A complete disregard for personal space is something I’ve gotten used to living in France. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bumped, pushed, or stepped on while waiting in line at the grocery store, post office, or bank. People just don’t seem to have a problem standing on top of one another.
But at least, in those circumstances, a loud sigh and annoyed scowl can usually ward the person off…a few inches.
The problem is, this kind of ‘closeness’ can also be a habit of people I work with. I have two (female) colleagues in particular who are always stepping reeeaaally close to me when they talk.
The first time this happened, I tried leaning/stepping back a foot or two but they just popped my invisible personal space bubble and slid right back in.
I realized this is just the way they are (probably a habit formed from trying to converse in low voices about students who are getting on their nerves). I noticed a lot of teachers are always hunching really close to each other when they talk and there are students around.
But the American in me tenses every time they step in for conversation. I tell myself ‘Stay still, Katie. Just stay still. Their face will have to stop heading towards yours at some point. They need at least an inch of air to speak, right? ’.
Then I have trouble concentrating on what they’re saying with thoughts like:
‘Her face is taking up my entire field of vision.’
‘I can’t see anything but her face.’
‘ I don’t even look at my own face this close in the mirror.’
‘I bet I could totally apply my makeup using my reflection in her eyes,’
I think if I were in America, I wouldn’t have a problem with telling someone to move back into their own zone. But here in France, I tend to try and be more tolerant – even if it drives me nuts.
What do you do when someone keeps popping your personal space bubble?