vPersonal bubbles here on the coast of Colombia are small.
Every single greeting and farewell begins with personal contact. Even at a party, the polite way to enter is to go around the circle of chairs and physically touch everyone. Most frequently, women are giving cheek kisses to the people they know and shaking hands with the people they don’t. Men are cheek kissing the women they know and shaking hands with the men and people they don’t know.
People walking down the street in pairs or groups are often connected in some way. Holding hands. Linking arms. One of my favorite because it’s very unnatural for me? One hand on one shoulder of the other person (try it some time and let me know how it feels).
In class, kids drape themselves over each other. At home and at parties, people sit on each other’s laps, lean on one another, rest hands/arms on each others’ legs. I never know who’s dating and who is just touchy.
Girls are constantly braiding and touching one another’s hair.
Colleagues at work might even pluck one another’s eyebrows in the teacher’s lounge.
Dancing is most frequently done in a tight hold – regardless of whether the person you’re dancing with is your lover, a friend, or your sibling.
At any conference/party/event, chairs are placed very closely together, so you’re bumpin’ ‘bows and clanging knees (if you’re anything over 5’6″).
I manage to get away with not cheek kissing every time, or even going around the circle making contact with everyone. For once, the gringa factor works in my favor. Nonetheless, my bubble has shrunk significantly, and I do, every once in a while, go in for the cheek kisses. I’ve truly grown, don’t you think?