I have lived only once, for a period of eight months, in a large high-rise apartment building in a big city, and that was Philadelphia. What surprised me was that even though our apartment was at the end of a long corridor that had a large number of apartments, I never got to know a single one of my neighbors or even passed them in the hallway except near the very end when I encountered the person who lived just across the hall. He turned out to be a writer and we had a brief but interesting conversation in the hallway about the philosophy of science. I regretted getting to know him only just before we moved but there is something about apartment dwelling that seems to discourage getting to know one’s neighbors.
For example, where we live now consists of houses that are physically separated. And yet there are block parties and other events to encourage people on the street to get to know one another and we got to know many of our neighbors soon after we moved in. But there were no corresponding ‘corridor parties’ to similarly encourage people in my apartment building to socialize.
One reason is that when one lives in a house, one spends more time outdoors in the yard and thus are more likely to see one’s neighbors. But there may other good reasons for this seeming paradox that the closer one is physically to one’s neighbors, the greater the social distance one maintains with them. Mark Frauenfelder links to a set of brief but funny videos made by Jackie Jennings about her interactions with her neighbors in an apartment building that suggests that this aloofness may not be altogether a bad thing.
Here’s just one of them.