One night, my dad ate dinner at a small diner that had the counter seats to eat at. He sat at an end seat and was the only one at the counter, so there were about ten other counter seats open he said. Then, an old woman came in the diner and sat in the counter seat right next to my dad.
Personal space is viewed differently from each culture. While personal space is valued in the United States, in other cultures there is more focus on the community. This is an important element of interpersoal communication because understanding space of another culture can tell an outsider how much status that person has and how much interaction they wish to have (Wood, 2007 p.135).
The term ‘proxemics’ refers to the study of spatial dimension of nonverbal behavior (Prabhu 2010). Proxemics is how people use and understand personal space. While interacting with a boyfriend or girlfriendit is normal to be less than a foot away from them and to be touching (Sheppard, 1996). However, while interacting with a classmate they might become uncomfortable if you are less than a foot away from them. Personal space also varies among nationatlity. Personal-casual space in North America is 18 inches; Western Europe is 14-16 inches; Japan is 36 inches; Middle East is 8-12 inches (Proxemic Communication). My dad always goes to this little diner when he comes home from work late and he usually sits in the last seat away from people. He works around people all day and just wants a little time to himself. Then, out of no where this woman just comes in and invades his personal space by sitting directly next to him. In my dad’s opinion the women was being rude by not giving him space and she did not even ask if the seat was already taken. She had no value over her’s or other’s personal space. However,in her culture it might be rude to sit far away from someone.
Proxemics can broaden the understanding that people have of personal space. For college students who are thinking about studying abroad they have to think about the way those cultures view their personal space. Are they the type of culture who will shake your hand upon first meeting you, hug you, or give you kisses on the cheek? It is important to have this understanding so one does not come off as being desrespectful to another’s culture.
Prabhu, T. T. (2010). Proxemics: Some Challenges and Strategies in Nonverbal Communication. IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 4(3), 7-14. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.Prabhu, T. T. (2010). Proxemics: Some Challenges and Strategies in Nonverbal Communication. IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 4(3), 7-14. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Proxemic Communication. (n.d.). Changing minds and persuasion — How we change what others think, believe, feel and do. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from http://changingminds.org/explanations/behaviors/body_language/proxemics.htm
Sheppard, M. (July, 1996). Proxemics. UNM Computer Science. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from http://www.cs.unm.edu/~sheppard/proxemics.htm
Wood, JT. (2007). Interpersonal communication: everyday encounters. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.