Monday, 1 August 2011

London Observations: Personal Space.

Now I've been living in London for a month, there are many things I have noticed which I thought I would share. I hope in doing so I can find out some of your stories and assure me that it isn't just me who attracts the weirdos and unusual experiences! So here's the first of many.

Personal Space.

In every culture, and particularly ours, there are very clear social expectations about personal space. There is a limit we all know and understand about how close we can get to someone without it seeming awkward and uncomfortable and this is even more pertinent when meeting strangers.

Yet, in London, and particularly on public transport, all of these social norms seem to fly out the window (or they would if there were any windows on the tube). Whilst we all understand that overcrowding means we are often forced to stand very close to, often touching, someone else, there is still a certain Britishness about the way we pack ourselves into the carriages side by side in order to maintain this sense of personal space. This usually involves being stood with one arm firmly on the lowest point of the rail to hold on and the other firmly rooted to our side.

I only make this observation today after spending nearly 20 minutes stood pretty much inside a fat man's armpit. And let's bear in mind here that it has been 27 degrees Celsius in London today and on the unventilated underground, said gentleman's armpit was of course, not a dry one. And it was at this point that I realised the sense of personal space, and everyone's understanding and respect of trying to maintain this at all costs on the underground, and how we take it for granted.

And isn't it just typical that I would be the one subjected to said torture. He could have held onto the vertical bar as opposed to the horizontal one on the roof; he could have held on directly above his own head rather than stretching out to be well above my head; the guy opposite could have helped me out of the situation in some way rather than giggling at me and winking... But this opens up another of my London observations which I will write up another time.


smallgirl said...

Being the height I am, I invariably end up in someone's armpit when on the tube in the summer - not pleasant!

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