Imagine that every morning, as you open the door of your apartment to go to work, you see a dozen of your neighbor's shoes scattered around the hallway. And when you are trying to walk down the stairwell, you have to be very careful not to stumble on deserted furniture, old cardboard boxes and toys stacked up on the stairs.

Even though I am troubled by such situations every day, I have chosen to keep silent because I don't want to upset my neighbors and start a war with them. But when I complained to some of my friends recently, I found that this is quite common in Shanghai apartments, many of which are densely populated and limited in storage space.

But the bad behavior of many local residents extends beyond leaving their stuff out. I also often encounter cigarette smokers in our elevator despite the big "No Smoking" sign on the door. Some leave stinking piles of trash bags in the corridor for several days, while others just throw rubbish out of their windows into the green space below.

Worse of all are those apartment owners who completely renovate their property every spring. They hire noisy, inconsiderate construction crews to start working at dawn; they drill and jack-hammer all day until late at night, despite municipal laws against doing so.

Last month - ironically right before China's Qingming Festival - a 91-year-old Shanghai resident was killed in a fire caused by her 64-year-old neighbor, who burned paper money as ancestral offerings in the passageway of their apartments without sweeping up the ashes after.

I had a similar experience in my own apartment building recently. I smelled smoke and thought something was on fire. It turned out that someone living upstairs was burning paper money right in the corridor.

I have no objection to such traditions and I respect people who wish to express their grief in this way. However, doing so inside an apartment is just asking for trouble or worse, injury and death. Do it at a cemetery or outside on the sidewalk! It is quite tricky to deal with neighborhood relationships. In many cases, keeping silent about a neighbor's misbehavior is the only way to maintain harmony.

Living in a big Chinese city filled with apartment towers, we face our neighbors in the hallways and elevators almost every day, so it's important to avoid conflicts. Moreover, we often don't really know who is living next door to us. It could be a nice family or not.

Ugly scenes between neighbors often arise out of seemingly trivial conflicts. According to a 2017 report by Xinhua News Agency, a man in East China's Jiangsu Province used a special "thumping" machine to create noise on his neighbor's walls as revenge, eventually forcing them to move out. Such machines are readily sold on Taobao.

However, I personally feel that if you have an issue with your neighbor, rather than approaching them in a hostile way, instead you can offer them a small gift or invite them over for dinner, during which time you can gently broach the topic and work out a solution.

Property management companies are also responsible for mediating disputes between neighbors. Blocking exits and passageways with personal stuff or stacking flammable materials in public space are all against municipal fire codes, so such issues should be easy to solve with just one phone call to your apartment building manager.

An ancient Chinese proverb says that a close neighbor is better than a distant relative. This is true. If any emergency happens in your apartment, neighbors are often the first to respond and offer assistance. More importantly, a cheerful neighborhood community will help brighten everyone's daily lives, which big cities like Shanghai certainly need more of.

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