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Two months ago we moved into a new apartment, in a new city, in a new country. We’re slowly settling in and finding out way around, and our flat already feels like “home”, which is so nice.

Our apartment is a duplex on the 3rd and 4th (top) floors of the building we’re in. That’s 4th and 5th floors for my American readers. On our floor there is just one other apartment, but I think there are five more apartments being lived in downstairs (three more are offices I think).

The negligence of our washing machine installers allowed us to meet our neighbours on our floor in the first week we moved in. The tap on the washing machine had not been tightened which led to my neighbour knocking on my door half an hour after I’d put the first load of washing in: “um, the laundry room has water all over the floor. Did you install yours today?”

I met both her and her husband that day as they helped us figure out where the water was coming from and fix it. They were kind and friendly and welcomed us to the building. But I haven’t seen them since! We haven’t happened to be leaving or returning to our flats at the same time. I’ve never bumped into them in the laundry room or the garage or collecting the mail. This is the curse of city apartments.

My plan is to, ahem, get up some courage to knock on the door and invite them around for an aperitif one evening. This seems like a suitably French thing to do since they are from that neighbouring country.

But do you have any more suggestions for how to introduce ourselves to our neighbours? In our flat in Belgium, I lived there for two years and only rarely bumped into our neighbours. Another flood (this time from a broken pipe two floors above us) helped us meet some for the first time (drinking espressos together in pyjamas and wellies while we waited for the water to stop – it was an interesting moment) but even after that we rarely saw them.

I’m not expecting to become best friends but it troubles me not to know who I am living next to. For one, it is always nice to be able to tell someone “hey, we’re going on holiday, can you keep an eye on everything?” But having grown up in a small village where you knew everyone in the street, it just feels strange not to know who’s on the other side of the wall (and who’s cooking that delicious smelling food!).

So what are your tactics? Do you know your neighbours? What would people in your culture respond to well? (any French readers want to tell me what my neighbours might appreciate?) Do you even think it matters if we know them?