IV. Space concept (strongly based on E.T. Hall)

Every human being has his/her own demand for space to protect his/her cover from external influences of the environment. To create, find and define this boundary between oneself and the outside is essential. Especially important is it to know or at least to estimate someone’s boundary/skin correctly. It can have big influence in daily and business life when dealing with strangers and members of other cultures whose definition of and treating with space might be unknown. There are different points when characterizing space. One point is that people trace out their own territories which they will protect and defend if necessary. This pont which is influenced by someone’s cultural origin is well developed in Germany and USA.

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Americans have distinctive places which they call „mine“ and don’t want them to be „disturbed“. Germans may have an even stronger feeling about their territories. Personal things especially like their cars should rather be avoided to be „touched“ without permission or treated differently from that like the owner would treat it. The same counts for houses, grounds and offices. They shouldn’t be accessed without a detailed/explicit allowance. The size and location of offices are also both considered as very important because they express some kind of status and power. Like a corner office or one without walls. But the power symbol has a higher value in Germany than in USA. Whereas in France the top management of a company is commonly placed in the middle of the building – corresponding to their way of doing something – „everything“ has to be centralized. The central position is a key position in France because all information and decisions can be controlled from the central point. Like already mentioned there are different categories of space. The other one is personal space which is another from of territory. First of all personal space is depending on the relationship people have, their emotions and cultural background.

Every culture and more precisely every individual has its own demand of personal space. This can be described as a bubble which defines the personal boundary is needed to feel comfortable in interacting with people. This bubble can be penetrated from others but just when fulfilling eh „invisible“ requirements like already mentioned – a good relationship. In France this bubble is rather small comparing to Germany, USA and Finland. It is not seen as penetration when French people kissing each other when greeting someone. The bubble in Germany, USA and Finland is rather big and it is an attack to a person’s space/personal territory when kissing or touching someone without „agreement“. The distance between people should be kept and will be dissolved by shaking hands only. It is perceived as impolite and very rude when not keeping the distance between you and your interlocutor. In China an even greater demand of space is the norm. Nowadays of course about the strong western cultural influences shaking hands is nothing unusual. But old and very traditional people in business may appreciate a bigger physical distance when greeting each other by bowing the head. It has to be figured out very carefully how space is handled and perceived as correct behaviour. Not paying attention to that can cause an immediate loss of your business relation because of attacking and not respecting someone’s demand of space.