Weekly Vexation: Personal Space

Morgan Felt, Blogger

One of the most prevalent social norms is the idea of personal space. From being surrounded by strangers on an airplane to chatting with your friends during lunch, people respect other’s personal bubbles, or at least, they should.

I personally hate when people fail to recognize my personal space, but I’m not alone. Many others also see the social implication of not respecting someone’s personal space.

“Polish culture not like in many other cultures there is a large emphasis on privacy,” Polish student Paula Tomascek (’17) said. “Most family matters are private and the greeting for even the closest family matters is usually a handshake and occasionally a hug.”

The typical size of someone’s “personal bubble” varies from culture to culture. In the US and many European countries, the bubble is typically bigger than those countries that are more populated, such as India and other Asian countries.

This also occurs in Hispanic culture, where the common greeting is a kiss on the cheek or even mouth. To foreigners used to minimal displays of PDA when greeting one another, this can be disconcerting.

“There is a lot of trust amongst the Cuban and Puerto Rican people, people are more touchy there and the typical greeting is a kiss on the cheek,” Ashley Roldan (’17) said. “There is also a lot less privacy, it’s the norm for you to be able to just walk into a friend’s house unannounced.”

These various cultural ideas of personal space can be seen with the various cultures at Robinson. I myself have many different friends of many different ethnicities, all of which have different needs for personal space.

Overall, the different cultural implications of “personal space” are something that represent specific cultural values. It’s important to be aware of these values, because without knowledge of them one may seem disrespectful or make others uncomfortable.