The character of the interpersonal space use depends on the cultural conventions to a large extent, and the forms of proxemics thus are different in the distinct societies. In this paper, I would like to analyze the issue of the interpersonal space use from the perspective of my culture. Being a person with the Hispanic cultural background, I recognize that I prefer to keep the interpersonal distance short.
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It is also common for the people with the Hispanic cultural heritage to touch their interlocutors even when not being close to them personally. In many of the other cultures, the perceptions of the interpersonal space may be slightly or completely different. Therefore, in the international community, one needs to pay attention to the ethnic and cultural aspects that affect the human behavior. The consideration of the cultural proxemics and haptics in social interactions helps to build the sound manner of communication and to avoid the conflicts and misunderstanding.
For me, it is habitual to touch and be physically close to the people while interacting with them. It is especially hard to control when I believe that I’m in a sort of relationship with a person. But through the personal experience, I came to the understanding that the others may have the perception of the interpersonal distance that is different from mine. There once was an incident when I jokingly slapped my friend, but it wasn’t accepted well by her – she gave me the meanest look I have ever seen.
In this case, the distinctions in the customs and the cultural space regulations became evident. From my perspective, it is normal to touch my friends and cousins and even give them the friendly slaps while greeting or saying goodbye. When I do so, I mean no disrespect. On the contrary, it may be regarded as the expression of affection towards another person.
While growing up, the children adopt the behavioral norms and capacities grounded in a set of the values accepted by the members of their communities. The norms of behavior are established according to the particular socialization goals that are dependent on the culture as well. In the Hispanic world, the values of the family bonds and collective well-being are still strong comparing to the American and other Western cultures, and these values are inevitably reflected in the manners of both verbal and non-verbal behavior.
In this way, while interacting with my family or friends, I would demonstrate my compassion, care, and interest by touching and staying close. There was a case described in the class about a Puerto Rican teacher who touched the student’s hair while talking to her. The teacher’s behavior invoked confusion and was completely misunderstood. I find it hilarious because this is a clear and bright example of the distinctions in the cultural non-verbal behavior norms.
In the Hispanic culture, the reduction of the interpersonal space reflects the intimate and personal type of communication. Thus, when my favorite cousin comes over she sits right beside me ignoring that there are three other couches. However, I understand that in the similar situation friends and family members from the other cultures may try to give each other as much space as possible and may perceive a long distance as a norm.
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It is extremely exciting to observe how the cultural differences affect the human behavior. The cultural distinctions find their reflections in the interpersonal communication to a large extent. In my opinion, the comprehension of the various perspectives on the interpersonal space and touch can be usefully applied in the socialization processes. By paying respect to the differences, we obtain the opportunity to improve the relationships and make the communication more successful and positive.