Openness, understanding key to harmonious neighborhoods

By Hai Hien   July 31, 2023 | 06:23 am PT
Openness, understanding key to harmonious neighborhoods
The culture of living together, having awareness for others, and love for the community is something Vietnamese people are known for. Illustration photo by Pixabay
Phuong Thao’s biggest regret since purchasing her piece of land is that she spent all her time focusing on prices and permits without researching who her neighbors would be.

The 35-year-old Hanoi woman and her family immediately started paying the price for this mistake when they bought the lot 3 years ago.

When Thao began work on the foundation of the house, her neighbors started to cause trouble.

At first they accused her of encroaching on their land, even though Thao was building according to the border indicated on her official land certificate.

After that, Thao was taken to the ward office by the neighbor who accused her that the foundation excavation work was creating cracks in the walls of their house, despite the fact that everyone could see the cracks had existed beforehand. The construction was delayed for a month as a result.

When the problem was settled, Thao was allowed to start building her home again.

But the neighbors scolded her and her husband every day due to the noise and dust of the construction, even when they covered the site with a canvas tarp. When it came time to plaster the border wall, Thao asked her neighbors for permission to erect scaffolding.

"We will cut you if you step over," one of them said, according to Thao. In the end, she was forced to waterproof the insides of her home, which cost more money.

There was hope that peace would be restored when the house was finished, but the relationship between the two families never improved.

When the neighbor swept the alley, they swept half the rubbish towards Thao’s gate. They stopped this when Thao installed a security camera, but the neighbor then started to burn their leaves in their garden. On days like these, the smoke made it hard to breathe for everyone in Thao’s family.

"A few days ago I poured a bucket of water onto the burning leaves, and they threatened to sue me for damaging their property," Thao said.

The two families had several conflict mediation sessions with the head of their local civil council, but the situation always ended up back at square one a few days later.

The feud lasted three years until Thao finally moved her family away. But she never found out why her neighbors were so spiteful.

Neighbors were also a source of fear and annoyance for Vu Ha in Thu Duc, HCMC.

His family was constantly scrutinized and called "outsiders" because the majority of people around them had lived there for decades prior to Ha moving into to town.

When family gathered at Ha’s house, at least one neighbor always came by to snoop on them.

No one said anything when the house opposite Ha’s opened up a store and its inhabitants began getting up at 3am every morning and talking with each other loudly enough for their voices to ring throughout the neighborhood. But when Ha’s child got sick and cried for two nights, the neighbors paid him a visit to complain.

Ha said this constant pressure was a major source of stress in his life. "They say love your neighbors, but I see no love in this neighborhood," he said.

According statistics from a ward in Go Vap District (HCMC) in 2022, 83% of news regarding community disruption is related to disputes about everyday habits of the residents (karaoke, loud dinner parties, loose pets, sanitation, construction, et al). This figure in the first 5 months of 2023 was 90%.

The Police Department for Administrative Management of Social Order said there were 5,500 disputes involving almost 11,000 people in the entire nation in Q1, in which 2,200 cases were family disputes, while 3,300 were social disputes.

In a survey among readers of VnExpress, regarding the question "If a mean neighbor affected your life, how would you deal with it?" 13% of readers said they would give gentle feedback, 58% would report the matter to authorities, and 21% would move somewhere else.

Conflict resolution

Phuong Thao’s family was among those who moved somewhere else because they were unable to get along with their neighbors. Knowing better this time they researched their neighbors before buying the house. When they found out that their neighbors were all educated people who did not interfere in other families’ affairs, Thao felt relieved.

However, not everyone can afford to get up and move when they have a dispute with their neighbors like Thao’s family.

According to psychologist Nguyen Thi Minh, a lecturer at the National Academy of Public Administration HCMC, once an argument between neighbors erupts, the best way to resolve it is by working together.

"If you encounter the same thing at the new place you move to, are you going to move again?" Minh asked.

"The best thing is to befriend our neighbors," the psychologist advised.

Hung Vi, a former professor at Vietnam National University Hanoi, said when living in a community, only sincerity, harmony, living according to the law and living humbly will be able to convert another person. He argued that we should never encroach on another’s freedom.

"If we open ourselves to others then they will do the same to us," Vi said.

Before, just thinking about ways to deal with his neighbors caused Ha a lot of stress. After that, he began to not only sweep the front of his house, but also the whole alley every morning as a way to exercise.

Gradually, everyone in the neighborhood saw this and decided to help clean up. Seeing how clean the neighborhood became, the families that had dogs stopped letting their pets go wherever they please anymore.

From then on, Ha took the initiative to greet and talk to his neighbors more. Those who were once "unpleasant" are now more friendly and open. He finally realized that if we can open ourselves to care for each other, then the neighborhood will always be happy.

go to top