Students sometime find American’s personal space funny. They will keep getting closer and closer to the American while speaking with him and watch him keep backing away to create more space in between them.
But space issues also are evidenced in living quarters. Americans seem to need ever more space in their homes, while many Asian countries require much less in their living quarters.
Some people are more territorial and seem to mark out their space with boundaries. Territoriality may be manifest with issues of ownership. People with high territoriality also seem to be low context (see last week’s blog for more on context). Low territoriality people tend to share better and appear more generous. They may share their living quarters more easily and have less concern about ownership. Low territoriality people tend to be high context also.
Many of the students who come to the U.S. to study come from low territoriality cultures. We can help them understand why Americans seem to require so much more space and have such firm boundaries. It will help them adjust more quickly to living in this context.
Principles cited in this blog: We all have to learn sensitivity to other people’s cultural background, especially when it comes to the space factor in cultures.
Application for ISI ministry: One way we can help students is to help them see the need to understand the cultural context of others when it is very different from what one was raised with.
Next blog topic: Becoming Bi-cultural – the Good Parts
Doug Shaw with Derrah Jackson