July 01, 2007

Like a Good Neighbor

Like a Good Neighbor

Dealing (and talking) with neighbors is unavoidable. Blame it on our village heritage or seven decades of Soviet collectivism, but it is simply a reality of Russian life, whether one has neighbors in communal apartments (cоседи по к≈ухне – kitchen neighbors), cос≈еди по д≈аче (dacha neighbors) or cос≈еди по к≈упе (train compartment neighbors). 

A classy way to break the ice and introduce oneself is to say, “Сос≈едями б≈удем!” (“Let’s be neighbors!”) Those who lived in neighborhoods (жив≈ут по сос≈едству) – be it in a dacha area or in an old-style residential house – used to know one other better than relatives. And they would feel free to knock on the door (or the dacha fence) to “borrow salt.” In fact, a story beginning with, “Приход≈ила сос≈едка с≈оли зан≈ять…” (“The neighbor lady came by to borrow salt”) is all but cliché. 

Oftentimes, extramarital affairs are concocted within one подъ≈езд (entryway). Hence the funny maxim – мечт≈а иди≈ота об≈ычно в≈ыглядит как жен≈а сос≈еда  (“An idiot’s dream often looks like his neighbor’s wife”).  In the same vein, when someone says – “Это неуд≈обно” – “I am not comfortable / am embarrassed,” there is the funny retort: “Неуд≈обно – это когд≈а сос≈едские д≈ети на теб≈я пох≈ожи” (“Embarassing is when your neighbor’s children look like you”).

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