits, but many people don’t get them. I think that most people avoid them for interior work since the process is so painful.

One of the neighborhoods we looked at was Petworth. The main drawback for me was that I work in Virginia so my commute would have been longer since I would have to drive through most of the City to get to 395. How do you like Petworth?

We probably could have been burned on not getting permits on a lot of the work we did, but didn’t.

I know Trinidad, we looked at houses over there.

Man I love Petworth. It’s close enough to Rock Creek Park that you can get pretty much anywhere you need to and I really like my neighbors. We are finally getting some bars and restaraunts that aren’t just carry out places.

I know what you mean. I have an acquaintance in Petworth whose neighbor sold him out when he was remodelling a bathroom which in DC requires a permit. What’s funny is that said neighbor’s car is still registered in Maryland after two years.

We are getting some new restaurants and bars as well. Have you tried Domku yet? I went there a two months ago and I liked the food.

Yeah, we’re regulars at Domku. Both my wife and I spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union so we love it. We live about five minute walk from Domku. You should try Temperance Hall near Georgia Ave Metro.

Are you going to the DC dopefest?

Nah, I’m out of town that weekend. I’ll have to check out Temperance Hall. The menu looks somewhat like the menu for the Argonaut which is on H Street.

Back to the topic, I find that since the city is noisier than the suburbs in general, a lot of stuff tends to blend into the background noise. I might not notice somebody running a lawnmover at 8:30 on a Saturday morning since there is already traffic noise, the buses are running, people are moving about on the street, and the store across the street is opening up.

Also, since our yards are so small and a lot of people don’t have a front yard here, there may not be a yard that you can see. My neighborhood is pretty noisy overall. However, nobody parks in front of my house since the City has designated my street a no-parking zone.

I grew up in a suburban area. We knew most everybody in the neighborhood, and we played in each other’s yards and each other’s homes. Our neighborhood playmates’ parents took us on outings (zoo, amusement park, movie, farm, fireworks, etc.) all the time. We went to the same schools. We went to our neighbors’ children’s weddings. My first girlfriend was from the next block. We had the same neighbors on our right and left for about forty years. I mowed their lawns or raked their leaves when they were unable. They walked our dog when we were gone. To this day, my mom and one of her neighbors exchange newspapers and magazines on a daily basis.

I now live in an urban area. I don’t know the name of any of my neighbors, and none have been my neighbors for more than a year.