I am staying with my friends Cecilia and Peter in the outskirts of Geneva, where they have a lovely home they share with their two young children and Peter’s parents upstairs. I arrived yesterday afternoon somewhat surprised to find the front door completely ajar.
I cautiously peeked in the house and announced my presence. No answer. I slowly stepped into the house, calling their names. Still no answer. Like many houses with young children, toys and kids clothes were strewn about, but no actual people.
The back door was also completely open into their backyard, letting a nice crossbreeze run through the house. I figured I must have just missed them and sat down to do some reading.
About 20 minutes later Peter’s mother arrives with their children. No one seemed surprised to find me sitting in their living room reading a magazine.
There is so much about this that seems so un-American to me.
I asked Peter about why they leave their house completely unlocked all the time. He replied, “Well there really isn’t much worth taking, is there? Maybe the CD player, which costs about $75. I suppose if they took our photos we would be upset, but why would someone steal those?”
I said that I guess there just isn’t that much property crime in the neighborhood. “Actually our neighbor has been robbed a couple of times,” Peter said. “They just installed a fancy security system.”
He continued, “I reckon that someone looking to steal something who sees our front door open either thinks (1) they must be home because the doors are open or (2) there must not be anything worth stealing.”
I’m impressed by their lifestyle, which I have found to be similar to the lifestyles of other Europeans I know. They live both simply and well. As a Quaker, this is supposed to be the kind of life we strive for. And yet as a somewhat suspicious New Yorker and a collector of expensive gadgets, I find myself far from this ideal.