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The joys of compound living

I mentioned to someone the other day that we live on a compound. The person laughed and said it sounded like Tenko, but nothing could be further from the truth. Compound living, in my opinion, makes life so much easier. The best thing is that there is the compound office to cater for our (almost) every need.

All our utilities are handled by the office and we get one bill per month to cover gas bottles, water, drinking water, electricity, satellite TV, internet and phone according to our usage. Naturally we decide what TV or internet package we want but after that, it all goes through the office. What a hassle it would be to arrange monthly payments of all these things ourselves. It’s so much easier to stroll to the office once a month to hand over the cash and know it’s all been taken care of for us.

If we have any problems, such as the internet service provider playing silly buggers (again) about billing, it’s the lady in the office who gets on the phone and tears a strip off them. If there’s no city water (again) the office will send a water tanker to our house. So, as you can see, all our utilities are taken care of.

What about services and amenities? That’s simple too. Once a year we pay a service charge and this covers the care and maintenance of the compound. For this we get 24-hour security, gardening of communal areas, regular street sweeping, regular rubbish collection, and the use of a communal swimming pool. There are only 50 houses in this compound and the lovely full-sized pool is usually deserted – except during the school holidays.

Most of the houses are owned and rented out by the compound owners, so they keep a team of handymen and cleaning ladies on site. (Yes, I know it’s sexist, but that’s how it is.) They are more than happy to do work for householders whose houses, like ours, aren’t owned by the compound. We have our own cleaning person from outside the compound, but if the need arises we can use the cleaners from the office on an ad hoc basis.

It’s the same with the workmen. Need a leak fixing, need something ripping out, some heavy gardening work? Just tell the office and they’re on it straight away.

Once in our old house (this is our third house on this compound!) Dave accidentally locked us into the bedroom. The lock mechanism had broken and we were trapped inside. (It was one of the “push the button on the handle to lock it” type of thing.)  After trying unsuccessfully for some time to free ourselves, we eventually resorted to yelling out the window for help. A passing cleaning lady alerted the office and a handyman was dispatched to rescue us.  He climbed onto the roof and in through the bedroom window to assess the situation. Then Mr Milk Tray went out as he had come in, went and fetched some tools and returned to fix the problem. I can’t imagine how long we might have been trapped if we’d not been living on a compound such as this one.

Once we went away for six months leaving our house unoccupied. The only thing that was missing on our return was one shoe of a pair that had been left outside. Given that we never saw any one-legged men in the area, we suspected that the puppy next door had stolen it.

I guess to some extent we are institutionalised. I don’t mind. In the past we have been perfectly capable of managing to pay our monthly bills to Tom, Dick and Harriet. We can also find handymen for ourselves if necessary. But why bother when it’s so easy to have it done for us? Don’t pity us – if you don’t have it so easy, then envy us instead!

Are there any disadvantages?  Well, everyone knows your business but that’s inevitable in a small community and we have nothing to hide.  It can also be a big advantage that people know you – they look out for you and cover your back.

There is also the debate that gated communities – which is, I suppose, what our compound is –  adversely affect social cohesion.  Perhaps that’s a good subject for a future newsletter.

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PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

2 Comments

Mike K-H 25-11-2010, 11:50

South Africa is ful of gated communities – for security reasons – and there are plenty of ‘domaines’ in France. I haven’t seen any sign of them having an adverse effect on social cohesion. If anything, I’d have thought it would improve it. Most people who live in gated communities do go outside their gates – those who don’t would be recluses if thye lived ‘in the open’, anyway.

Sounds like social engineer talk to me.

Mike K-H 25-11-2010, 11:52

PS, sorry about the typos. I’ll have to slow down (:+<

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