How close is too close: defining personal space

Lately, I’ve been battling with whether or not I want my personal space. By personal space I am referring to when people are within an arm’s length of me.

Back in Argentina, I wouldn’t even consider my personal space as “my property” because it is completely normal for friends to hug you or be close to you, sometimes closer that you would like.

When I came to the U.S, I had to restrain myself from hugging people, and for a very long time I was more than happy with doing so. My personal space was free from intruders, and I could live without worries.

Not that I don’t like personal contact of any kind, don’t get me wrong, I do. But I’m only comfortable with it on certain occasions.

However, after a while of being surrounded by Americans with different cultural habits than me, I started to miss that warm sign of affection. The problem is, now I find myself in the limbo of hugs– I just don’t know when to give them.

If I develop a good friendship with someone, I find myself inclined to hug him or her, but if I don’t really know the person very well, then hugs are always out of the question. This is because for me a hug might be a simple way of greeting someone, but in the U.S it might mean something else. There are different types of hugs, and it all depends of what type of hug you are giving.

If you are saying hi to a friend, the normal hug would be the side-to-side hug, where two people stand next to each other embracing around the waist or shoulders.

The side-to-side hug is a friendship saver. There are no confusions generated by this hug. If someone gives you one, that means you are just friends and there is no intention of invading your personal space.

If you want to get more personal, the front hug it’s what you are looking for. You have to be careful with this hug because even though huggers stand about a foot and a half apart, one person may interpret that there is something more than friendship between them. These hugs are to be given only 0n special occasions.

The most important and common hug is custom-tailored. It’s the one where you squeeze the other person to the point that there is no space between the two of you. Don’t try this one at home if you are not ready to see the consequences.

Being in a culture where people are not used to hugging as much makes it kind of hard to find the right balance between respecting their personal space and demonstrating your affection for them.

After considering these factors, I have realized that I would rather have the affection of my friends than keep my personal space.

Are you a hugger? Would you rather hug someone or keep your personal space? What other types of hugs do you like to give?


Dating is a foreign language

Dating is never easy.

Whether you are from the States or from any other part of the world, finding someone that you love and that loves you back is hard to do. When you are dealing with people from your own culture, it’s easy to know how to act or what the other person means when they say or do something. But if we are talking about understanding another culture for this type of interaction, things can be a little confusing.

Almost every girl has a list of the things she wants in her “ideal match,” whether it is written or in her head– and guys do, too. Finding someone that fulfills the requirements of your list can be complicated.

First of all, the person needs to have at least three major characteristics from your list. What are the most important ones? Only you know, but if you have them in mind it will save you a lot of time that you might be wasting with “players,” luring you into a relationship that you are not looking forward to having.

I was completely sure of the type of guy I wanted to date: someone who loves God more than anything else in this world, fair-colored hair, speaks English as his first language, and ready to start a serious relationship. In other words, the “keeper” kind of guy.

Things did not go as planned.

I met someone from my same culture, atheist, with dark hair, that speaks Spanish as his first language, and absolutely not ready for a serious relationship– and I was attracted to him.

I thought that because of his charming personality, it didn’t really matter if he didn’t have most of the characteristics on my list. Our conversations were so deep and honest that I thought I was talking to my soul mate. The way we understood each other and helped one another through hard times is not something that you find every day.

One week, everything changed. He was not the same person, or maybe he was showing his true character.

When things started to look suspicious, I had to back off and think from an outsider’s point of view. (Friends are always great when it comes to this type of wake up calls!)

It didn’t take long until I realize that being with him was one of the dumbest decisions I’ve ever made. In between distrust and tears, I had to go back to that list and put my priorities in order.

When I finally did that, things started to look good again. After doing that, I was at the starting point, ready to set out on my journey that will eventually lead me to the person with the characteristics on my list.

Dating is never easy, but setting priorities and knowing what you want will eventually take you to the right person that will make you realize that all the waiting was worth it.

Here are some differences between the American and Latin American culture when it comes to dating:

America has something notoriously different from every other country that foreigners can tell immediately. In my country, if someone gives you their phone number it’s because they are friends or maybe because they need it (to ask a question about a class or just to be in contact), and it doesn’t mean there is any interest in the other person. Here, it’s the opposite. So, be careful not to give the wrong impression.

Texting is one of the things that changes completely. This is an inevitable part of the dating process. If you asked yourself why, then you are probably already married or out of the “dating stage.” When relationships begin, there is usually texting involved. First, as friends with random text messages about irrelevant questions. Then, the phone calls begin to appear. In Argentina, smily faces and exclamation marks are not always a sign of flirting.

If you are a woman from Latin America, then you are probably used to waiting for the man to open the door of the car for you. For some strange reason, this is not as common among American boys. Some of the rare specimens will surprise you with this attitude, others were not raised with this quality.

If you were wondering about who pays the bill on a date, the answer depends on whether you like the guy or not. If you do like him, he can pay. If not, then you have to pay. And about sharing your frozen yogurt, you might want to think twice if you want to do that. Decide before you get in the car because if you share that delicious dessert then you are sending him a message. The next thing you know, you are in a relationship without even knowing about it.

There are endless aspects when it comes to dating. Some cultures share habits and some others are completely different. You might be living in a country where your culture differs from the one that primes in that place. Even if you have never left your country of origin, but have met some foreign people, can you tell the difference?