Thursday, 9 February 2017

Locked Doors

by Cicely Podmore

In the western world, we maintain a particularly selfish view of our own property. This can easily be attributed to the constant investment which our homes demand with extortionate housing prices, mortgage burdens, renovation expenses, decoration fees, maintenance costs... In the current housing market, where house prices rose by 5.8pc in 2016, there persists a feeling that something so hard earned should be kept to oneself. And because they are so precious to us, we protect them, installing locks and alarms to keep them safe, but also, consequently keeping others out. In past decades, it was not uncommon for neighbours to pop into each others' open doors. Nonetheless, a recent survey has reported that 1 in 3 Britons cannot name even one of their neighbours.

What's more, we have a growing homelessness crisis in Great Britain, with the figure of people living on the streets exceeding a quarter of a million at the end of last year. Whilst other countries are obliged to offer housing to every citizen (the Netherlands, the Seychelles, and even developing countries in Latin America such as Argentina, Columbia, and Uruguay), Great Britain has no such promise of accommodation. One of last week's news stories, about the removal of a group of squatters occupying an empty London property, struck me in its unfairness. By no means am I in favour of breaking into houses with malicious intent, but finding shelter in an unused home instead of suffering these inhospitable winter nights (often sub-zero in temperature) merely seems like common sense. It was disappointing to hear of the owner's fury on being informed of these squatters, instead of investing some of his vast sums of money (he is a Russian oligarch) into helping solve this issue.

In places where houses are smaller, less valuable and empty of consumer objects, it is noticeable how warm heartedly you are welcomed inside. My mother has often fondly recounted stories of her trip to India where it is considered rude to enter a house and not accept a cup of tea. Additionally, having recently started learning Russian, my teacher has told me how a Russian person will never speak across their doorframe, instead ushering their guest inside immediately. Whilst this is certainly due to the practical reason of avoiding lost heat in Russia's climate, it is also a demonstration of friendliness and generosity.

Whilst looking for ways to Interrail on a budget this summer holiday, my friends and I have explored the website '' which offers rent-free accommodation, staying with your host as you would with a friend. This site seems uncharacteristically welcoming and is therefore very appealing. Indeed, The Guardian has written an article about one man who offers his home both for free on '' and for a fee on 'AirBnb.' He explains that he would rather that his guests stayed via '' by describing how it is a demonstration of people 'putting themselves out there at the whim of human kindness in a way most of us stop doing as adults.'

The increasing trend of isolationism in the west, from shutting ourselves off from the European Union, to the USA shutting out immigrants, to shutting ourselves inside our own homes is lessening human interaction and consequently damaging human relations. It may be an ambitious assertion to make, but I believe that our closed doors are a large factor towards the recent, drastically divided, political opinions in Britain and America. Where interaction is absent, we grow more and more dissimilar in our views. Whether it be open borders or open doors, a welcoming policy is always the kindest. 

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