Proxemics and Personal Space Essay

652 Words Jun 1st, 2011 3 Pages
The term “proxemics” was coined in 1966 by anthropologist Edward T. Hall. The term is used to describe the study of how people perceive the proximity of others. Hall developed the idea of a set of expanding circles, which he called reaction bubbles. These describe how humans manage the space around them. The following is a list of terms he used to describe these spaces:
1. Intimate space, which is reserved for those we are closest to (measuring about 6 to 18 inches).
2. Personal space, which is the distance we are comfortable maintaining with close friends (about 1.5 to 4 feet).
3. Social space, which indicates our preferred proximity to acquaintances (about 5–12 feet).
4. Public space, which is the distance we need for public
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This was often disturbing to me, as it made me feel dehumanized. I started to spend more time inside my apartment.
Then a family of Vietnamese boat people moved in upstairs. The husband, wife and children all lived together with the grandmother in the two bedroom apartment. We did not speak the same language. However, I became good friends with the grandmother and children. Our children would play together in the small courtyard and we would use nonverbal gestures to help each other learn new words. She would invite me and my children up to her apartment and would start pulling out food from the refrigerator to serve to me, my son and daughter. The family lived in very small quarters and had only two bamboo mats for the family to sleep on. It was hard for me to think that this family of five lived in such close proximity to one another, but they seemed very happy.
This experience helped me to realize the differences between the individualistic culture I was used to and the collectivist culture that my friend was used to. Our text shared a paragraph which shows how the United States values personal space as well as personal rights, goals, and choices. Then it contrasts how people in collectivist cultures place more emphasis on the group and the community than on individuals. (Wood, 2010) Now that I have learned more about proxemics, my experience in Denver makes more sense to me
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