Personal Space

What I noticed first off all about myself here in the PHilipppines is that I am clumsy and totally unaware of my surroundings, which means I bump into people and things and knock things over a lot.  It has gotten better because, I think, I spend more time on foot and less time in a vehicle, and more time in crowds than I used to.  You don’t need much awareness of where people are around you when you isolate yourself in private vehicles and personal bubbles a mile wide, and you have wide streets and clear sidewalks that nobody actually even uses.

On the other hand, it’s not that nobody ever bumps into anybody else here.  A teacher friend pointed out that for her, it’s automatic that you blurt out ‘excuse me’ or ‘I’m sorry,’ if you brush up against somebody else at all in public space.  And Filipinos don’t do that- not because they have no manners, but because it’s not bad manners to touch somebody accidentally in a crowd.  An apology is probably only warranted if you bump hard enough to really move them, or knock something over or step on somebody.  Just entering personal space, even to the point of touching, is not worth remarking on.

“Of course not,” laughs the Filipino friend listening to our conversation, “What on earth is personal space?  It’s not even a real thing.”

He knows what it is, of course, he is an astute observer of cross cultural interactions.

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