It’s Not Just You, British People Generally Have A Bit Of An Issue With Personal Space

What would you say is a socially acceptable distance to keep between you and a stranger?

British People Generally Have A Bit Of An Issue With Personal Space

by Jazmin Kopotsha |
Published on

I love a cuddle. I’m also a big fan of an affectionate hair stroke, neck rub or cheeky little back tickle when I’m hungover or otherwise feeling sorry for myself. But if you stand, yes, stand, too close to me I’ll probably freak out, hyperventilate and very unsubtly try to create distance between me and your unnecessarily proximate body.

Personal space is a huge issue. A huge exceedingly awkward issue. And anyone who’s felt nothing but rage whenever someone decides to take the seat next to you instead of the gazillions of empty ones elsewhere on the bus, you’ll understand just how much of an issue it is.

Some scientists decided to try and work out how different cultural factors affect our ideas of personal space and in doing so found that Brits prefer to keep a metre of distance between themselves and strangers, reports The Times. I can confirm, as a singular British person who quickly becomes overwhelmed with despair whenever someone invades my air space without prompt or invitation, that a metre sounds about right.

Almost 9000 people from 42 countries across the world were surveyed to find out how close they’d be okay with standing next to someone depending on their relationship. The British apparently like to keep 80cms away from acquaintances and about 50cm from the people we’re close to. So that’s about the height and a half of a bottle of wine of comfortable distance between you and your BFF. You know, unless you’re hugging or performing a secret handshake or something.

Published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, the research wanted to test a theory about how the temperature would affect tolerable conversation distance and it turned out that, even though they preferred to stand the furthest away from people they knew, on average those in warmer countries were okay with standing closer to strangers. Which, I'll be honest with you, makes me pretty sad because heat generally means sweat and I'd rather not be within inhalable distance of your moist brow, thanks. But to each their own.

In case you were wondering, Argentina came out as the most contact friendly country (they’re pretty chill and are okay with a mere 76cm between them and strangers). Interestingly though, according to the Washington Post the study also found that across most of the countries, women generally favoured keeping more of a distance from strangers than men did. I can't say that's particularly surprising, though.

What we can take from all of this is that don't worry, it's not just you being a bit weird about your overzealous colleague who likes to physically get all up in your grill every time they ask how your weekend was. The whole personal space concept is one that everyone is aware of in one of those unspoken and (for the most part) mutually understood things that makes the world go around. But also, for the record, if you're standing close enough for me to feel your unfamiliar breath prickle against my skin, that is not okay and please back the fuck away.

Like this? You might also be interested in…

How To Get Personal Space In An Open Plan Office Without Looking Like A Weirdo

How To Get Personal Space In Your Shared House

The Science Of Attraction

Follow Jazmin on Instagram @JazKopotsha

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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