I made a strange observation this morning. As I was checking for new hatchlings on a swans’ nest (hey, we all have our little quirks) that rested between the boat-houses of a nearby marina, I noticed how the people who lived in those boats did not behave like Londoners at all.
Namely, they very vocally greeted each other without exception, engaging in short conversations afterwards. Not only each other, but even I, a complete stranger to the place, got extended greetings and a few words by both people who passed near me (that is, five meters away and to meters down, as I had not descended onto the pontoon).
OK, that can be explained by the fact that both were women and I’m an incredibly handsome man, so maybe we’ll let that through. But I noticed that they even called people who were some way ahead of them to make sure that they, too, got their friendly hello.
Now, I understand that, presumably, there is a strong selection effect, that marinas, where people live a few yards from each other with no opaque partitions, must attract the kind of people who like to live a few yards from each other with no opaque partitions, which presumably means being less willing to ignore your neighbours. And being neighbours with people who like interacting with neighbours probably leads to nicer, and in turn much more frequent, interactions.
I still don’t think that I am quite cut for living on a boat, at least on a permanent basis. But certainly not because of an unease with such demonstrations of friendliness. They had a powerful appeal.