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Personal Space Invaders #FridayReflections

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

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!

personal space

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!

personal space

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?

I’m linking to Sanch and Write Tribe for #FridayReflections and #BlogShareLearn

21 Comments

  1. Anamika Agnihotri Anamika Agnihotri June 4, 2016

    Personal space invaders. Well, what to say I used to live with such people until a few years ago and they were called family. One does not complain about family, isn’t it? 24×7 I faced the same question – when will you bear a child? At home? At celebrations? Fact – I had my son after 5 years of marriage.
    Now everybody around me is having their second babies now and hence their duty is to ask me about it. I give an unapologetic answer – I dont want to have another. Period.

  2. Gilly Maddison Gilly Maddison June 3, 2016

    Oh my goodness – how true! It is so hard when those well-wishers are your parents who still treat you like a child at 60!!!! I also make jokes now when people give me ‘advice’, especially if it seems like they don’t give me credit for being an intelligent person who is quite capable of thinking rationally without their prompting! some times I just WANT to do irrational things for fun to see what happens. Advice from more inhibited people says more about them really, it shows how narrow some people’s view of life is. I silently bless their hearts and do my own thing. I would LOVE one of those people buffer gadgets the man in the cartoon is wearing.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | June 4, 2016

      Haha..and I thought I was the one dealing with this at 50, Gilly!
      A thick skin works well too. 😉

  3. Jan Jan June 1, 2016

    How true! I have faced them as well. I recently had someone ask about my long distance relationship and the “well-wisher” wanted me to quit my job to be with my husband. I replied back saying” I have been asking him to quit and move in with me but he isn’t ready yet” and that shut the person up. On the other hand my husband dodges and ignores such questions. He either changes topic or simply chooses to remain quiet which I find much effective though harder for me.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | June 3, 2016

      Each of us has our own way of dealing with this, Jan. But I wonder why we have to in the first place! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Parul Thakur Parul Thakur June 1, 2016

    Ha ha! Asked me about it. I have given a lot of good news every time I am asked. I say I got promoted, I am happy and eating well, my in-laws love me. What’s better than that?
    Such a perfect post on the prompt. Good one, Corinne.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | June 3, 2016

      That’s the best way to deal with it, Parul. Good for you!

  5. Marcy Marcy June 1, 2016

    I am very private around new people, so I would find that really hard to deal with! People tend to keep their distance where I am (northeast U.S.) compared to other parts of the country, which usually suits me just fine. When I went out west, though, I was impressed with how friendly and open people were, so who knows? Maybe I’d get to like it.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | June 3, 2016

      I hope you like it, Marcy. Friendly and open is nice. Nosy and nasty is not! 😉
      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Vishnu Vishnu May 29, 2016

    A funny and true read, Corinne. I’m not so much bothered about the well-wishers as I am with the judgment and “concern” behind the well wishes. We all have our own lives to lead – we don’t need others telling us if they approve or not. And you’re absolutely right – we need to each work on this ourselves. We can’t change the behavior of others but we can stop invading space and intruding into the lives of others.

  7. Dashy Dashy May 29, 2016

    Haha! Personally I wouldn’t mind engaging in such conversations as long as they leave the advice part out. Also, they ought to back off once we don’t give a positive response (on being uninterested in casual chats). If they don’t, we might as well have to be a bit rude.

    Just as the guy said he was retired, I often reply in that manner to avoid further conversation, and it has helped many times too. And of course, the toughest ‘well wishers’ to handle are the relatives. You can’t be rude to them, and neither can you lie. You can only grin and bear it. Sigh.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | May 30, 2016

      I love making conversation with people, Dashy. My husband laughs at how perfect strangers will tell me all about themselves. But like you said, it’s often the relatives and friends dishing out unsolicited advice that gets on one’s nerves.

  8. Suzy Suzy May 29, 2016

    I can feel your frustration. I think it’s a very Indian thing and I don’t think the intention is to annoy. Silence and a smile is usually how I deal with it.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | May 30, 2016

      I agree that most of these people are driven by good intentions, but are just plain insensitive.

  9. Ankita Ankita May 28, 2016

    I’d rather have enemies than these “pretentious well-wishers!” Just because they have the ability to vomit these words, it does not mean that they should 😉

  10. Truly Happy Truly Happy May 27, 2016

    hahaha… ‘well wishers’!

    I have many such ‘well wishers’. When I was in college, my ‘well wishers’ used to remind my parents that I was a girl and that they should marry me off soon after my graduation. Barely a year after my marriage my ‘well wishers’ began to remind me that I was married and that I should have babies. When I did not have babies for a long time despite their constant reminding, the ‘well wishers’ began to recommend doctors, ‘manthriks ( or tanthriks? I dont knw what they are called)’, ‘gurujis’ etc to me . Finally when I had a child, the ‘well wishers’ began to teach me valuable (?) parenting advice on how to feed my child, what to feed, etc etc because ‘i was a working mum who didnt care about her child!’. These days the ‘well wishers’ have began to remind me to have another baby ….so these ‘well wishers’ are never going to stop worrying (err.. ‘wishing well’) about me.

    Aren’t we all lucky (not) to have such ‘well wishers’!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | May 30, 2016

      Your comment made me smile and yet it is such a terrible reflection of our lives in India. We have to learn to develop thick skins really early, don’t we?

  11. Sanch Sanch May 27, 2016

    Why do you think I left the country? This was one of the biggest reasons…everyone thought it was their business to offer advice. When I visited the last time in 2011, I kept getting asked about “settling down” and I just told people I was well-settled. That I had a job I loved, a unit of my own and a content life. Now I add the cats too. Then of course, there’s all the advice given that I want to be child-free. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I can’t believe what you had to put up with. I would have given those people a smart-arse retort!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | May 31, 2016

      Crazy, isn’t it, Sanch? I too always said I was well ‘settled’. The other question that got my goat was “Any good news?” I’d always, “There’s plenty. What would you like to know?”

      Now no one gives me advice. 😛

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