Annoying my neighbours.
And apparently, my husband also earns this privilege by proxy.
Not that I do this on purpose. I would never do that…
What do I mean by this, you ask?
Well, it seems that the neighbours in our new building are lining up to meet me when we finally finish the work on the house and move in. Because having a foreign neighbour is still something to be pretty darned excited about in this neck of the woods.
Renovating a house anywhere is a loud, drawn-out, dirty affair, but in China, where the apartments are crammed together, you just can’t avoid affecting others with the work that you’re doing. And it pretty much affects the entire building. Earlier this year, one of the neighbours in our current building renovated their house, and thanks to the building being constructed of solid concrete, the jackhammering actually shook things off our walls…and their apartment is four floors down from us, one entrance over, and on the opposite side of the stairwell. Impressive, no?
Thankfully, it is usually my husband’s domain to deal with the people who knock on the door to complain. And complain they do.
When the workers arrived to begin demolishing the kitchen and bathrooms with their power tools (as mentioned the other week), at least two different families sent representatives up to protest, saying they were starting too early in the morning…because 8:00am is too early for a country that gets up to do tai chi in the local squares at 6:00am, apparently (eye roll). It seems that these people aren’t familiar with the saying, “Make hay while the sun shines.”
It is actually a very good thing that my husband is the one to deal with all of them, not just because of the language, but because, as you can see above, I would have very little patience or sympathy for disturbing most of these people since a) no one has ever shown me much consideration for the same type of things here, b) we aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary when it comes to renovations, and c) I believe in putting in a solid full day’s work, starting early and working all day instead of taking 4 hour naps at lunch.
Sometimes, the neighbours have had a legitimate beef with us, though. Like the first floor tenants whose kitchen ceiling we may or may not have put a hole in with a piece of brick when hammering out a new hole in the chimney to vent our range hood (well, a worker did the actual hammering, and it’s not our fault they chose to close up the chimney at their ceiling instead of utilizing it, but…). Whoops. According to my husband, the heavy-set husband (clad in a tank top and thick gold chain, by the way, just for a visual) immediately came charging upstairs like a bull, red in the face and ready for a fight. Fair enough – I’d behave the same way if a brick suddenly came crashing through my ceiling unannounced too.
My husband, however, has developed an effective game plan for dealing with all manner of neighbourly complaints.
Step 1 – Be really, really, really friendly.
Step 2 – Apologize to them. Profusely.
Step 3 – Get invited to their house to assess the noise and/or damage. Compliment them a lot on how nice their house is, regardless of the truth of the statement.
Step 4 – Find something in common with them (like working at the same company or having similar hobbies). Talk long enough to pretty much make them forget about their complaints.
Step 5 – When given the invitation to return with his wife at a later date, conspiratorially confide in them that his wife is actually a foreigner, and that it’s OK to tell them that since we’re all going to be neighbours and everything.
Step 6 – Bask in the positive response that brings and watch any remaining bad feelings disappear.
See? Solid proof that being a foreigner cancels out any annoyances I may cause my neighbours (well, all the apologizing might help, too).