There’s Always Room For One More

We have a large couch in our living room with plump pillows. This couch can fit two Americans, three if we really have no where else for them to sit, no matter how thin they are. But if people from other countries come – say five or six Pakistanis; or five or six Chinese friends; or four or five Middle Eastern friends; the couch somehow expands and fits all of them. It’s all about personal space.

Cultural views of space fascinate me. I work with people from many cultural backgrounds and find that these concepts are strong and often subconscious. When I see my friend from Peru he gives me a huge hug, kisses me on both cheeks and stands only inches from my nose. That’s how he communicates – he is comfortable and familiar with close personal space. By contrast I recently went up to someone from India and was about to hug her when she put out her hand and said “We don’t hug!”. It was clear and it was final.

Americans like their personal space. We move babies into rooms of their own often within minutes of birth, fearful that they will be too dependent. We cry out for the need of space and “alone time”. Something inconceivable to much of the world.

That is why I love this picture – it is a classic picture that represents a different view of personal space than many in the west have seen, experienced or understood. If this bus could talk I have no doubt it would say “There’s always room for one more!” And I know the driver and passengers would agree.

Blogger’s Note: Soon after publishing this a reader posted this to the Facebook page – it’s too good not to share more widely!