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FRANCE EXPLAINED

Fête des Voisins: All you need to know about ‘neighbours day’ in France

Today marks France's Fête des Voisins or neighbours festival, a celebration that has spread across the world after it was created in France. Find out how the discovery of a dead woman's body prompted the movement, and how you're expected to take part.

Fête des Voisins: All you need to know about 'neighbours day' in France
Photo: AFP

So what is La Fête des Voisins?

It’s an event held on a Friday every year which is aimed at bringing neighbours closer together or at least encouraging them to go beyond the usual “Bonjour”, which is what most residents stick to, especially in big cities.

It’s designed as a special day where residents off blocks of flats or streets can actually share a moment of conviviality with each other and even perhaps make new friends.

Or for some people it could be the day for putting all those disputes about your noisy kids or neighbours’ late night partying behind you and use it as an opportunity to smooth over relations.

The event’s official international website says the celebration marks “the opportunity to reconnect with the values of solidarity, brotherhood and friendship that should be at the forefront of neighbourly relations.”

Although it’s fair to say the Fête des Voisins is not for everyone.

One Parisian told The Local that it’s the day everyone avoids. Asked to explain more she said: “I see my neighbours everyday, why would I want to have an apéro with them on a Friday?”

That’s not quite the idea of togetherness that the founders of La Fête des Voisins hoped to generate.

So what are we expected to do?

Basically, each resident in an apartment block or on a local street is invited to make “a simple gesture” on Friday, to invite their neighbours for a lunch or a dinner – anything that will allow an opportunity to interact with each other. 

In big apartment blocks in cities neighbours usually descend with a few bottles of wine or beer as well as snacks to the courtyard. Essentially they have their daily aperitif with the neighbours instead of their friends or stuck inside their flat.

All city or social housing organisations are welcome to participate in proceedings.

If you’re invited to one, remember the message is of solidarity and togetherness.

If you’ve not been invited to anything, there’s nothing stopping you from knocking on your neighbour’s door and saying hello. You could even invite them for a beer or a coffee. Anything goes really, just be friendly.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and say hello.

There’s plenty more information here (in French).

 

How many people actually take part?

Well it’s growing in popularity each year. Nine million French neighbours took part last year and some 30 million worldwide. It Since it began 20 years ago, it has spread around the world.

What does Covid-19 have to do with the Fête des Voisins?

Covid-19 pushed many people to actually meet their neighbours. During the lockdowns, WhatsApp groups sprung up within apartment buildings and neighbourhoods to counteract loneliness. Applications like NextDoor and MesVoisins also grew in popularity, in large part to help create a communal space to assist elderly or vulnerable people during the pandemic. This will be the first fête des voisins in somewhat normal circumstances, so we’ll see if those pandemic-era connections were built to last.

So how did it all start?

Back in the year 1997, Frenchman Atanse Périfan had the misfortune of learning that an elderly neighbour had died inside his apartment block in the 17th arrondissesment of Paris – and nobody noticed for months.

He saw the bigger picture, realising that there wasn’t nearly enough neighbourly love going on in his life.

In a bid to rectify this, in 1999 Périfan invented Fête des Voisins and urged everyone living in his block of flats to come out for a drink and a snack on that day.

The following year he took the idea nationwide and since then it’s spread beyond France’s borders.

So do neighbours in France get along?

Obviously it depends where you live but what is clear is that in big cities where people live in big blocks where sound insulation is severely lacking, tensions can be strained.

A survey last year found that for 40 percent of French people the worst kind of neighbours were those with young children followed by party animals and those learning to play musical instruments. 

And the same survey revealed that the biggest source of neighbourly disputes in France was, as you might have guessed, noise. Followed by fences and animals.

But Fête des Voisins is a day for putting all those disputes aside.

Member comments

  1. I got to know something of my neighbours only when it came to moving out of my apartment in the 15è (Paris), and advertised bits of furniture etc for sale and a number of them came to inspect. In the eight years before that, it was rare to get beyond banal greetings in the lift.

  2. We have get togethers in our building since the new presidency was elected, btw the president is an American muslim, great guy. Everybody has fun and the food is great and you get to know other people that live in this 10 floor building and we find each other in other places and greet each other. These fetes are great. I’m in DC,USA.

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POLITICS

Abstention to far-right surge: 5 key takeaways from France’s parliamentary elections

An 'unprecedented' result in the parliamentary elections leaves France facing parliamentary deadlock and an uncertain future - as the dust settles from Sunday's votes, here are some of the main talking points.

Abstention to far-right surge: 5 key takeaways from France's parliamentary elections

The results are in from Sunday’s parliamentary elections, with president Emmanuel Macron losing his parliamentary majority. The final results showed 245 seats for Macron’s Ensemble coalition (44 seats short of an absolute majority), 131 for the leftist alliance Nupes and 89 for the far-right Rassemblement National.

Here are 5 of the biggest takeaways from the historic result:

Far-right surge – the big surprise of the elections was the huge gains made by Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party, something that had not been predicted by pollsters.

Although Le Pen came second in the 2017 presidential elections (and again came second in the April 2022 election) her party had previously performed poorly in parliamentary elections, winning just eight seats.

That all changed on Sunday, as RN surged to a massive 89 seats, making them the third biggest block in the parliament and the largest single party (since Ensemble and Nupes are both alliances of multiple parties).

This is the best ever result for Le Pen’s party, and it also means the financially-troubled party will be eligible for more funding from the State, which is allocated on the basis of parliamentary representation.

A confident Le Pen said her party would demand the chair of the powerful finance commission, as is tradition for the biggest single-party opposition.

“The country is not ungovernable, but it’s not going to be governed the way Emmanuel Macron wanted,” Le Pen told reporters on Monday.

Minority government – Macron now faces governing in a minority, after his Ensemble coalition won the largest number of seats, but not enough to form an overall majority.

His position is not as bad as his predecessors Jacques Chirac and François Mitterand, both of whom were forced to govern in ‘cohabitation after their parties lost the parliamentary majority. Cohabitation occurs when the president’s party is not the largest party in parliament, and the president is then forced to appoint as prime minister the leader of the party with the parliamentary majority.

Macron’s loss of an absolute majority, however, means he faces five years of shaky alliances and deal-making with opposition MPs in order to get any legislation passed. Previous presidents have spent part of their term with a small minority but to begin a five-year term with such a large minority – 44 seats short – is unprecedented in the Fifth Republic.

READ ALSO What next for France after Macron loses majority?

France divided – the most striking thing about the new electoral map is how fragmented it is – no party or group dominates overall and there are few ‘local strongholds’ for any party.

This is reflected in the overall results for the parliament, in which Macron’s party has the largest number of seats but no majority and no other party has a clear mandate to dominate parliament.

The leftist Nupes alliance failed in its ambition to become the single largest group in parliament and force Macron to appoint the far-left veteran politician Jean-Luc Mélelchon as prime minister. 

After decades of domination by the two big parties of the centre-left and centre-right these elections confirm the trend seen in the presidential elections in April – that French votes are bow divided into three roughly equal blocks; the far left, far right and centre.

The increasing acrimony between the groups also lead to the collapse of the Front républicainthe traditional pact where voters from across the political spectrum band together to vote against any far-right candidate who makes it through to the second round of voting.

The failure of candidates of both Macron’s centrist group and Mélenchon’s leftist group to call for a strong Front républicain contributed to the unexpected success of Le Pen candidates.

OPINION France has voted itself into a prolonged and painful crisis

New faces – The Macron government lost three ministers – health minister Brigitte Bourguignon, environment minister Amélie de Montchalin and maritime minister Justine Benin – who all failed to be elected. They don’t technically have to quit their ministerial roles, but Macron said before the election that he expected ministers who lost elections to step down.

The other 12 ministers who were standing for election won their seats – in the case of Europe minister Clément Beaune by just 658 votes – but a government reshuffle is now on the cards.

One of the most high-profile of the newly-elected candidates is Rachel Kéké, a former hotel maid who came to prominence leading a campaign for better working conditions at her hotel in the Paris suburbs. She was elected as the Nupes candidate, defeating Macron’s former sports minister Roxana Maracineanu.

The north-east suburbs of Paris now has a husband-and-wife MP combination, as Alexis Corbières was re-elected in Bagnolet while his wife Raquel Garrido won her first term in neighbouring Bobigny. They both represent the hard-left La France Insoumise and Garrido is originally Chilean, moving to France as a child after her parents fled the coup in 1973. 

The new parliament is slightly less gender-balanced than previously, with 215 female MPs out of a total of 557. The 2017 parliament counted 224. 

Turnout – the elections saw a record low turnout, with just 46 percent of registered voters casting their ballot papers. This marked the lowest turnout rate for parliamentary elections since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958, a three-point fall on 2017 which previously held the record.

The second round of voting also saw a fall in turnout from round one the previous week, when 48 percent of voters turned out.

The abstention rate follows the trend of the presidential elections in April, which also saw a record low turnout for a presidential election.

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