Monday, October 4, 2010

South Florida Amber Alert: Hospitality and Kindness

I was speaking to my new neighbor today. She moved here from Puerto Rico last winter and bought the foreclosed, run-down house next door.

I told her that we were planning on leaving Sunny South Florida at some point for a destination further north. I explained that that were a myriad of reasons for our planned departure (hot weather, cost of living, over-stuffed schools), not the least of which is our aversion to the culture and people of South Florida.

People in South Florida are uncaring jerks, for the most part. Anyone who would deny this is either in denial, or they are in fact one of those jerks. We come from the Midwest (Detroit) where people are actually friendly, and more importantly, neighborly.

In the five and a half years that we've lived in our home, we have extended every effort to build good relationships with our neighbors. No one has returned the favor. With two kids under our roof, we simply no longer want to be "missionaries" to this uncaring culture.

My neighbor, from Puerto Rico, stated that she actually thought that this culture was indicative of the U.S. as a whole. I told her that she couldn't be more wrong. In the Midwest, people are friendly, conversational, and neighborly. We sense it the second we step foot off of the plane in Michigan.

She told me that, where she comes from, the neighbors ask each other for help, hang out together, and aren't afraid to ask for "eggs or milk" when they've run out.

I laughed. I can relate.

I've gone to my neighbors for these things and received looks as if I were some sort of alien. We've invited our neighbors into our home on many occasions. Our immediate neighbors have lived here for 25 years and they've never received such an invitation from any other neighbor in that time. The irony is that our immediate neighbors are the "nicest neighbors" we have - and they are the couple from Brooklyn who always seem like they're yelling. The bar has been lowered.

In Tennessee, my aunt knows everyone who lives in her neighborhood, after only living there a couple years. I count myself lucky because I know about a dozen of my neighbors. Most of my neighbors don't even know each other.

Here's what I don't understand. If South Florida is so full of the Hispanic Culture, why doesn't it have more of an impact on our hospitality to each other? You would think that the Melting Pot/Salad Bowl of South Florida would be a better place to live, but it isn't.

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