Indians are said to have a different concept of personal space when travelling by public transport – only because of the sheer size of our population. However, when it comes to interacting with people on a one-to-one basis, we’re pretty ‘normal’ and expect people to respect our personal space. As you are aware the concept of personal space differs from culture to culture, so I’m not sure whether our elevator etiquette quite matches international standards!
Personal Space Invaders
This post is really not about proxemics, although I could rant about mobile phone users invading our personal space. No, I’d rather talk about personal space invaders of another kind. In India, it’s perfectly normal for us to borrow newspapers and magazines from our fellow passengers in public transport. But what surprises visitors to India is how most people don’t think twice before asking you questions about your marital status, your progeny, your career and yes, even how much you earn! Perfect strangers would be offended if you didn’t answer these questions. The other day, Jose was travelling by auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) in Mumbai, and the driver began to ask him about his job. Rather than explain too much Jose told him he was retired. The man then wanted to know how long ago, and made a quick calculation and presumed to tell Jose that he looked very good for his age, which he probably put at over seventy!
But this post is not even about inquisitive strangers! Personal space invaders of the kind I’m talking about, in India at least, go by the code name of ‘well-wishers’. They can be members of your family, your friends, acquaintances, or someone providing you a service.
How do they invade your personal space?
How do they invade your personal space? By offering you unsolicited advice about how to live your life! Since I haven’t led a very ‘normal’ life by Indian standards, I’ve had plenty of well-wishers telling me what I should do. When I quit what was thought to be a very secure job, I was given loads of advice about how stupid I was being. A nun told me that now that I had no job and was past marriageable age (early thirties!), I should consider joining the convent for a ‘secure future’! When I did decide to get married, in my early forties, a well-wisher inquired if had checked out Jose’s background to see if he was marrying me to take care of him in his ‘old age’. Another,
nosy parker well-wisher, wondered why we were getting married when we clearly couldn’t have children!! Yes, I’m laughing as I share all this, but it certainly was not funny at the time!
I’ve learned to cut these people off with smart answers, just ignore them, or laugh in their face! For my part, I’m also learning to hold my counsel and not dish out advice.
“Most people need love and acceptance a lot more than they need advice”. – Bob Goff
How do you deal with personal space invaders?