I think that in the UK we take our space for granted. We know where our boundaries are (mostly) and take a rigid view on any trespass at all, no matter how slight.
Park across your neighbours driveway, (even if he doesn’t want to go out) and you’ll see what I mean. It feels a little different here in Norway, open space is all around and even where it is cramped, everyone squeezes in quite amicably.
In a strange paradox, peoples behaviour feels more rigid and formal (so arguably, your neighbour is less likely to park across your driveway!) but it also appears to be more trusting and tolerant too. Many boundaries are blurred and open space is more communal, social even.
Gardens are rarely fenced in and aluminum ladders happily hang on the outside of garages, that would have been long gone in the UK. Most look like they have been there for years.
It’s especially interesting when you consider that people wander around and amongst the houses, as they are not built in straight lines along a street. But rather in a somewhat haphazard fashion, here and there, up a slope and down a slope or all on top of one another up a mountainside! Access is often by an almost pedestrianised strip of tarmac and your garage (all houses have a garage because of the winters) is likely to be some distance away, well, houses in our price range at least!
The ‘family’ houses that we are looking at are especially communal in their layout and life looks to be more social in the street than I am used to. The common theme seems to be that:-
Space is to be shared, not protected or enforced.
Of course, each house does have its ‘personal’ space at the back. Maybe a small deck or patio will host a table and chairs with high screens or dividers to mark each houses boundaries and offer some privacy when using the deck areas.
But beyond the deck, gardens often meld together into common space that can be enjoyed by all of the children as they all run around together. Everyone knows who is who and who belongs to who. Because everyone speaks to everyone else, anyone new or out of place quickly becomes noticeable. Fortunately, crime against children from strangers is almost unheard of.
Consequently, a completely fenced off garden here would feel almost anti social, as it did in East Africa. Gardens are less ‘manicured’ too. Most consist of lawn with lots of robust shrubs and trees. Less ‘hard’ landscaping seems to be the theme with more children’s swings, trampolines and sandpits being the norm.
I wonder if it’s socially related to the ‘right to roam’ system here, which believes in a shared responsibility for the land, in exchange for a shared enjoyment of all those outdoor spaces.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that you will come home and find your neighbour sitting in your garden having a barbecue (Although I am sure that if you did, you would definitely be invited!) But rather that it’s just a little more relaxed and dare I say it………..more neighbourly.