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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > No. 156 > Friends and neighbours

Friends and neighbours

We all love our buddies, but would you move across the country so that you could live in the same town? Ten years ago, Kate Townshend did exactly that

society

Some people look back with a shudder at the communal living of early adulthood. But where they remember squabbles over fridge space in student digs, and grim queues for the single bathroom in a shared house, I’ve always looked back with wistful fondness at the cheerful group cosiness of it all.

I loved the spontaneity of always having someone to chat to and the ‘we’re all in this together’ approach to minor challenges of weather or DIY. Or, in more serious moments, where having people around you helps to dim the horror – I watched the Twin Towers fall in a tiny single bedroom in a shared house, eight of us squashed in together with identical expressions of shock and sadness.

I’m not saying I need to live in the same space as my friends again – there are advantages to ditching that shared bathroom queue – but what about close to them? That’s never stopped being appealing. This feeling taps into a deep human yearning for companionship and community. It is no coincidence that the key premise of many successful sitcoms, from Friends to How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory, is exactly this geographical proximity. The main characters are in and out of each other’s living spaces and each other’s lives with a confidence and familiarity that can only be borne out of physical closeness.

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