Private Property and Personal Rights

        Many of our international friends who come to Pella, or any other area in the United States, tell us that they hesitate1 to walk through areas between houses because they believe that property owners2 will “shoot them”3 or at least object to their walking across private lawns and between houses.  Actually, this is a rather unfortunate4 misconception5, and it is another good example of cross-cultural misunderstanding6.

        In the U.S., homes are built on land which is privately owned, but unless a property is fenced off7, such as a garden, or signs are posted8 saying “No Trespassing9,” or “No Hunting10,” etc. any person has a right11 to walk on private property12 between houses, small stores, etc.  In fact, residential building permits13 require that there be at least 15 feet [about 5 meters] between any buildings, stores, etc. except for commercial areas14 where stores and apartments may have adjoining15 walls or smaller spaces.  This is done to permit access to fire engines16, water, electricity and gas meters17, delivery of packages, etc.

        We expect18 to see people walking through our side and back yards if it is the most direct pathway to a destination19.  The same is true for bicycles, though it is expected that automobiles do not use this as an alternative20 to paved streets or roads21.

        It is also true that in most cases, free access22 to public beaches, recreational areas, parks etc. must be provided23 to people walking or even driving to them.  Beachfront24 hotels are required by law25 to provide access to the ocean and lakeside beaches, even if it means that people might have to walk through the hotel lobby26 to reach the beach area.

        It is neither appropriate27 nor lawful28 for persons walking through private yards to damage gardens or fences, litter29 private property, or mistreat30 pets in private yards, etc.

        We tell our friends to come in through the backyard31 of our home, and that is true with most property owners.  If a property owner wishes to exclude32 walkers from their property, they are permitted to have fencedyards33, but they must still leave access to emergency vehicles34, water hydrants35, etc.

        Of course, when walking through private lawns36, driveways37, etc. a person is not free to examine buildings, yard ornaments38, or to look into windows of adjacent39 homes.  These violate40 the principle of free access through private property, and are considered both illegal and unacceptable41 behavior.

        We recognize that these laws and practices regarding access through private property are not the same in all countries; that some private homes are built on land with long term leases42, and are not therefore appropriate for private walkers, etc.  “When in Rome, do as the Romans do43.” 

        Pella and other U.S. towns and cities are not “Rome,” but one should feel free to take the most direct path while walking without fear of being injured, scolded44 or shot by doing this.



1. hesitate: wait before doing something; not immediate (犹豫,踌躇).

2. property owners: 房地产的主人

3. shoot them”:向他们开枪

4. unfortunate: lacking good luck (很不幸).

5. misconception: wrong idea about something, not a fact, misunderstanding (误解,错误看法).

6. cross cultural misunderstanding: not knowing something because it is different in one culture or society from another (不同文化引起的误解).

7. fenced off: closing ones property from people by putting up a wire, wooden or stone wall (用栅栏隔开).

8. signs are posted: signs are put in a given place, usually where something will be easily seen (设置、安放标牌).

9. No Trespassing: a common way of warning people not to come onto the property ( 不准擅自进入).  Once such a sign is seen, people will know that they definitely are not welcome there. 

10. No Hunting: a sign warning people that they definitely are not welcome to hunt on that property (禁止打猎). 

11. right: something to which someone has a just claim; the power or privilege to which a person is justly entitled (权利).

12. property: something owned by a person or business, specifically a piece of real estate (财产,特别是不动产).  The owner of private property has the right to possess, enjoy or dispose of it, but most of the time does not try to keep others away from it.  

13. permits: written permissions granted by someone having the authority to do so (许可证).  In most cities and towns a person wishing to build a house or other building must apply for and receive a permit from the city government in order to do so.

14. commercial areas: places where business takes place (商业区).  Many buildings are designed as commercial buildings and need special requirements.

15. adjoining: directly connected to one another; touching at a point or line.; adjacent (相连的,毗连的).

16. fire engines: 消防车

17. water, electricity and gas meters: devices for measuring the volume of water, electricity and gas used over a period of time (水,电,煤气表).

18. expect: suppose or think something will happen (期盼).

19. destination: the place to which one is going; point of the end of a travel or journey (目的地).

20. alternative: 可供选择的通道

21. The same is true for bicycles, though it is expected that automobiles do not use this as an alternative to paved streets or roads: 对自行车也一样,尽管不希望汽车利用这里作为替代街道或马路的一种通道。

22. access: permission, liberty or ability to enter, or approach (进入、接近……的权利).

23. must be provided: always available; must be supplied (必须提供).

24. beachfront: a strip of land next to a large body of water (海滩地区).

25. by law: according to legal documents; may not be denied (按法律规定,根据法律).

26. hotel lobby: the main floor of a hotel where business transactions occur; public area of a hotel (旅馆大堂).

27. appropriate: suitable or according to expectations (合适的,恰当的). 

28. lawful: required by law (合法的)

29. litter: discard unwanted trash such as paper, wrappers, fruit peels, etc. (乱扔废物)

30. mistreat:  treat badly or tease; injure (虐待).

31. backyard: a grassy yard behind a house (后院)

32. wishes to exclude walkers from their property: 希望行人不要进入他们的土地

33. fenced yards: yards which are surrounded by wooden, wire or stone walls (围上栅栏的院子).

34. emergency vehicles: cars used for police, fire or medical reasons (紧急车辆,如警车、救火车、救护车). Often they are provided with sirens or loud horns

35. water hydrants: 消防龙头

36. lawns:草坪

37. driveways: paved areas leading from the street into the homeowners garage (私人车道).

38. yard ornaments: 院子里的点缀物

39. adjacent: nearby or next to (相邻的).

40. violate: break the law, disobey some rule or standard or conduct (违背).

41. unacceptable: 不能接受的

42. leases: legal contracts giving a person or group a right to use a piece of property, a house, car, or other item.

43. When in Rome do as the Romans do.: 入乡随俗

44. scolded: 挨骂

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