Social Distance

Topics: Sociology, Overseas Chinese, Confucianism Pages: 5 (1260 words) Published: March 25, 2015
The Difference Ideas of Social Distance Between American Culture And Chinese Culture
How far the range of social distance should be? The correct range of social distance depends on different groups of society and is opposed to locational distance. According to Ashley Crossman a sociology expert, social distance is the degree to which people are willing to accept and associate with those having different social characteristics. For example, an unwillingness to live next door to a family of a different race would indicate a high degree of social distance ("Crossman"). The importance of social distance in human communication is that it is not only a buffer zone so people won't stumble into each other, but also a private area that people consider almost as an extension of their body. In addition, with the right social distance people could communication better.

Compared the different concepts of social distance between American culture and Chinese culture, the most obvious example would be the talking distance. In American culture people usually stand between four feet when they talk. On the other hand, Chinese culture stand in the range which within arms’ reach or even closer. As a international student come from Taiwan, the social distance between people do make me feel much more comfortable when I get used to American culture. There are also important reasons that why in Chinese culture people have much less social distance. There is no correct or incorrect range of social distance between two cultures. In fact, the important thing is to understand each others' culture, so people from different culture can make better and more efficient communication with less misunderstandings.

The concept of social distance as applied to human, as distinguished from different relations, For instance, In American culture, "social distance ranges varies from four to about twelve feet. Within it are the kinds of communication that usually occur in business situations. Its closer range, from four to seven feet, is the distance at which conversations usually occur between salespeople and customers and between people who work together"("Adler, Rodman, Du Pre"187). In the U.S, people use the far range of social distance seven to twelve feet for more formal and impersonal situations. This is the range at which people generally sit from the boss. In contrast, unlike American culture practice of social distance, "it is very common to see two persons of the same gender walking and talking together with one’s arm on another’s shoulder, or two women talking hand in hand. Generally speaking, the persons of the same gender keep a closer distance in the public than those of different gender"("Social Distance"). In addition, it is against traditional Chinese values for people to show love and affection in public. So there was no hugging no kissing, even no hand-shaking in public in old days. Instead of hand-shaking people bow or nod.

Willard C. Poole, Jr. a sociology expert wrote that social distances are group phenomena; they take whale groups as they exist as realities in the minds of typical members of other groups ("Poole",99-104). Most of the people have the assumption that in public with other strangers, people need more social distance. On the other side, with intimate people, social distance is not so important. "Studies shows that in public people need ten feet or more, in social spaces people need four to twelve feet, and with intimate others the space could be zero to eighteen inches"(Nolan,1999). Contrary to what most people might think, the social distance Chinese people keep to strangers is less than their ordinary friends. "In an experiment, a sociologist randomly chose twenty persons and asked them to get on board a small van. They did squeeze in with no distance in between at the beginning. Then they were arranged to know each other and became friends. A few days later, they were asked to get on board the same van, but they...

Bibliography: Adler, Ronald B., and George R. Rodman. "Nonverbal Communication." Understanding Human Communication. 12th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2003. 187. Print.
Crossman, Ashley. "Social Distance Definition." About Education. Web. 17 Mar. 2015. .
Poole, Willard C. Jr. 1927. "Distance in Sociology." The American Journal of Sociology 33:99-104.
"Social Distance." Chinese Culture.org. Ed. Yanru Yan. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. .
Nolan, R. W. "Public and Private Space." Public and Private Space. 1 Jan. 1999. Web. 16 Mar. 2015. .
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