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How can someone let their neighbour know that the adjoining properties are not as "soundproof" as they might suppose? This in context is about terraced housing (UK usage) or row housing (US usage). The issue is of some delicacy as it can be assumed that sound carries in both directions through these properties.

Should it be made as a general statement in which the risk is that they may think you are being self-concerned (selfish of your peace) and are complaining about random noise, or rather do you tell them that you are concerned to save them possible embarrassment, as the issue is that their nocturnal activities and/or rows (arguments) are not as private as they might think? Or would raising this cause the embarrassment you might like to save them, as the concern is more for their privacy?

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    Are you just trying to let them know or are you trying to get them to be quieter? – Catija Aug 2 '17 at 18:12
  • To let them know, it honestly is more about concern for them if they don't know. – r m Aug 2 '17 at 18:17
  • It might help to know if these are recent additions as neighbors or whether you know them at all. – Catija Aug 2 '17 at 22:13
  • Is there some person/organization who has authority over all the buildings (landlord, homeowners' association, etc.)? – HDE 226868 Aug 2 '17 at 22:37
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    xkcd.com/316 – not store bought dirt Aug 3 '17 at 21:48
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You have two primary options, I think.

Firstly, consider doing nothing. I think that this would be my preferred solution. If you're concerned about embarrassing them and you aren't trying to get them to quiet down, knowing that they're being overheard may only serve to make them feel inhibited... assuming they don't find it a turn on. In some cases, ignorance truly is bliss.

If you really feel you need to say something, there are a few ways to do it. If you know which apartment/house it is, write them a note and either post it or slip it into their mailbox or under the door. Part of the potential for embarrassment comes from an in-person chat about it. By doing it semi-anonymously you can save them from feeling like they need to apologize for their actions or explain. It also allows you to think ahead and write exactly what you want to say without worrying you're going to muck something up.

Phrase the note in a way that is merely a conveyance of information. You can always say you hear a TV rather than them, specifically.

Hi neighbor! I wanted to let you know that the walls in this building are pretty thin and we've been overhearing things in our place. It's not really bothering us/me but I thought you would like to know.

If you'd rather do it in person, you can always phrase it in a way that's inviting them to let you know if you're being too loud. Perhaps warning them about an upcoming party or construction work.

I think the walls here aren't properly insulated so please let me know if we're being too loud.

If they ask you if you're hearing anything from their side you can just say something like "Occasionally but it's nothing that is bothering me".

The problem here is that either they're turned on by or ambivalent to being overheard or they are going to be embarrassed... if you don't know them very well, it will be difficult to absolutely prevent embarrassment.

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One option is to knock on their door and ask them if you could do a 'sound check' for your stereo; you'd like to know how loud you can turn your stereo up for your favorite music before they a) hear it and b) it starts bothering them. You could then run the sound check, thank them, and casually mention how loud it was relative to what you were expecting.

This would get them thinking about volume and sound transmission between the properties without bringing up their own sound generation as the topic of discussion.

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I had a humorously similar issue in my first apartment...

After a rather... um... vigorous encounter with my girlfriend at the time, we joked about disturbing the neighbors. We went on to remark that we never heard their encounters even though we could hear every footstep/faucet from the apartment above... And then it became apparent that they had not only heard our "encounter", but also the jokes. Almost immediately it sounded like they were rearranging furniture up there... We responded with a round of applause and a good laugh.

While I'm sure that some people enjoy being heard, because everything is a thing these days, others will probably be uncomfortable about it.

I've handled this issue with neighbors in the past by introducing myself when moving into a new place, or when new neighbors move in next door.

Hey, welcome to the building, I'm SoAndSo. The walls are a little thin here (or are the walls thin here?), if I'm ever being a little too loud, just give the wall a knock and I'll turn it down.

This warns them about the situation and gives a way to approach the situation latter. When they're being loud a simple rap on the wall signals that they can be heard without having a potentially embarrassing face to face conversation. Often this won't even become an issue once they're aware of it.

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