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Physical Closeness 2008/3/22 18:25
United States
I've heard that North American people tend to be physically closer each other when talking than Japanese do.

Given that, I'm wondering whether it is not unusual that a North American guy comes up and sits very close to a woman just to chat for while even if he does not have much interest in her when they first meet.

What do you think?
Thanks for your reply.

by Wondering Japanese  

personal space 2008/3/23 08:26
I've noticed that in the US people tend to keep a much greater distance between themselves and others, vs other countries I've been to(to the point where it's caused confusion for me at times as a tourist). In the US (& a lot of European countires, but I can't speak for all of them) the "rule of thumb" is usually: the closer you are to the person emotionally, the closer you stand/sit to them physically. I'm not going to sit knee-to-knee with a coworker, but a long time friend or family? Sure.

If a guy came up to me and chose to sit closer to me than he had to (based on available space), I would think he was intrested in me... in any country.
by Pixie rate this post as useful

personal space 2008/3/23 08:35
I agree with Pixie- it is well documented that people from Western countries actually have a wider "personal space" around them than people from many Asian countries, generally speaking. It depends on the individual as well of course.

I believe that people from Western countries are more likely to touch each other when speaking- on the hand or arm for example, but this also depends on the individual- no-one in my family has the habit of touching the person they are talking to while speaking to them, so it's not a habit I ever developed either.


by Sira rate this post as useful

physical closeness 2008/3/23 16:02
As a European living in North America I have found that North Americans (born and raised there) stay farther away from one another than Europeans. Many North American males are afraid to give a lot of friendly hugs etc. to another male (sports players excepted). I was especially surprised to see young French-Canadians men (18-25) shake hands with their father! (then tell me that it was the French way!) In fact in France as in many other Euro countries males hug and kiss their male friends and relatives a lot. Often it doesn't mean anything special, it is just the custom. In general people from both sexes stay closer to same sex or opposite sex people in Europe than in North America BUT (in Europe)they wouldn't never sit with knees or arms touching on a first meeting. The only time North American males are touchy feely is on public transit! far too many sit with legs wide open and rubbing against their neighbour leg and don't seem to care.
by Monkey see rate this post as useful

Confusing 2008/3/23 18:39
Thanks for answering everyone!

I know the theory that people from Western countries have a wider personal space around them than people from many Asian countries. On the other hand, however, I've read quite a few comments by Japanese people saying that they had an impression that people in/from the US or some European countries would like to be quite closer when they talk to someone than people in Japan would do. Though I've not been to the US (I don't know why this post is labeled "the United States",) from my experience of chatting with some American guys, I myself had the similar impression.
To be honest, I felt those guys to be a bit too friendly to sit so close to the woman they just met for the first time (though they didn't touch me) but thought it couldn't be helped if that closeness is their customary distance. So the contradiction between the "personal space" theory and the experieces of other Japanese people and my own confuses me.

As I've heard how closer the Chinese or the South Korean like to be each other when talking than the Japanese do, I assume that as for personal space in terms of comparison with the Western countries, Japan may belong to the minor countries in Asia that the theory cannot apply to. I understand that people from the West see each personal space of Japanese people as very, very closer considering such situations as jammed trains or streets in Tokyo, but actually, they cannot help but just stand the physically unavoidable situation or try to be unconscious of their personal space being invaded.

I've also read someone's study saying that personal distance among people in the Northern European countries is significantly wider than the counterpart in the US. So it is likely that personal space varies quite much from country to country even in Europe.
by Wondering Japanese rate this post as useful

Personal space. 2008/3/24 13:12
From what I remember from a psychology course, the comfortable level of personal space tends to be larger in Northern Europe than Mediterranean countries, and I thought the US and Japan were supposed to be about the same.

From personal experience, personal space is much smaller in the Mediterranean than the US, and Japan seems to be about the same as the US, since I haven't even really noticed. Though the level of personal space seems to be a little smaller in Japan in casual or friendlier settings.

by Inago rate this post as useful

Physical Closeness 2008/3/24 14:19
Monkey See, I'm not sure exactly which part of America you lived in but you are very wrong about hugging in America. I'm American and I always hug my friends. It's quite a big thing for friends and family to hug each other. Of course the level of affection is also based on the cultural background of the person. My grandparents were from Sicily so Italian culture is quite affectionate. I also hug my non-Italian friends as well. I have relatives in France and Italy. My French relatives have told me kissing on the cheek is done more in Italy than in France. I would agree about the personal space though. In North America if someone you don't know talks to you from a very close distance we don't like it at all and consider it an invasion of our space.
by frank65 rate this post as useful

. 2008/3/24 14:39
It depends largely on the person. I'd say that in general, Americans have a larger personal space than most Asian countries. People here say "excuse me" if they ALMOST come close enough to bump into each other.
by Jay rate this post as useful

hugs and kisses 2008/3/24 19:53
frank65, I based my experience on only 30 years of living in North America. Please kindly note that I wrote North America not America. As for France I lived there for many many years and go back over there nearly every year. Where I lived people did hug and kiss a lot. It is quite normal to shake hand then kiss one another 3 times.
by Monkey see rate this post as useful

I think that probably denotes interest. 2008/4/25 22:55
I don't know much about the rest of North America, but I'm from New York and it would make me very uncomfortable if a man that I didn't know very well sat close to me to chat. I would think he was either interested or that he had no respect for boundaries.

I do think there are large variations in personal space requirements between people from different backgrounds within the USA. My husband's family are Italian-Americans and they are much more affectionate than my family. It took me a while to get used to hugging and kissing everyone on the cheek and I still don't hug or kiss my brother-in-law.

I think the man in question was probably interested in you.
by Laura rate this post as useful

closeness 2008/4/26 05:11
Re-reading this post after a while it is obvious that we are all guilty of the same mistake. We try to find a "one size fits all" rule for each country or group of people but it just doesn't work. There is no typical Japanese or American or French or ..behaviour, only individual ones. This is especially true in countries where there is a big mix of native and immigrant cultures like the UK,France,Canada, the USA. On the other hand there are behaviours that are pretty much universal: if a man or a woman are interested in another person they will come closer to that person. But if one person isn't interested in another person or get bad vibes from that person, they will move away if possible. Often the coming close or moving away isn't even done consciously.
by Red Frog rate this post as useful

Sounds like person(guy) 2008/4/26 06:23
Sounds like the person in this case the guy who is American is interested in you or the others.

I didn't see if the others you mentioned are female or male but I would pretty much bet on the fact they (person/guys) are more interested in you and others then they say they are.

For me personal space is very important and I really don't like people to close to me unless they are very good friends, family and my ai.

Of course I think that no matter where you go there will people who will invade your personal space in some way or another and some do it intentionally and others not intentional. It's not exclusive to any one location.
by Hiro rate this post as useful

Thanks. 2008/4/26 20:36
Thanks for all input!

Now I understand that those North American guys I met were likely to be interested in me and be possibly making approaches to me. What made me think about possible difference in personal space between the cultures came from that many shy Japanese men would never come and sit so close to a woman on their first meeting even if he has much interest in her and that not every of those American guys tried to flirt with me nor asked where to reach me. I think a bold Japanese guy who dares to approach a girl so close would usually intend to flirt with her. Perhaps the guys might intend to do at first but eventually just lost interest in me after a little chat or noticed I was not so much interested in themc
by Wondering Japanese rate this post as useful

control 2008/4/27 03:50
I think people will go as close as you let them. Some cultures are more touchy than others and come closer, but if you stop them (verbally or non-verbally) you should be respected. They should not enter your hoop if you don't want them to.
by Lite rate this post as useful

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