Janna G. Noelle
I have a funny story about personal space: As many people know, the “personal bubble” in Asia is much smaller than in the West, most likely due to greater population density. During one of my past park jobs, one of my duties was to lead groups on educational nature walks. One group that came one time was an ESL school with children (probably about 10-years-old) from Korea. There was probably about 30 kids in total.
They were really into the hike, and every time I stopped to point out something, they would all crowd in close (in some cases, literally climbing over their crouched-down classmates) to see. Naturally, it was all a little too close for my North American standards. All day, I found myself constantly backing up and them constantly moving forward. I even asked them numerous times to stay put and give me a bit of room while backing up, but I think it was such a foreign concept to them, they just couldn’t comply.
This all came to a head near the end of the day when I was standing on a tent platform with about a 2-foot drop behind it. I started to tell them something, and as one, they surged in to better listen. So there I was, essentially at the edge of a cliff with 30 kids standing about 8 inches away from me. I raised my hands (they were squished against my body, for that’s all I had room for), and begged them to please give me space – that it makes North Americans nervous when you stand that close to them. Off to the side, the ESL teachers were all laughing. “We’ve tried to tell them,” one of them said. It actually was pretty funny, or at least it is now. I can only imagine the look on my face. I’m sure it would have made a hilarious photograph.
So, I’m feeling you in the don’t-crowd-me rant.
Incidentally, I do most of my grocery shopping at 8am in the morning, on my way to work. The stores are empty.