Sunday, June 23, 2013

Can I Get A Little Breathing Room Please ?

In this big ol' world, there are definitely some cultural differences that create amusing or uncomfortable situations when people from different cultures interact.  The customs around how much personal space is appropriate have been on my mind a lot lately, if only to provide some context where I can try to be a little more accomodating of certain people I work with.

I have one co-worker, whose earlier life experience included many years in Europe, where the personal space is generally much closer.  She is a nice enough person, but often times I find myself pulling away or stepping back from her as we chat about various things.  You see, I prefer my 3-4 feet of personal space.  This is very American of me, but unless I am out of the country, I feel it is appropriate to expect this space to be respected.

So who should have to adjust?

Is it fair to base it on the popular "when in Rome, do as the Romans" adage?  If so, how do you communicate this to unintentionally offending parties without turning it into an international incident?  Should I just get over it and chalk it up to new experiences?  Or am I turning a blind eye when I could be helping this associate correct something that may be bothering others as well?

Song Of The Day:
"Don't Stand So Close To Me" by the Police is a perfect song for this post, but not because of the lyrics ... just the title of the song.  The flip side is that in other cultures where personal space should be closer and more intimate, we as Americans should acquiesce to their customs and lean in more when speaking.  I believe it is only fair to ask others to change if we are willing to change ourselves.


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