My American Personal Space is Too Big For Me Now

We miss these boys In Brazil we just hopped into the elevator and went downstairs. We lived in a smallish city of nearly 200,000 people and lived right in the heart of downtown.

Everything was nearby. Everything was convenient. We could walk to the beach, the market, the library, the movies. We could walk 100 yards to the bus stop that took us to friends’ houses, or to the resort town just an hour away, or even all the way to Rio and beyond. Nearly every time we left the apartment we ran into someone we knew. Someone would call our  names, give us a kiss on each cheek, and a hug or a handshake.

Our social life was right outside the door. We would meet at the beach, the local bar, a restaurant or a friend’s home. There were always so many people nearby, we never felt isolated. It was never an inconvenience to go anywhere. There were people everywhere!


Here, especially in Houston, I can’t just hop out the door and walk to the grocery store, the pub, the beach, a friend’s house. There is no bus line near me. If I want to go anywhere, anywhere, I need to get into my car and drive, keep track of my keys, program my GPS, park somewhere and then walk (our parking lots are SO HUGE).

It’s all so far away.

It’s enormous, and spread out and full of cars. Where are all the people? Eleven million people live in this city and all I see are buildings, houses, cars.

I’m in full blown suburban reverse culture shock mode.

I’m glad we have dinner plans with friends next week. I need to spend some time in the same room with people we like. People I know who will enjoy a glass of wine and a meal while we share stories and laugh. I hope they don’t mind a hug, or the occasional hand on the arm touch. I’m feeling quite isolated here and I don’t really like it.

I miss the personal warmth of our Brazilian life where there are fewer personal boundaries, no such thing as personal space, and friends who make it their business to be in your business.

It took a lot of adjusting to accept that life when we went down there. We complained about it, but got used to it, and now that it’s gone I miss it.

Lesson learned. Be careful what you bitch about, it might just go away.

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About akil3655

A Scotsman and his American photographer wife traveling the world and writing about it. Tales, reviews, photos, interviews and crazy goings on. Because you never know what's going to happen.

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4 Responses to My American Personal Space is Too Big For Me Now

  1. Jennifer Souza April 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    I can imagine the reverse culture shock is particularly rough in Houston. It is the poster child of how not to plan an city for community inclusion- it seems to be specifically built for social isolation.

    It’s wonderful to continue to hear about your life! I can’t wait to see what’s next!!

  2. Carlos May 3, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    That is also what I love about small cities. The intimacy and the interaction with other people is really great.
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  3. ... March 30, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    In America where I live our personal space is as gigantic as the empire state building. It is simply ridiculous, I feel like if I so much as brush someone’s shoulder as i go by (especially if they are girls which is unfortunate) they will flip out. Sometimes I intentionally brush shoulders with hot girls but that just feels awkward here and I can sorta tell that they probably didn’t like it. I think we really need to get over personal space crap, we are so touch deprived here that I’m 15 and the chances of a female touching you here is about the same as jumping off a helicopter and landing in someones 10 foot pool. I’ve read a lot about Brazil and it sounds fantastic, although other guys kissing me on the cheek would be a bit weird. Still though I love their attitude of no one is a stranger everyone is just a potential friend or partner. Here in the U.S parents all teach their kids to not trust strangers and to never talk to them or be friendly to them. The bad part is that that attitude doesn’t change much when they become teenagers or adults. I still feel like if you walk on the street people practically act as if everyone isn’t even there. You can’t even look at someone anymore than a second without an evil glare being directed at you, whether it’s them or someone they’re with.

    You’d think the cities would be better but they are actually even worse about this. We just have no opportunities to meet new people outside of work or school here and it’s really quite sad.

    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      March 31, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

      Soldier, that’s one of the many reasons I’m glad I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced living in different countries, and that I’ve been able to bring my nearly adult children to spend time outside their own American culture. The US has many, many advantages and good things about it, but to really live outside of that bubble gives us all a better understanding of exactly what we have.

      Good luck to you, and I hope you get a chance to travel in your life!