We all have an invisible bubble around us we like to call our “personal space”. If someone hovers inside it for too long, you feel uncomfortable. But everyone’s bubble size is different from culture to culture. Here’s what those bubbles look like around the world.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, shows that culture plays a significant role when it comes to personal space. Using a graphic-based survey, researchers asked 9000 participants from 42 different countries how far strangers, acquaintances and close friends would need to stand from them in order to feel comfortable.
Countries that greatly value their personal space include Romania, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Uganda. Participants from all five of those places would prefer it if you stood more than 120cm away. But participants from Argentina, Peru, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Austria don’t mind if you chill about 90cm away. The US isn’t too far off from that, expecting strangers to keep a cool 95cm distance between them. Unfortunately Australia wasn’t included in the study.
That said, nobody likes any stranger standing 75cm or less away. So stop it. Unless you’re on a cramped train or something and can’t help it. It’s also important to note that women and elderly participants of all cultures required more space.
As expected, knowing somebody closes the gap for most cultures, especially if you know them pretty well. Norwegian participants, for example, get up close and personal with those they consider to be dear friends. Same goes for Germany and Romania. Saudi Arabian participants, on the other hand, said they like to keep their distance even with their best friends. The researchers suggest climate may have something to do with these differences. For instance, they found participants in colder countries were more than happy to cosy up with their close friends, maybe in an effort to keep warm.