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Session 20

How close do you like to stand to someone when you talk to them?
Nama tokkotti wayita dubbattu hangam itti dhihaattee dhaabachuu feeta?

In today’s episode we will be discussing how people in different countries think about personal space.
Kutaa har’aa keessatti, namoonni biyyoota garagaraa jiraatan akkaataa namootaan walitti siqan ilaalchisee waan isaan yaadan mari’anna.

Session 20 score

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

How close is too close?

Look at the Session Vocabulary – make sure you know what these words and phrases mean:

  • touchy-feely
  • reserved
  • invade personal space


In which of these countries do people keep the biggest distance from strangers?

a) India
b) Korea
c) Kenya

Listen to the discussion and find out the answer.

Listen to find the answers. Then check them on the transcript below.

Show transcript Hide transcript

Yooyyaa! Gara ‘English Together’ kan mata duree tibbanaa irratti mari’annuu fi qooqa dubbachuun si barbaachisan si qoodnutti baga nagana dhufte. Ani Caalii dha, akkasumas Saam fi Fiilii naa waliin argamu

Hi, I’m Sam.

And I’m Phil.  Welcome!

Kutaa har’aa keessatti waa’ee walitti-seqeenya dhuunfaan godhamuu fi garagarummaa inni biyyoota addaa addaa keessatti qabu dubbana. Gaafiin jalqabuuf – Biyyoota kanneen keessa nama hinbeekneerra fageenya isaanii caalaatti eegachuun kan beekamu eenyu?  

a      Indiyaa

b     Kooriyaa

c      Keeniyaa

Sam maal yaadda?

Well, I don’t know – but it does change from one country to another, I’ve lived in different countries and really noticed the difference – I’m really interested to find out the answer actually…

Well, I used to live in Argentina and people definitely get close to you there.

Gaarii, wayita waa’ee Arjantiinaa dubbannu kanatti, ‘BBC World Service’ irraa haala Arjaantiinaatti namoonni ittiin walitti siqan ilaalchisee waan Valeriyaa Perraasaan dubbatu haa caqasnu.

We are said to be very touchy-feely and I think that that shows in all our daily interactions. Foreigners are definitely uncomfortable, some at least, for example we do a lot of kissing and it goes to the extent that, for example, if you go into the surgery to see your GP or doctor that you are familiar with, and that knows you, you would probably reach out and kiss him or her, and that’s completely normal.

So, what do you think about this – Arjantiinaan akkasi jette yaadde turtee?

Yes, absolutely, people are very touchy-feely – lots of hugging and people always kiss when they meet.

‘Touchy-feely’ means ‘miira mararfannaan waltuquu’ people are very comfortable with physical contact. Aadaan keenyaa waliin hedduu walfakkaata. Biyya keenyattis namoonni wal hammachuun maddiirra waldhungatanii waldubbisu.

OK, so how did you deal with it being so ‘touchy-feely’ – I’m not sure that you’re that kind of person really Phil….

Yes, you don’t seem the touchy-feely type.

Guys, I’m not, I’m really not – every day was like an invasion of my personal space!

Invading someone’s personal space, is when they think that you have ‘weeraruu’ their space – that sounds like quite a violent expression, doesn’t it?

Isn’t it just friendly though? It’s not invading personal space to hug someone you’ve just met is it? Otherwise people will think that you are too ‘reserved’, especially if you are somewhere where people are more touchy-feely.

Reserved - of-qabuu (cal-jedheessa)… but maybe Phil is just quite reserved.

I’m English. Of course I’m reserved. It’s what we do…

Ok, but it’s not just about what you're like… Obviously we are all different and we do things in different ways…. But maybe we need to be able to adapt to other people.

What do you mean?

Well, I think you’ve got to be ‘tolerant’ of other people – I mean you should respect that other people might do things differently and in different ways.

Yes, I think being tolerant, or ‘obsaa ta’uu’ is really important, especially if you go to live in a different country.

Yes – living in different countries can really show you how important it is to be tolerant… like being tolerant of the way people treat personal space, for example

Which means I should give you the answer for our quiz – it was all about different attitudes to personal space. So, I asked you biyya kam keessatti keessummaa haalaan ofirraa fageessu; Indiyaa, Koriyaamoo Keeniyaadha?  and the answer is… Kenya, where on average people like to stand 110 cm from strangers, just ahead of India at 108 cm and Korea at 105cm. That s according to the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.

Maybe I’ll try Kenya for my next trip…

Well, according to that study, all three countries give you more personal space than England – so they’re perfect for someone who is reserved!

Gaarii, Wayita Saam imala Fiilii ittaanuun godhu karoorsutti, jechoota har’a dubbachaa ture haa’ilaallu –hundisaanii waa’ee ogbarruu 'touchy-feely' jechuun miira mararfannaa waltuquuti, ‘invade personal space’ weerarrii mirga/miira faggeenya ofii eegachuu; ‘reseved’ jechuun kan of-qoqqobuu ykn kan of-qabuu akkasumas ‘tolerant’ jechuun kan obsu. Waan nu waliin turteef galatoomi; barnoota dabalataa Afaan Ingilizii Waliin-wajjiniin ‘English Together’ yeroo ittaanu walitti deebina.

Meaning & Use

touchy-feely (adjective)

Touchy-feely describes a person who feels comfortable making physical contact with other people. It can also be used to describe people who display their emotions openly.
She was very touchy-feely and always hugged the people she met.
His children were very touchy-feely and liked to jump on him when they were playing.
Everyone in the group was very touchy-feely and it made her uncomfortable.

invade personal space (verb)

If someone is in your personal space, it means that they are so close to you that you feel uncomfortable. If someone invades someone else's personal space, it means that they make that person uncomfortable by being too close.
I hate when she comes so close - it feels like she is invading my personal space.
When you meet new people, be careful not to invade their personal space.
If you invade someone's personal space, they might not want to help you.

reserved (adjective)

If someone is reserved, it means that they are quiet and do not strongly demonstrate their feelings.
I'm sure he's happy he won the competition, although you can't tell because he's so reserved.
In some cultures it is important to be reserved.
She's so reserved! It's hard to tell what she's feeling.

tolerant (adjective)

If someone is tolerant, they can accept things that they may not agree with.
Although I do things quite differently, everyone has been really tolerant.
If you work with a lot of people, you have to be quite tolerant.
I had a lot of arguments because the people around me were not very tolerant.

How close is too close?

4 Questions

Choose the correct answer.
Deebii sirrii ta’e fili

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Over to you!

Are you touchy-feely? Are you more reserved? Do you hate it when people invade your personal space? Tell us on our Facebook group.

Join us for our next episode of English Together when we will learn more useful language and practise your listening skills.
Turtii waliin qabaanneef galatoomi, barnoota dabalataa English Together torban ittaanu walitti deebina.

Session Vocabulary

  • touchy-feely
    miira mararfannaan waltuquu

    invade personal space
    Daangaa mirga dhuunfaa cabsuu


    obsa-qabeessa ykn Gara-balleessa

    waquunnamtii/waliin haasa’uu