Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tip of the Day: Some Thoughts on Personal Space Abroad

Regardless of what country you were born and raised in, "personal space," often defined as "the distance between two people when they are conversing and engaged in dialogue" varies dramatically.

Unfortunately, I know of no book in print that delineates by country the distance that two people from the same culture are comfortable in. 

Come to think of it, that's a great idea for a book, unless one of our readers knows of a good written source on this subject. If you have such a source, please send me the citation to:

As most of us know, people from around the globe all have different distances with which they are comfortable in terms of conversing with others.

Having been born in the US, the comfortable "personal space" at home seems to be two to three feet, although thankfully, a small percentage of controlling and authoritarian Americans have been known to create a personal space of as much as 15-25 feet, which is hardly comfortable for me.

Having spent a good part of my career in Latin America, I soon realized that Latins prefer a much closer distance to those that they're conversing with, such as one to two feet, which I've easily adapted to, knowing that when you're in a country with much closer personal space, you basically just have to "suck it up" and adapt, rather than being perceived as unapproachable.

"Personal space" globally does differ depending on the culture, but generally the rule of thumb is: If you're a guest in another person's country, adapt to whatever their comfortable personal space is, knowing that by adapting you'll win a friend over and have a reputation as being flexible and understanding, no matter what culture you're in.