Lonely Planet Writer

Where in the world will you get the most (and least) personal space?

Etiquette and cultural norms can sometimes be baffling to even the most seasoned traveller, and the differences between countries are a source of endless fascination. Now one study has revealed how much personal space different nationalities feel they need.

Couples getting up close and personal in a tango lesson in Argent
Personal space is not a concept in the Argentinian tango. Image by: Javier Pierini

The research, published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, studied nearly 9000 people across 42 countries. They asked participants to name the preferred amount of distance they keep between strangers, acquaintances and close friends to reveal the differences between countries, age and gender.

If you’re comfortable with getting up close and personal with the locals, here are the nationalities most likely to get close to you:

1. Argentina
2. Peru
3. Bulgaria
4. Ukraine
5. Austria
6. Slovakia
7. Russia
8. Greece
9. Serbia
10. Italy

In general, the study showed that people living in hotter climates preferred being closer to strangers and acquaintances. It’s been found that hotter climates can influence the intensity of your emotions, resulting in closer contact between people. This difference was even seen by researchers in American participants who lived in different climates within the same country.

Colder countries are more likely to have greater interpersonal distances. Image by filadendron
Colder countries are more likely to have greater interpersonal distances. Image by filadendron

Getting more personal space

If, however, you prefer to keep your distance from strangers, you might want to consider a trip to these destinations instead, where the inhabitants value their personal space a lot more:

1. Romania
2. Hungary
3. Saudi Arabia
4. Turkey
5. Uganda
6. Pakistan
7. Estonia
8. Colombia
9. Hong Kong
10. China

Overall, younger people all over the globe are far more likely to have closer physical contact than older generations. Women were also more likely to give strangers and acquaintances more personal space, though the gender difference disappeared when it came to close friends. Researchers also found that people in colder climates were more likely to be physically closer to intimate friends, perhaps to offset the distance between them and strangers.