One of the interesting things about Barcelona is that personal space boundaries are smaller than in Canada. The difference manifests itself in a few interesting ways.
- When walking down the street, even when it’s relatively empty and there’s plenty of space, pedestrians coming in the opposite direction will not walk around you, but will keep their course, perhaps even brushing shoulders lightly as they pass. This has happened several times and I haven’t had the sense that the passing person was being rude.
- When meeting friends, men hug each other, men give women a light kiss on each cheek (left side first, then right side) and women also give each other a light kiss. I don’t think this happens with complete strangers, but it does seem to happen with acquaintances.
- Spanish people seem to be very honest about what they think. They’ll tell you if your latest haircut looks ridiculous, for example. I’ve read that this is a sign of trust and respect, and not something to take as rude behaviour. I’ve only experienced this in small ways so far, and I’m taking it as another sign that there is less distance between people here than in Canada.
It’s been quite interesting to observe the effects that personal space has on the way people interact and my own reactions and feeling of comfort as I wander around town. In some ways it feels a bit foreign, but in other ways I’m enjoying the closeness.