Notes on Intercultural Communication

E. T. Hall – Proxemics (Understanding Personal Space)

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E. T. Hall – Proxemics /Personal Space in Different Cultures

Edward T. Hall (*16.04.1914) was the most popular founder of Intercultural Communication. He put up three theories: High / Low Context, Monochrone / Polychrone Conception of Time and Proxemics. Personal Space varies depending on the culture.



  • Intimate distance – 6 to 18 inches (15-45cm)
    This level of physical distance often indicates a closer relationship or greater comfort between individuals. It often occurs during intimate contact such as hugging, whispering, or touching.
  • Personal distance – 1.5 to 4 feet (45-120cm)
    Physical distance at this level usually occurs between people who are family members or close friends. The closer the people can comfortably stand while interacting can be an indicator of the intimacy of the relationship.
  • Social distance – 4 to 12 feet (1,20m-3,50m)
    This level of physical distance is often used with individuals who are acquaintances. With someone you know fairly well, such as a co-worker you see several times a week, you might feel more comfortable interacting at a closer distance. In cases where you do not know the other person well, such as a postal delivery driver you only see once a month, a distance of 10 to 12 feet may feel more comfortable.
  • Public distance – 12 to 25 feet (3,50-7,50m)
    Physical distance at this level is often used in public speaking situations. Talking in front of a class full of students or giving a presentation at work are good examples of such situations.


Understanding Body Language by Kendra Cherry at Read the full post online here or download pdf here.

(received 03.01.2014 at


(…)  According to Hall, perception of the levels of intimacy of space is culturally determined. People from different cultures perceive space (and place) differently. Hall stressed that differing cultural frameworks for defining and organizing space, which are internalized in all people at an unconscious level, can lead to serious failures of communication and understanding in cross-cultural settings. For instance, ‘Germans sense their own space as an extension of the ego. One sees a clue to this feeling in the term “Lebensraum,” which is impossible to translate because it summarizes so much’ (Hall p.134). Or when the English use the telephone, Hall observes ‘since it is impossible to tell how preoccupied the other party will be they hesitate to use the phone; instead, they write notes. To phone is to be “pushy” and rude. A letter or telegram may be slower, but it is much less disrupting. Phones are for actual business and emergencies’ (…).

Proximity as a Prerequisite of Being Human from Future Case. Read the full article online here or download pdf here.

(received 03.01.2014 at


Proxemics is the understanding of space in the holistic sense, as well as the cultural association we place upon space.  It is the study of how an environment, at the interactive and interpretive level, is bestowed with meaning by people in daily life.  The term “Proxemics” was coined in the 1950s by Edward Hall to address the study of our conceptualization and use of space, as well as how various differences impact our experiences within a given area.  In other words, Proxemics is the study of place and space from the cultural vantage point.

Understanding Space from anthrostrategist. Read the full post online here or download pdf here.

(received 03.01.2014 at


edwardthall_1933(Picture retrieved 03.01.2014 at

Read more about E.T.Hall at his website or at E.T.Hall – High Context Communication vs. Low Context Communication


Illustrations of the Theory of Proxemics / Understanding the Personal Space


The Concept of the Personal Bubble

Personal Bubble

(retrieved 03.01.2013 at


The “Close Talker”

Entering the Intimate Space is only allowed to closest related persons. Entering the Intimate Space by others is percieved as an intimidating agressive act.

the close talker

(retrieved 03.01.2013 at


(retrieved 03.01.2014 at!)


Different Personal Space in Different Cultures (European in South America)

A video about a European in Mexico. Europeans usually have a larger personal space than South Americans.

Proxemics Personal Space European vs Mexican HSBC

(retrieved 30.09.2013 at


More about Personal Space at Personal Space in China

(reviewed 12.01.2014)


4 Responses

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  1. […] See more about E.T.Halls Concept of Personal Space at E. T. Hall – Proxemics (Understanding Personal Space) […]

  2. […] More about Personal Space from E.T. Hall on his website or at a previous post E. T. Hall – Proxemics (Understanding Personal Space) […]

  3. […] and social space, Hall suggests that a comfortable distance for people chatting is between about 45cm to 120cm – a theory which myself and other researchers are currently checking in our laboratory. […]

  4. […] individual, respond to outside stressors and deal with unforeseen events. Number 2 you have space, proxemics says that social space is roughly 4 feet, and personal space is roughly 1.5 feet (this is also based […]

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