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Culture —– Get a little closer!

by Brandi

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February 7th, 2011

This week we are going to talk about personal space. It may be something that you have not thought about very much, but after today, at least you will know it exists. I am not sure how it is in other parts of the world, (those of you from England, Australia, and so forth, can inform me) but in the U.S. when people talk to each other at social gatherings they probably stand anywhere from three to four feet apart.

In Latin America this can be very different. People for the most part stand closer together when they talk to each other. This is true for both sexes, and the fact that they do this has no hidden or implied meaning at all. They just simply stand closer together when they talk.

This took a little getting used to when I first went to Latin America. The first time it happened, I was standing by someone having a conversation with them and they stood very close to me. I felt just a bit uncomfortable like they were invading my personal space. I took a step backwards and after a few seconds, they unconsciously took a few step towards me, after a minute or so of discomfort, I again casually took a step backwards, and they took another step towards me. I thought the person was either trying to send me a subtle message or was just a bit different. I did not realize that “personal space” was a cultural thing.

The first month or two that I lived in Latin America, the fact that people would stand so close to me when they talked to me initially drove me crazy, but then I gradually got used to it. Now, the personal space issue does not bother me at all because I am accustomed to it.

I wanted you to know this exists so if you travel to Latin America, for business or pleasure, and the person you are speaking with stands closer to you than normal, you will realize that they aren’t trying to send you any subtle messages, they simply stand closer together when they talk.

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