I fought to get inside, opened my way till I found a point of balance and fought my way back for getting off the buss at my stop. Meanwhile on the bus, I avoided eye contact, I tried not to move more than necessary, and I didn't initiate conversations. Everybody around me acted "low profile" as they waited for that brutal invasion to their personal space and extreme body contact to be over. Yes, this is the experience of public transportation at several Latin American countries.
Experiences like this one brings the problem of personal space. It is something that also varies from culture to culture. I live in a Latin American Country in which getting on a buss full of people with complete body contact between each other is considered normal. Along with this, there are many situations in which being close to strangers is acceptable and routinary. The case is completely different in places like North America, northern Europe and Scandinavian regions.
This situation doesn't apply only to transportation. The way we behave around others while talking can also be misinterpreted. Some might think that if we get too close, we are actually flirting or making a move. It also applies to property. For some cultures their personal spaces such us a yard or an object such us a garden tool are sacred possessions. A conflict might arise from interacting with these sacred spaces and belongings if one comes from a culture with less care for property.
How do we interact on a multi-cultural environment such an international language class? It could take time to learn everybody's personal space configuration. The main goal should be to show respect to teachers and students by considering their need for personal space. It is also important to be vigilant of situations such us borrowing school supplies between young students.
It seems obvious the best advice for personal space situations,
When in doubt, keep your distance.
TESOL 103 Class Assignment - BYUI