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Thread: Driving the neighbours nuts!

  1. #1
    Craving the next chocolate hit... Los Pollos Hermanos's Avatar
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    Driving the neighbours nuts!

    Hello, lovely people of AW!

    Disclaimer: This is for literary use, not real life.

    Pretty please can you get your "twisted" hats on for this?

    Setting: Modern day village/nice suburb - not quite decided yet. Friendly place - will be in the UK, but worldwide ideas welcome.

    Scenario:
    Unpleasant family move into a quiet street. Not noisy, etc., although the adults (married couple?) are controlling, interfering and think they own the area, etc. Nouveau Riche types, maybe? Flaunting their wealth, which may not be quite as vast as they'd have people believe (I'm thinking finances are tight behind closed doors due to potentially failing previously successful business/shaky work prospects/threat of redundancy and other hidden issues linked to this). Rude to locals, refuse to believe they're the problem, etc.
    Locals quickly get hacked off and decide they want rid.

    Questions...

    1). What subtle signs might indicate financial belt tightening? The more random, the better!

    2). Hit me with your ideas for how these people can be made to feel they have no option but to move on (assuming the possible financial stuff doesn't get rid of them first). It needs to be underhand, insidious stuff - preferably legal but hey, this is fiction, so illegal with little chance of being rumbled is open to consideration. Psychological manipulation (gaslighting?) in addition to untraceable physical methods could work.

    Big thanks in anticipation/advance!

    LPH. x

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Tazlima's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Los Pollos Hermanos View Post
    Hello, lovely people of AW!

    Disclaimer: This is for literary use, not real life.

    Pretty please can you get your "twisted" hats on for this?

    Setting: Modern day village/nice suburb - not quite decided yet. Friendly place - will be in the UK, but worldwide ideas welcome.

    Scenario:
    Unpleasant family move into a quiet street. Not noisy, etc., although the adults (married couple?) are controlling, interfering and think they own the area, etc. Nouveau Riche types, maybe? Flaunting their wealth, which may not be quite as vast as they'd have people believe (I'm thinking finances are tight behind closed doors die to potentially failing previously successful business/shaky work prospects/threat of redundancy and other hidden issues linked to this). Rude to locals, refuse to believe they're the problem, etc.
    Locals quickly get hacked off and decide they want rid.

    Questions...

    1). What subtle signs might indicate financial belt tightening? The more random, the better!

    2). Hit me with your ideas for how these people can be made to feel they have no option but to move on (assuming the possible financial stuff doesn't get rid of them first). It needs to be underhand, insidious stuff - preferably legal but hey, this is fiction, so illegal with little chance of being rumbled is open to consideration. Psychological manipulation (gaslighting?) in addition to untraceable physical methods could work.

    Big thanks in anticipation/advance!

    LPH. x
    One sign of financial stress in ritzy neighborhoods I've heard about is the issue with Halloween candy. People move into a fancy area that, unbeknownst to them, is THE trick-or-treat neighborhood in the city. Halloween comes and they're swamped with every kid within three counties. Homeowner could barely afford the house as it is and had no idea they'd be expected to shell out hundreds of dollars on candy.

    If you want them to be particularly obnoxious, they can be the people who complain about the kids that "clearly aren't from around here." (they don't explicitly say they've determined this based on skin color, but it's pretty obvious, especially since they haven't lived in the neighborhood long enough to know the local kids on sight anyway).

    All of that has actually happened in years/places past.

    Depending on the neighborhood, eschewing a landscaper and mowing your own lawn could also be an obvious sign of lower income, and one that rich jerks would scorn.
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  3. #3
    Craving the next chocolate hit... Los Pollos Hermanos's Avatar
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    Halloween isn't as big a deal on this side of the Pond, although it has become more popular in the past 10-15 years. Can see why the candy thing would be tell-tale though; I bet it has to be expensive stuff, and plentiful too?!

    I can also believe the not-very-subtle racism exists. I live in a small, very white village and anyone who isn't of WASP extraction would probably stand out... but I wouldn't be bothered as long as they're nice people, and I'd say pretty much everyone else would think the same. Sadly, there's probably the odd bigot in the mix though.

    Oh yes, get rid of the gardener - or maybe just get them to mow the front lawn and do the rest yourself??

    Cheers...

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW cmhbob's Avatar
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    Downsizing cars, especially to something considered a "budget" brand. Over here, trading the Benz for a used Cadillac or even shudder a Mercury.

  5. #5
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    Not maintaining the house at the level that is expected in the neighborhood. Maybe the roof is getting a bit ragged, or it could use a new coat of paint.

    Not buying a new car as frequently as most in the area?

    Also, not paying debts. In the old days, bouncing checks at local stores could be a sign, and merchants had lists of people whom they didn't accept checks from. I'm not as sure what the current equivalent might be in the era of debit cards and credit cards being used for everything. Maybe gossip about being behind someone in line in the store and their charge kept getting refused?

    Not shopping at the same high end stores as all the neighbors?

    The problem is, some wealthy people are simply less into conspicuous consumption than others, so they may not be as into getting new cars every few years. And some people enjoy doing their own gardening. But if they're the kind of people who were previously really into flaunting their wealth, then...
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  6. #6
    figuring it all out
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    The fact that they moved to a village/suburb rather than a wealthy gated community full of mansions in itself can be a sign that their finances aren't what they want you to think they are.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW Lauram6123's Avatar
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    Bouncing a check to the homeowners association?
    Stealing neighbor's cable or wifi signal?
    Taking kids out of private school and sending them to public school? (Not sure how this works in the UK)
    Someone coming to repossess a car?

  8. #8
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    1) For such an upscale village, it'd show in the number plates of cars, or they have 1 instead of 2, or the fact they're walking to a bus stop, or they do their own grocery shopping at the local cornerstore / Safeways / Tesco's / Sainsbury's (no longer nipping into Waitrose, or John Lewis). Home accessories are now from Argos instead of Laura Ashley, or they talk about specifically driving to Harrod's for afternoon, but this time / last several times, they didn't even go to London or have tea. Even last year's fashion -- shoes, bags, clothes. Or a home haircut by someone with less than professional experience. Maybe no manicure. Obvious amateur mending of an expensive piece of clothing. Or jewellery losing its colour, especially if it's gold plated.

    2) Gossip (can be malicious or plain negativity), avoidance, unfounded accusations of illegal activities that aren't really illegal but at which the neighbours take umbrage. Neighbours' dogs barking at only the couple, no one else. Neighbourhood tea parties where an abundance of John Lewis-bought fingerfoods and fairycakes, etc., are the norm, but the couple are forced to bring Sainsbury's home brand -- neighbours are too polite to say anything, but the Sainsbury's home brand food goes untouched, and get thrown out.

    Couple has to host a gathering ('cos it's their turn), and they offer cheap champagne or wine instead of the neighbourhood-approved Moet & Chandon (champagne) / Franzia (wine). Or the tea served is Tesco's home brand instead of say, Twining's or Darjeeling, or a fine leaf tea brand (names escape me right now). Perhaps it's not fine china or silverware, it's chipped or stainless steel only. And so on.

    Hope this helps! Have fun!
    Last edited by Snitchcat; 12-07-2017 at 09:12 AM. Reason: Typos.
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  9. #9
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    BTW, this question may suit the brainstorming room better?
    Last edited by Snitchcat; 12-07-2017 at 07:54 AM.
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  10. #10
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    I'll second taking the children out of their previous school and plopping them into the local one. Especially if the parents make a lot of talk about it 'being good for the children to mingle with the locals', when quite clearly the parents don't want to mingle with the locals. A show of false egalitarianism makes the move to the local school immediately suspect. (Sad for the kids if they're nice kids, though.)
    Depending what the local standards are, do they have help inside the house? If most people have a live-in housekeeper, their having a daily would send a message. Worse, if the family is trying to do most of the work themselves. (Goes with the gardener thing - having him mow the front, while the family does the bits that don't show.) And, talking loudly about how doing chores is good for the children, teaches them responsibility, makes them earn their pocket money. Meanwhile the children's mates know that they don't get pocket money, at least not on the 'usual' scale, and that their friends have to cover for them at settling-up time.

    And, if the neighbours are rich and charity-minded (as opposed to charitable)
    see how they feel when the new family doesn't make big donations, buy tables at events, organize things, support popular causes, etc.
    Last edited by frimble3; 12-07-2017 at 09:07 AM.

  11. #11
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    Public UK schooling for kids is normally free up until university (last I remember, that is).

    If pulling the kids out of school, IMO, it'd be more feasible to pull them out of a private school and put them in the local public school. Education is no worse or better, but the status change is jarring.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Just another thought:

    If forcing the couple to move, target the children via the children.
    Last edited by Snitchcat; 12-07-2017 at 09:14 AM. Reason: Clarification.
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  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    If it's summer then the lawn and garden, flowers aren't cheap. Where I live we pay for water and it's also on our electric bill, so our water/hyro bill is expensive...Ontario has some of the highest energy costs in North America...yay...lucky me....so we don't water the grass where I live. If it's a heat wave with little rain....oh well, the grass is going to suffer.

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  13. #13
    Just Another Lazy Perfectionist Brightdreamer's Avatar
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    The first bit seems to be well covered. I would also suggest that wardrobe might suffer; instead of high-end tailored suits, maybe the next step down, or even off the rack, or something that's been in the closet long enough to be just subtly behind on fashion, a difference that the average Joe might not notice but which would glare to someone attuned to such signs of status.

    On the second bit, do you have HOAs (homeowner associations) where your story is set? They can get rather restrictive and petty; I could see neighbors using that to harass or annoy neighbors they didn't like, sending anonymous complaints about grass that's a quarter-inch too high for regulation, an asymmetrical hedge that would take a ruler to determine it's out of whack, an "eyesore" complaint about a cheaper car they've had to downgrade to, or the impossible-to-prove-after-the-fact generic "noise complaint"... A particularly calculating HOA agent could take this to the level of gaslighting, getting the family to turn on each other. "What do you mean you didn't have your friends over Friday night? Someone complained about the noise!"

    If you want to bring out a nasty side, neighbors could actively sabotage the bad apples, leading to more HOA complaints/harassment. (Snip the heads off roses, spots on the lawn, dings on the fence or paint...)

    And there's the always-popular canine commentary, making sure Fido "pauses" at their yard on the morning walk and "forgetting" to bring a plastic baggie.

    If mail isn't in a locked box, swiping mail would be a petty form of harassment. Or stuffing their box with everyone else's junk circulars. Or anonymous messages dropped in the slot.

    If the community has a tradition of neighborhood parties, "forgetting" to invite them (or snubbing them when they host) would send a loud and clear message.
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  14. #14
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Not paying golf club membership, firing the window cleaner.

    How to ease them out - depends on how legal you want to be. Banning from local pub, tennis club etc. Neighbours always having bonfires, building work. Minor vandalism of their cars, egging their windows, hoax pizza deliveries.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW heza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauram6123 View Post
    Stealing neighbor's cable or wifi signal?
    I had something like this with neighbors happen twice. With one neighbor, I came back from visiting family on the weekend to find that they took the opportunity to attach cables to my outside electrical outlets to run fans. Another time, they had gotten a long hose and were using my spigot to water their lawn. At a different house, I came home one day to find that my neighbor had wired into the cable box on the side of my house.
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  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Los Pollos Hermanos View Post
    Scenario:
    Unpleasant family move into a quiet street. Not noisy, etc., although the adults (married couple?) are controlling, interfering and think they own the area, etc. Nouveau Riche types, maybe? Flaunting their wealth, which may not be quite as vast as they'd have people believe (I'm thinking finances are tight behind closed doors due to potentially failing previously successful business/shaky work prospects/threat of redundancy and other hidden issues linked to this). Rude to locals, refuse to believe they're the problem, etc.
    Locals quickly get hacked off and decide they want rid.

    Questions...

    1). What subtle signs might indicate financial belt tightening? The more random, the better!
    If they can't afford the house they're living in, they're not going to end up living there. If they have a mortgage, it'll get repossessed if they can't keep up payments (or advised by the mortgage company to sell up and downsize to avoid being repossessed). If they're renting they'll get evicted if they don't pay the rent. If they have any sense they'll realise they have to downsize before they fall into arrears. And downsizing means leaving the neighbourhood.

    My background is a bit more working class so I'd think of not-so-subtle indications of financial difficulties like bailiffs knocking on the doors or utilities being cut off. Maybe that's too drastic for a middle class neighbourhood. Probably the suggestion of kids leaving private schools and being moved to state schools is a good one. Also, downsizing anything, e.g. getting a cheaper car (maybe under the excuse that it's more practical or something), no longer going to various social clubs/events, eating out less often, all sorts. Selling stuff - or from the neighbours POV, their huge TV suddenly disappears and is replaced by a smaller one. Maybe a snooping neighbour can find out that they've sold some of their stuff on auction websites or something.


    2). Hit me with your ideas for how these people can be made to feel they have no option but to move on (assuming the possible financial stuff doesn't get rid of them first). It needs to be underhand, insidious stuff - preferably legal but hey, this is fiction, so illegal with little chance of being rumbled is open to consideration. Psychological manipulation (gaslighting?) in addition to untraceable physical methods could work.
    At this point I would have much more sympathy for the family than the snobby, unwelcoming neighbours that would resort to such tactics to make them leave and would look down on a family for having financial difficulties. Even if the family's been rude and obnoxious, I would consider it to be worse for people to be cliquey, unwelcoming, snobby and resort to such tactics to get rid of someone. And I'd bookwall a book if it comes across like the author has disparaging attitudes either towards people in financial difficulties or towards working class people who are financially successful and move to middle class neighbourhoods. If it comes across that either of these are considered as contemptible by the author then that's the end of me reading anything by that author. Characters thinking those things are totally fine, but my sympathies will be with the working class family or family in financial difficulty.

    Even if they're not working class (maybe they're a middle class family that's a bit Hyacinth Bucket-ish and trying to be better than everyone in the neighbourhood) if the neighbours are behaving in worse ways than them I'll still sympathise with the family. Even if it just comes down to numbers I'll sympathise with the underdog.

    If you're cool with that for your story, then there's loads of ways. Whispering campaigns and being cliquey will make anyone feel utterly unwelcome, even if they are obnoxious and rude themselves. In fact, if they're particularly obnoxious it's likely both sides will antagonise each other until they're practically at war (in a middle class English, subtle, understated kind of a way...) and it will go both ways. If they're not obnoxious enough for it to play out that way, then we're back to my point about sympathising with them and hating the snobby, cliquey, underhand neighbours.

    Someone has a dinner party and invites the whole neighbourhood but not them. The other families in the neighbourhood won't let their kids play with this family's kids, saying that they're "too rough" (which could be referring to them being too working class (or perceived to be by the neighbours), but under the guise of the literal meaning of the word "rough"). Whispering campaigns in groups that the family's involved with, could be mums in the school playground, parents at a sports club or similar.

    If you want to include something illegal, maybe someone could make an anonymous report to the police or social services, lying about the family, that results in them being investigated by the authorities. This probably won't get that far if there's no basis to the lies, but they would still investigate and the fact that someone's made the allegation would be known to the family. They wouldn't find out who did it, but they would probably know it's someone in the same street and it would make them feel hated and unwelcome. The fact of not knowing who did it would mean that it could be anyone in the street that wants to harm them and get rid of them, and if they're all a clique, then it may as well be the entire clique that did it.
    Last edited by neandermagnon; 12-08-2017 at 12:29 AM.
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  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Los Pollos Hermanos View Post

    I can also believe the not-very-subtle racism exists. I live in a small, very white village and anyone who isn't of WASP extraction would probably stand out... but I wouldn't be bothered as long as they're nice people, and I'd say pretty much everyone else would think the same. Sadly, there's probably the odd bigot in the mix though.
    While racism certainly exists in all social classes in the UK, there's an awful lot of classism and cases of people being made to feel unwelcome because of being working class (based on accent and other indicators of social class).

    Why does the term "nouveau riche" even exist? To me it means "it doesn't matter how much money you earn, you'll never be one of us because you're working class". Not that I have anywhere enough money to be considered anything other than regular, poor, working class though...
    Last edited by neandermagnon; 12-08-2017 at 12:25 AM.
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  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW Bolero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AwP_writer View Post
    The fact that they moved to a village/suburb rather than a wealthy gated community full of mansions in itself can be a sign that their finances aren't what they want you to think they are.
    Not that many gated communities in the UK. Villages and suburbs can be very, very, expensive, depending on where. If you have a scenic river, and riverside properties then you are talking big money - Henley-on-Thames is a classic one.
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  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bolero View Post
    Not that many gated communities in the UK. Villages and suburbs can be very, very, expensive, depending on where. If you have a scenic river, and riverside properties then you are talking big money - Henley-on-Thames is a classic one.
    Yeah I concur with this. I've never heard of a gated community in the UK. Depending on the village or suburb they can be extremely expensive and exclusive. Location makes a massive massive difference to house prices in the UK. The exact same type/style of house could be £50,000 in one location and over a million in another.
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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW Bolero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brightdreamer View Post
    On the second bit, do you have HOAs (homeowner associations) where your story is set? They can get rather restrictive and petty; I could see neighbors using that to harass or annoy neighbors they didn't like, sending anonymous complaints about grass that's a quarter-inch too high for regulation, an asymmetrical hedge that would take a ruler to determine it's out of whack, an "eyesore" complaint about a cheaper car they've had to downgrade to, or the impossible-to-prove-after-the-fact generic "noise complaint"... A particularly calculating HOA agent could take this to the level of gaslighting, getting the family to turn on each other. "What do you mean you didn't have your friends over Friday night? Someone complained about the noise!"


    If mail isn't in a locked box, swiping mail would be a petty form of harassment. Or stuffing their box with everyone else's junk circulars. Or anonymous messages dropped in the slot.
    .
    For general UK information - homeowners associations are quite rare. A friend once moved into a new estate (nice 3 bed detached houses, not mansions at all), dug up a bush she hated in the front garden, repainted the front door in a colour she liked better, and a couple of days later there was a knock on the door. Lady announcing she was the chair of the homeowners association and it was not permitted to change the colour of the door or to remove the bush. (Planning permission by the way can specify the colour of paint and be enforced by the local council if there are enough complaints, but there was nothing in friends planning permission.) After initially thinking the whole thing a practical joke, the conversation finished up with telling the chair where to stick it. She had several more complaints, but as the colour and the bush weren't listed in the planning permission, the homeowners association had no comeback. After a couple of months, most of the other houses in the street changed their gardens and door colours and no more was heard of the home owners association.

    The norm in the UK is letter boxes, not mail boxes. Particularly in new estates, villages, suburbs. You do get some mail boxes - houses with long drives may have a mail box at the gate, you sometimes have mailboxes in really windy areas where you don't want a letterbox in the front door because it will be blown open.
    Last edited by Bolero; 12-08-2017 at 12:38 AM.
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  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Just wanted to add (following my earlier posts) that most middle class people aren't snobby and nowadays there's more of a trend of young middle class people wanting to blend in with working class people rather than separating themselves. I'd say the snobs were the exception rather than the norm, but the situation where a bunch of snobby neighbours wants to get rid of a family on the street isn't implausible - whether the reason for wanting to get rid of them is based on social class or any other thing they don't like about them.

    Do make sure it all comes across as the UK not Americans transposed into a UK neighbourhood. In a lot of places in the UK, especially in the South East, neighbours tend to keep themselves to themselves - in places like that the scenario isn't that plausible - though ongoing hostilities between a small number of neighbours is plausible. Even where it is plausible, not everyone will be involved and some people will just keep themselves to themselves. Much more likely it would be a clique of a small number of busybody yet voiciferous neighbours, but being on the receiving end of it may make it feel like the entire street is against you.
    Last edited by neandermagnon; 12-08-2017 at 12:52 AM.
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  22. #22
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmhbob View Post
    Downsizing cars, especially to something considered a "budget" brand. Over here, trading the Benz for a used Cadillac or even shudder a Mercury.
    Related: selling off luxury toys such as 4-wheelers (you call them quads, I think), boats, golf clubs, etc.

    Also, there is a culture of wealth that outsiders don't always catch on to. I ask myself what a $1000 pair of sunglasses will do for me that a $30 pair won't. Someone familiar with wealth culture wouldn't have to ask, and will immediately recognize my $30 pair as being a $30 pair. There's also some stereotypical values regarding social interactions, hospitality and other norms that are instantly recognized as middle or lower class. An imitator would have difficulty knowing what they are doing wrong. Maybe that could give you some leads.

    ETA: Ah ha! I found a a table I was looking for on this blog. Scroll about halfway down to the Hidden Rules table. I don't knkw how well the research has held up, but the generalities seem accurate.
    Last edited by Chris P; 12-08-2017 at 02:16 AM.
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  23. #23
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    That was quite the interesting read. Thanks for the link.
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  24. #24
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    I saw an article in the local paper 8 or 9 years ago back when the recession was going strong that said people were generating less garbage. the trucks were picking up less tonnage, city wide. The article mentioned that this was the normal behavior when when finances were tighter and jobs scarcer.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW Bolero's Avatar
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    Nov 2013
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    UK
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    How much kerbside recycling is there in the US? Just curious as borough and county councils all have recycling collections and depending on which council you can finish up with a whole row of wheelie bins in different colours, or woven sacks or the like - separating out recyclable plastic, glass, foil, paper, cardboard plus the actual rubbish bin and some people put out their green garden waste rather than having a compost heap themselves.
    "People don't live on the Disc any more than <....> they live on balls. Oh, planets may be the place where their body eats it tea, but they live elsewhere, in worlds of their own which orbit very handily around the centre of their heads." Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent.

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