Being a good neighbour has always been important to Andreea Neacsu. She grew up in a small town in Romania where the necessity of being considerate to whomever lives next door was drummed into her.
For the last year Ms Neacsu, 28, has lived in south-west London with her six-year-old daughter Maria and her partner Martin. Since she moved to Britain five years ago to work as a nanny, she has made a point of befriending her neighbours, an attitude that doesn’t quite fit with the disparaging insinuation made by Nigel Farage last week that Romanians are the last people one would hope to have living next door.
The Ukip leader has since tried to wriggle away from the comments that he would be “concerned” at having Romanian neighbours, instead criticising the country as a whole and quoting crime statistics about Romanians in Britain.
But Ms Neacsu is bemused by Mr Farage’s comments since she believes Romanian culture specifically encourages neighbourliness.
“For him to say that everyone in their right mind should be worrying about Romanians moving next door is terrible. I remember my parents teaching me to get along with our neighbours,” she said. “We were all Christian Orthodox and it was part of that teaching that it was very important. My parents became like family with their neighbours, that’s the tradition.
“I understand that there are some Romanians who do naughty things but it doesn’t mean that we’re all the same. It’s the same in every nation, we have good and bad people. It’s about the individual not the nation.”
Ms Neacsu’s family has a flat in a row of red brick houses in Twickenham. Marisol Kucharek, 49, who is British, and her partner Trudy live in the flat above them. Ms Kucharek’s father came to the UK as a refugee from Poland in the Second World War. “They’re great neighbours,” she said of Ms Neacsu’s family.
“The previous neighbours we had were also Romanians and they were fantastic too. They are often in the garden and their little girl chats to us over the fence.”
Ms Neacsu’s next door neighbour is a teacher called Kirsten, who has become a family friend. “We share a fence and we love to talk about our garden,” Ms Neacsu said. “We were invited over for Easter and gave each other chocolate eggs.”
Her story is echoed by the experiences of many Romanians living alongside Britons. Laura-Adelina Vaduvescu, 29, works as a librarian for the University of the Arts in London and moved to the UK seven years ago from south-west Romania. She has shared a flat in Ealing with British art technician Neil Shepherd, 43, for more than two years.
“I advertised for a flatmate and spoke to about four or five people but she was the one that was most pleasant,” Mr Shepherd recalled.
“It doesn’t matter where who you live next door to is from, it’s about what they’re like. I’ve lived next door to British people who have been difficult. Criminals are criminals, it doesn’t matter where they’re from. Nigel Farage goes on about Eastern European gangs but there are lots of British criminal gangs. Where are they going to send them back to?”
Ms Vaduvescu said: “Nigel Farage is trying to make a point but it doesn’t really stand up because he can’t back it up. These claims reinforce people’s beliefs that Romanians are just awful. There are so many misconceptions about Romania. I want Britons to know us better before they make judgements; we’re no different to any other nationality that comes here to work.”
Marie Parsons, 42, from Camberwell in south-east London met her best friend Anna-Maria through their work at Riverside, a recruitment, catering and minicab company run by a Romanian entrepreneur. Anna-Maria, 28, who also lives in south-east London, was so worried by anti-Romanian feeling that she did not want her surname in the paper.
She came to Britain five years ago and said: “I’m not really a political person but it’s just sad that he puts everyone in the same pot. It makes it more complicated for every one of us here in Britain.”
Ms Parsons said: “From the first day she came to the company we just clicked. She’s spent Christmas with us and her family have spent Christmas with us.
Romanian MEP Norica Nicolai sent an open letter to Mr Farage today, inviting him to come and visit Romania. “Face your fears, Mr Farage!” she said. “I can assure you that you will be happier for it.”