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Personal Space. It’s cramping my style.

by Laura on June 17th, 2013

I’m sure there have been dissertations written about culturally prescribed norms that dictate appropriate personal space with a society.

But this gal has had it up to here with people being all up in my grill.

Too close for comfort

Still, I have to wonder why. Is it generational? When we’re young, sharing a potty and playing “don’t cross the streams” we have no problem with closeness, sitting arm-to-arm next to another child whom we don’t know. Truly, cuddling and wrestling are two of my kids’ favorite pastimes.

Then it seems to happen later in life with the elderly, although I’m not exactly sure why. Is it a lack of hearing-aids thing? I never noticed grandmas crowding me at the grocery store check-out … trying to “take over” the little desk that they give you for signing your credit card receipt … until I moved to Southern Europe.

I mean, it’s so obvious to me: the patron gets to use that miniscule chin-high desk until she completes her transaction, right? What am I missing here?

Is it a cultural thing?

People don’t seem to be in a rush; spending slow minutes unloading their shopping cart item-by-item and then writing all possible identifying information on the personal check they’re using to pay. Yes, people still use checks here.

But I’ve wizened up at the grocery store, believe me. I use strategery [not a typo, rather a Bushism.] Specifically, I strategically position my shopping cart or basket in between my butt and that of the unsuspecting person in line behind me.

Then, when he or she crowds me, I “accidently” slide the cart/basket back to its original position, reinstating my personal space. Good thing there’s no true translation for “excuse me” in Serbian.

I still wonder, is it a cultural thing? Is it a city thing, and I’m used to the suburbs, where there’s more space–geographic and personal?

I don’t know. I’ve learned how to deal at the grocery line check-out counter, but was caught by surprise recently at the teeny tiny convenience store near my apartment. The prodavnica is so cramped, it barely has enough space for one person to walk down the aisle.

It would explain how some old man was able to “nonchalantly” (read: purposefully) “brush” past me (um? gross) as I reached for bread the other day. Yeah, he assured his groin area made contact, albeit brief. Next time, I plan to ask him if he’ll hold my hair … so I can throw up on his shoes. I’m 99% sure I can say this in Serbian.

Perverts aside, in general, I seem to have a lower threshold for what I consider to be invasions into my personal space. And a stronger aversion for strangers’ b.o. which lingers in the shared elevator of my apartment, but whatever, that’s a story for another day.

P.S. Coming up in July and August, I’ll be switching from three posts a week to two–hey, it’s summer vacation! Be sure to sign up in the right-hand column for blog posts and my cool new Cool Chick Newsletter so you don’t miss a thing. Plus, we can stay in touch!

“People In Line” by ddpavumba from


From → Expat Mommy

  1. "Next time, I plan to ask him if he’ll hold my hair … so I can throw up on his shoes. I’m 99% sure I can say this in Serbian."


  2. I use the basket behind me tactic all the time. One of my biggest pet peeves is people "all up in my business" when I'm checking out at the store. I once had someone so close to me that the cashier thought we were together and started asking him questions about MY groceries. UGH! So, I started employing the basket boundary.

    I have noticed it makes a difference where you are in the US. In the south, they are very respectful of your space. If you're at a walk-up ATM, Southerner's will stand outside even if the weather is horrible. Not so in the North. They will be so close they can read your account balance on the screen.

  3. Love your humorous take on obnoxious crowding or closeness, and throwing up on a guy's shoes. Or have a coughing fit and hack your head off right in his face. Let him enjoy the full benefit of your disgust.

  4. How about making it look like you are going to puke? That should do the trick, right? Or a big cigar. In South of france, sometimes people grab your arm to stress their points. I am told that they don't mean any harm, but I am not sure…

  5. William permalink

    I don't think so people still search about Crisco because the concept of it is no more.According to superior paper People search something for some specific time after that they forget and move towards others.

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