Home page


Differences in public physical space and motion per culture

After a while in public it's difficult to behave properly.

The most notable irritant is the different ways that people treat physical space. This is embarrassing for me because I've lived in several countries and feel I should be able to moderate my reactivity. Oddly, though, my exposure to different cultural ideas of movement and position in public spaces has increased my irritable sensitivity to these phenomena.

When I returned in 2005 to Ireland (where I'd lived for several years,) from the Netherlands where I'd been for a year-and-a-half (and where I'd lived before,) I noticed a sharp irritation with the way that the Irish walk in public. Especially the women.

The Dutch can be arrogant — one might even say that they must be, to survive with dignity. But the Irish can be just plain unaware.

Hard to reconcile with my desire to be polite — and politeness is important to the Irish.

Oddly, I didn't notice the Dutch assertive, competent pedestrian demeanor until I'd gone away (from Amsterdam to Seville then various Irish locales) and then returned, to Nijmegen. Similarly, I didn't notice the Irish doddering, polite unawareness until I'd lived in Ireland, left, and then returned (to Kilkenny.)