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By Rhett Maxwell (bubble shot) licensed by CC 2.0

As you all know, I've lived less than half of my life in another continent, a completely different culture. One thing I noticed about the new culture I now live in was the concept of the "personal bubble space".

It was the 1st day of my internship. I walked in for my orientation and took my position next to a wall as I waited for the orientation leader. There were other orientees in the room, so I had no space to stand or sit, except for the wall, in order to not inconvenience anyone. As I stood, waiting, I glanced at my phone multi-tasking and passing time. Suddenly a thought came into my mind. "Why am I even standing sef?" I wish I can just sit on the table or on the corner of the chair next to someone" I looked around and I noticed how much space everyone gave one another. It was as if each and everyone of us had some form of disease that could be caught by physical contact or breathing the same air.

I looked at myself and noticed that I also stayed away from everyone. It's funny because I'd never thought about it like that, except for a certain time I was forced to. It was on one of my visits to Nigeria. It was my 1st Okada(public transportation on a motor bike) ride. I sat on the bike behind this stranger and thought of it to be the most uncomfortable and awkward thing I have ever done in my life. How can I be so close to a stranger, sitting this way, grasping the back of his shirt in order not to fall off? In the mind of the "Okadaman" this was just another customer helping him make money. To me, it wasn't. I told myself I'd never do that again.

On my next trip to Nigeria, I did it again. I had somewhere to go. By this time, I learnt that the concept of the "personal bubble space" was not a thing in my culture. It was a thing for me because it was a learned behaviour I acquired while spending the other half of my life in another continent/culture that indirectly teaches you to keep distance from people for a sense of personal safety, security and comfort.

Photo by Ryan Baptiste (Shout-out Images)


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