Sunday, 15 July 2012

Culturally Cultured

                                     The Personal Bubble

Anglo-Saxons (and perhaps other cultures I am unaware of) have this thing called "The Personal Bubble". If you've ever lived in the UK and/or North America you have probably heard of this. You might even be rolling your eyes and thinking "Duh! Who hasn't?"

Brazilians, that's who. 

Well, I think it's safe to say that to Latinos in general this is about one of the strangest, most alien concepts ever. We're a very touchy, grabby kind of people. We hug, kiss, lean on each other, and unceremoniously sit on friend's laps if there's a lack of space in an almost subconscious level, because to us this is no big deal. 

Eleven years after moving to Canada and my mom still has to constantly remind herself not to touch someone's shoulder when apologizing for running into them.

We most certainly never say "excuse my reach". Why would you, if there's no "personal bubble" to infringe the boundary of?

If you see someone leaning on a person of the opposite sex it doesn't necessarily have a sexual connotation. If you're tired and there's a friend handy to rest your head on their shoulder then why not? (Of course, this has a bit of a double standard - girls leaning on boys is normal, girls leaning on girls is normal, and a guy leaning on a guy can get you weird looks. Sorry, boys). Don't get surprised if people brush by you without instantly apologizing or stick out their arm right in front of your face to grab something without so much as a "by your leave".

Brazilians have no qualms about standing within what would be considered a "personal bubble", especially in more crowded situations. Which isn't to say you shouldn't tell off a stranger for feeling you up or standing too close. Just be aware that the more acquainted you are with someone the less they will think of staying out of what you might consider to be "personal space".

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