Should a neighbour pay back simple favours with money?


Should a neighbour pay back simple favours with money?

” Dear neighbour ,

Could you please do us a favour to take care of the plants and pot flowers on the corridor ? We go abroad from May 30 to June 20. The plants needs watering every morning. “

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My husband discovered the above note pasted on our door on May 30 morning. The note carried a polite request from our neighbour who lived just opposite to our flat in Singapore. It surely reflected a genuine connection that has developed somewhere between us and our neighbour. Moreover, it was our first casual interaction (so what if through a note) with a neighbour ever since we shifted to Singapore. Otherwise, there were only warm ‘Hi’s , ‘Hello’s ,’Good Morning’s  & ‘Good Evening’s.

Related : Singapore Diaries

Anyway,I was pleased to realise that our neighbour found us approachable enough to help her in need. But as we read the note further, it raised our eyebrows. It read :

Should a neighbour pay back simple favours with money?

” Thank you for your kindness. And I will pay $50 to you when coming back. Please use the blue watering can next door. Thank you so much. “

I don’t how you would react, but the idea of receiving $50 in return of a negligible favour to my neighbour made me feel uncomfortable at once. In fact, the thought of receiving any money in return of some help put us in an awkward position. Now, I hold high regards for my wonderful and ever-smiling neighbour. Still, you don’t encounter such offers everyday in return of your help to someone. The natural act of extending kindness to your neighbour sounds like a trade. That leaves me to wonder about certain things:

  1. Does me or my husband look like such type of people who are only interested in money ?
  2. What does a neighbour mean ?
  3. If I am in need of her help someday, then should I assure her about some financial/materialistic gratitude from my end in return ?
  4. Is it necessary to always evaluate the monetary value of priceless gestures in life ?
  5. Can we repay everything we get in life from someone with money ?

I agree that our neighbour didn’t know us enough. Probably, that was the reason behind this type of offer. Again the reason is not good enough. If you don’t know someone, then does it empower you to give such offer ?


Back in India, we can never think of paying or receiving money while giving or getting any help from our relative/friend/neighbour. It will be considered as an insult to the kindness offered. Kindness can be repaid only with kindness. A mere ‘ Thank You ‘ or a smile in return is sufficient to appreciate the kindness/help extended. Invitations for lunch, tea or dinner, helping in need can also be the alternate tokens of showing appreciation.

However, my neighbour thanked us for taking care of her plants once she was back from her holiday. She took out the promised $50 and gave us her best possible efforts to accept the money. Needless to say, we cordially accepted her  ‘ Thank You ‘ and tried to decline her $50 with even more politeness.

It took me and my husband almost 10-15 minutes to make our joint persuasion strategy come into effect and let her understand the whole situation. We assured her that we will never mind giving water to her plants again when she plans her holidays in future.Finally, she understood that it was not possible paying $50 to the adamant husband and wife. She left after saying ‘ Thank You ‘ and ‘ Sorry ‘ repeatedly.

Few days later :

I was about to leave for an evening walk. My neighbour came out of her flat and called me. When I approached her door, then she handed me a big box and said ‘ Thank You ‘ one more time topped with a familiar smile on her face. I couldn’t say anything but thank her in return this time.

I went to my room, opened the box and found this beautiful combination of chocolates and cakes :Should a neighbour pay back simple favours with money?

Hmm. I think accepting $50 at firsthand was a better idea. Then we could have avoided this ‘chocolaty’ crisis and the subsequent requirement to run/walk extra miles to burn the calories.

Jokes apart, I am glad the episode ended on a sweet note.

What do you think ? Should I have accepted her $50 ? What would you have done if you were in my place ? Let me know your opinion in ‘Love to read your thoughts ‘ section below.

11 thoughts on “Should a neighbour pay back simple favours with money?”

  1. What a wonderful little story! If I were you I would’ve done exactly the same as you too, I’d feel weird receiving money just for helping out a neighbour with such a simple task. Glad that it all ended well =)

  2. Hey Moumita,
    You did the perfect thing by declining the offer. In no way can kindness be reciprocated with cash.
    However the neighbor too can’t be blamed here. This happens when the bonding is superficial and too formal.

    1. I agree with you.We were not in much talking terms except occasional ‘Hi’s and ‘Hello’s. Still the approach of repaying help looked very awkward.
      Anyway. thanks for reading the post and commenting on it. It means a lot for a new blogger like me 🙂

  3. Interesting situation. I think it shows some big cultural differences. As an American, it does not seem strange to me that they would try to pay you money. But that is the culture here. That is expected. There are still some rural communities such as where I live now where we still repay favors with favors rather than money, but such a system is becoming increasingly rare throughout the world. I agree that declining the money was the right thing to do, although I can see from their viewpoint that they would feel guilty not giving you anything in return for the favor. Cultural differences.

    1. Thanks Alexi for sharing your opinion.I really didn’t know there are parts of the world where a favour is paid back with money. But as you said that this is the culture over there. Maybe, my neighbour too is accustomed to the very same culture. I don’t blame her.She is a nice lady. Actually, the whole concept of repaying favours with money is new to me.

      Thank you once again for enlightening me on this topic and appreciate your visit to my blog. Hope to receive your valuable feedback on my future posts 🙂

  4. Yes, I think you should have accepted the $50 — after telling her that it was not necessary and that you would only take it if it made her feel better. I have been on both ends of this scenario. I have gladly done similar chores for friends and did not expect anything. And I have been the friend asking neighbours to help us with certain things. they don’t like to take any monetary compensation. So we have reciprocated our appreciation in the form of a dinner out. A gift card to a restaurant is just as good as cash, and sometimes accepted more freely by certain individuals.

    1. Thanks Doreen for your feedback.I am not used to accepting money in return of favours.It was my first such experience.That’s why couldn’t accept the money.But anyway, it was a good learning experience for me.
      Thanks a lot for visiting my blog once again and sharing your experience with me 🙂

Love to read your thoughts