In the classic American Dream, no home is complete without a picket white fence. I can picture it now: the pointed, white slats, a small gate that swings open with the simple lift of a latch, a dog and 2.3 kids playing within its confines. This quaint little symbols serves not to protect your house, but to make it more adorable. Here in France, fencing in one's home takes on a whole different meaning. Fences are not an ideal, they are the norm, and they have nothing in common with their American cousin. French fences are not intended for decoration, or as a status symbol. They exist for one reason, pure and simple: privacy.
The French fence in their homes with such regularity that I don't believe I've ever seen a house that didn't have one. Often made of iron, too tall to climb over, and always locked with a key, they command a formidable position in the neighborhood. As an American who used to run freely through the yards of friendly neighbors when she was a kid, walking along sidewalks while looking at stone walls and iron gates instead of green lawns is a big change. It's like taking a stroll past the locked-down and mysterious Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory every single day. I can even hear that creepy guy whispering his creepy words, "nobody ever goes in, and nobody ever comes out!"
Of course, unlike those foreboding words, fenced-in French neighborhoods themselves don't feel creepy in the least. On the contrary, they are often quite adorable in their own slightly unaccessible kind of way, with rosebushes peeking out over the gates and garden-fresh scents wafting through the streets. The French are famously protective of their private lives, so it seems only fitting that they would barricade their private residences against the outside world. And while I miss the wide open spaces-ness of most American communities, I've gotten used to the neatly sectioned-off French ones. No use trying to see what's behind those walls; it's none of your business, anyways.