One of the things that I am most looking forward to with being back in Canada is the return of personal space boundaries. Or at least ones that are marginally more like I am use to!
Although I absolutely love living in Africa, one of the things that has been the most challenging for me is the incredible lack of personal space. For a vast country and continent which has ample space for all, the notion of personal space is almost nonexistent. While I am incredibly lucky living at Peter’s Place where I have all of the privacy and space that I could want, as soon as I step outside of the gates it all evaporates.
The moment you crawl inside a combi or bus, enter a store, walk in public or god forbid enter a public restroom the facade of personal space disappears completely. There is no possible way to describe just how little regard there is for anyone’s personal space, not just foreigners. In a combi or bus you are literally crawling over the top of others or vice versa. When trying to steady yourself you will grab a hold of what ever you can and should it happen to be a body part, no big deal.
Then there is the actual groping that takes place. I am now refusing to travel on buses because I am simply tired of having body parts groped that I didn’t even know that I had! The first time you could laugh off, the second and beyond it just isn’t funny anymore.
Shopping takes it to a whole new level and it is just isn’t other shoppers blocking aisles or cutting into line ups but the employees are equally guilty. They completely block aisles with their bodies, merchandise and other various sundries. Sometimes you have no choice but to simply turn around and go a long way around. Saying excuse me politely just falls on deaf ears. In fact, you quickly learn to not even bother.
And don’t make me even talk about using public restrooms again. I am sure that I have talked about that enough in this blog. Doors open and full on conversation, need I say more? Thought not 🙂
All of my life I have valued my personal space and I didn’t realize just how much until living here in Africa. Although I have also learned that I have much more open boundaries than I ever considered possible. It is all part of living somewhere new and challenging. When being immersed in a totally new and different culture, you learn what you can live with and what you can’t. I feel like my personal adapting skills have definitely improved in my year in Botswana.
I discover this interesting article the other day on the CBC website http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/08/28/bc-personal-space-closeness.html It certainly made me feel better that I had even been grappling with this cultural adaptation. It seems that I am pretty normal after all.
Tell me, what are your personal space boundaries? Could you live in Africa?