Before arriving in the most densely inhabited country of the world (well almost, but Monaco doesn’t really count, does it? :) I wasn’t really paying attention or even being aware of the existence and definition of “Private Space”.
What is “private space” and where do i find it? Can I sell it? And how does one violate it?
If you live in countries where the average density rate is around 200 people per square kilometer, spread in nice little neat houses, you can imagine the huge change it takes to overcome arriving in a country like Singapore with a density rate of approx 6500 people per square kilometer.
To put this into a more tangibly picture, it means, where you cue up for a coffee in Germany, having 5 people waiting with you in line, in Singapore, statistically, you will have 150 people in front of you, and i cant even say thats unrealistic.
What Is Private Space
As Private or Personal space one describes the average range in cm/m around yourself, your body, that should be not disturbed by any outsider, friend, stranger, whomever. This range is of course variable and sometimes not existing at all (cough cough) but to stay with the statistics, there are 4 different types of private space:
- Intimate distance: Is reserved for family, pets and very close friends and is in average 45cm. The only strangers typically allowed in this pace are health care professionals
- Personal distance: Is reserved for friends and acquaintances. It ranges between 45cm and 1.5m. Handshakes for example will place your partner an average 1.2m away which makes this the most common “personal space”
- Social distance: Is usually applied in meetings, business interactions, interviews or any other formal matters and ranges from 1.2m to 3.7 meters
- Public Space: Everything that extends more than 3.7 m and is not guarded. Secret Service agents for example will commonly attempt to ensure 3.7 m of open space around dignitaries and high ranking officials
The above numbers are an average, generally received as “comfortable” from the US to Europe. In Singapore however we need to adjust the numbers a bit, actually not just “a bit” but drastically.
What Is Private Space Worth In Singapore
There is a general misconception of private space in Singapore.
An example.Where it is totally normal outside Singapore to pack trains during rush hours with as many commuters as possible, there are some people, like the famous “Gatekeepers” who wont really want to give way or space, keeping the trains inner sections even half empty during peak hours. This is a very good example of “Defending Private Space In The Wrong Manner”.
(Read: Singapores Real Zoo – MRTs Unexplores Species (Part 2))
On the other hand it is nearly impossible to take a refreshing walk through Singapore’s business district, Raffles Place, or Orchard Road, unintentionally having to shake three different peoples hands (say hello to the yummy germs of 1000 other shaken hands), and one second later being presented your “special offer” new credit card contract.
Just today i met Steve, John and Mary, all violating my private space with some ridiculous offers, “No i don’t need a 10th Credit Card, and by the way, im wearing my suit not because i like to sweat but because I’m working for a bank myself, Idiot!”
Then there are people literally placing themselves in your way, half forcing their flyer’s in your hand half redirecting you into their stupid tourist shop. Again, “No, i don’t want another Merlion Cup and no i don’t want your hands to touch me neither, while trying to throw your flyer at me“.
Call Me Sensitive
I guess the only form of “private space” violation I experienced before Singapore appeared to be my parents, storming into my room when the neighbors daughter was over.
Or in form of drunken buddies suddenly turning gay and violating all kinds of things in my “private space”…
Now having been in Singapore for two years, there is literally no “private space” left over around me, theres nothing to violate anymore since my space went missing a long time ago. Im currently trying to absorb some of the “Private Space” lying around in the empty MRT trains, but to refill my space will definitely take longer then it will take to remove those ugly stains, people with dirty fingers left on my shirt while throwing the latest mobile plan flyers at me.