Personal Space: One of our Cultural Differences

The notion of personal space is very different among Brazilians and Americans. In Brazil, people tend to stand closer together in all sorts of social situations. And there is a lot more touching during conversations.


The Brazilian sense of personal space can be a little shocking to Americans at first. You will notice what I mean as soon as your plane lands in Brazil. All the Brazilians will jump up from their seats and scramble to get their bags on the overhead bins. This indludes extending their arms in front of you, bending over you if you are still seated, and even squeezing by behind you to go where they want to go.


You will also notice that no one says “Excuse me” when they walk close by you. They are not being rude. It is just that Brazilians do not feel the need to apologize for passing too close to you, unless they bump into you, when it would be expected that the person apologize.


One example: Say you are in a bookstore, standing by the books reading something, and someone passes by right behind you. During my first visit to the U.S. I did just that: I walked by someone who was standing checking out the books. No biggy, I did not even touch the person. Well, this person emmited an annoyed ” Excuse me” that very much surprised me. Maybe I walked too close to the person. The fact is that in Brazil I would not worry about it, unless, as I said earlier, I bump into the person.



Ah, and the joy of going to concerts in the U.S. It is so much easier to get close to the stage and actually be able to remain there. Even comfortably! Forget about it in Brazil. If you go to a rock concert and decide to get close to the stage, brace yourselve, you will be joyfully squeezed.


I suggest that you do not let these little things bother you. Live the differences with an open mind and a warm heart, and enjoy your trip to the fullest :) 


Boa viagem!


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Picture thanks to Seier+Seier+Seier on Flicker´s Creative Commons


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