04 September 2016

Proxemics

It is interesting how personal, intimate, social and public spaces vary depending on cultural differences. If you experienced living with people from different backgrounds (for example living in another country) then you probably noticed how different in size these spaces can be.

Apparently there is a special field of psychology to study it:

Proxemics is the study of the spatial requirements of humans and animals and the effects of population density on behavior, communication, and social interaction.

This term was brought by researcher Edward Hall who studied use of our spaces and how various differences in that use can make us feel more relaxed or anxious.

One of the way to experience such differences for me is to play volleyball with people from different countries. After a volleyball training everyone goes to shower. It clearly demonstrates sizes… of your personal and intimate spaces. You might also go to another city for a competition. Imagine 10-12 men spending lots of time together, sleeping in a hotel and having parties. Of course it varies depending on people, age, their background, but the biggest factor is usually a country of origin.

In Russia people usually do not care if they are naked in front of teammates. Some people might wrap themselves in a towel on a way from a locker to a shower room, but it is usually not the case. In many gyms showers have separate cabins but with no doors. Sometimes it can be just an open room with a few shower heads attached to walls.

Showers in the USA are different. It is always a cabin with a lock. Always! At least I have never seen anything different. But the interesting part is that almost no one goes to a gym shower after training. Everyone just gets in a car and goes home to take a shower. In a fitness club more people use showers. But wrapping in a towel or even showering in pants happens quite often.

And the last country I played volleyball in is the Netherlands. Completely different story. A typical shower room is always an open space room with showerheads attached to walls. No one feels insecure about their body, all are naked and everybody is fine with it. Wrapping in a towel is non-existant. Showering in pants would be ridiculous, but would be funny to try and see reactions.

These facts just show how open and tolerant Dutch nation is which could be due to popluation density of the Netherlands. Actually some people might argue that the openness reduces the size of a personal space. They probably would be right. For example, last weekend with the volleyball team we stayed in a hotel. It was quite normal if a guy was taking a shower and another guy was taking a dump in the same bathroom. But if that what it takes to be one of the most open nation in the world then it is worth it.