Have you ever encountered someone who just stood that little bit too close to you during a conversation? You may try to subtly retreat, but they keep up with you. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You keep looking for a way out. You feel awkward and uncomfortable…you may even be cringing as you read this!
The concept of personal space is different between cultures – how much physical distance between people having a conversation is comfortable?
|Image Source: Unsplash, Alexis Brown|
As an Australian, the personal space I feel comfortable with is bigger compared to that of a Greek person, but closer compared to Saudi Arabia. To see a comprehensive comparison of more countries, you can read this article published by the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.
This cultural factor is definitely something you should research when travelling to a new country. This is important no matter what the purpose of your trip – visiting friends, family, or business. Adjusting your personal space to match what people feel comfortable with in the new country will help you form better connections, as it will avoid them having that awkward feeling described above.
It’s important to note there are also other factors that can influence how much space a person prefers, for example:
- Gender – if the interaction is between people of opposite genders, then more space can be more socially acceptable in many cultures
- Status – if someone is wealthy or famous, they might be used to more space (hello bodyguards)
- Age – children are happy to get in each others’ faces, whereas adults tend to not.