Personal space in China is very different than it is here in the US. Just assume, wherever you are going will be crowded and the people will just pack right in like sardines. It may seem strange that personal space would prove to be a challenge but, what can I say, it was. People are very friendly there so I didn't feel threatened but I was more than a little claustrophobic in elevators and a little disconcerted when the men lined up at the urinals straight from one end to the other rather than spacing themselves out like they do here is Kansas.
I got my first taste of this "get a little closer" attitude in the Hong Kong airport. Since leaving San Francisco, I'd been hanging out with 340 of my best friends in a box that fit neatly into the middle level of this airplane.
|My flight out of San Francisco|
We are all really packed in here of course. The guy waiting for the lavatory had his arm draped over the woman who was sleeping leaned up against a teenager playing games on his mom's I-pod. I was seated next to two very tired ladies from Hong Kong who, judging from their bags had been to Disneyland. They spent the flight sleeping or politely picking their teeth with one hand held over their mouths. I don't know who sat in front of or behind me but after 17 hours in the air, I was so ready to get up and stretch, and have a little space to myself. It was not to be.
The flight emptied out from two hatches, one at the front one at the mid line of the plane into a hallway about the same width as the airplane. After 17 hours knees to butt with my 340 best friends, I found myself moving down a gangway, in the same pack, in roughly the same shape and about the same density. Then came the escalator. Like a really dense pack of sweaty sparrows, we swirled around the base of the dual escalators and rose as one. Not done yet, we arrived in mass at the cross terminal subway, and with one push, all 340 of us crowded into it. Having gone 7000 miles together, it was as if we had developed into a single amorphous entity. I was still right next to the two very polite women.
It wasn't until we arrived at the luggage carousel that we final began to break up. The oval shape of the carousel forced us to fan out and then one by one we collected our bags and trickled off to customs.
I was tired and smelly and wanted to be on my own to stretch my legs but in Hong Kong, space is at a premium. Be prepared to smell touch and taste pretty much every passerby. People close talk, close sit and close walk. It's just the way. You're likely to not be alone till you get to your hotel.
Get into the flow at the airport, wander with the stream and you'll do just fine. Stretch when you get to your hotel.