05 July 2007

Wait your turn

When you are too close

Italians live in smaller houses, drive smaller cars and live in closer proximity to their neighbors than most Americans are used to. Italians also have a tendency to group together rather than stand in line and conversations usually involve being up close and personal with the usual hand gestures. Then there is also the Italian way that friends greet by kissing on the cheek; first to your right, then to your left. “Personal space” is very small here in Italy.

That said, there are two instances I have noticed where Italians do not like someone to be close to them. The first deals with a bancomat, or ATM machine. Italians will stand at least three or four feet away from the person using the bancomat and others who may be waiting. Fortunately there is no crowding the machine where you have to worry about who might be looking over your shoulder.

The other time I see Italians leery of someone being too close is on the sidewalk. If you are walking past someone in opposite directions they have no problem standing their ground and making you avoid a head-on collision by stepping into the street or ducking into a doorway, but if you are walking behind them they seem to be very nervous. This is especially true of women of all ages and we have had more than one occasion where a lady will stop until you pass by, then continue behind you. This is not in some dark alley, mind you, but on busy main streets in midday. I do not think I look intimidating, but who knows.

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