I got off the elevator and headed towards my apartment. To my surprise, I saw the door wide open to the apartment next to mine. The door was never wide open, unlike the other neighbor down the hall that leaves their door open quite often. I could peer into the long hallway that led to their open living room and dining table. Right outside the open door, crouched next to their new rectangular white shoe rack outside their door, was the older auntie tidying the shoes.
My apartment door is literally right next to my neighbor’s at a ninety degree angle. I had my key in my right hand and as I walked up to my door, she greeted me with a hello. I said hi back and then proceeded to put my key into the lock.
“Happy new year,” she said quietly and I turned to face her. This was the first time I met my neighbor. It did seem a bit strange, that I never met my neighbors earlier. They had been living there for a little less than a year. We literally live right next to each other, sharing walls, and a few steps from each other’s front door, but I never see them. I did like how they were a bit festive and put up decorations on their door for Chinese New Year and also for Christmas.
As I started talking to her she asked me where I was from. I guess she could tell from my accent that I wasn’t a local. Then, she had her daughter come over and we started to chat. I found out she was from Malaysia, and I also found out that her daughter enjoys kimchi (after I told her I was Korean). She hospitably told me to come over for tea anytime.
Maybe I’m just not neighborly enough to introduce myself to the neighbors in my hallway (only 3 other apartments on my floor), but I rarely see any of them. It’s funny because growing up on a suburban dead end street, I knew all of my neighbors. I knew their kids. I knew if they gave good Halloween candy. I would often babysit for them.
Yet, here in Singapore, I’ve found it harder to meet and know my neighbors in my apartment building. It’s probably partly my fault. Maybe the next holiday season I can bake them something? Or will they feel obliged to bring me something in return? Or maybe I can just wait and see if I can run into them more casually?
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