Breathing in different sensory worlds

“Americans and Arabs live in different sensory worlds much of the time and do not use the same senses even to establish most of the distances maintained during conversations.” – EDWARD HALL

“Americans and Arabs live in different sensory worlds much of the time and do not use the same senses even to establish most of the distances maintained during conversations. As we shall see later, Arabs make more use of olfaction and touch than Americans….”

“Olfaction occupies a prominent place in the Arab life. Not only is it one of the distance-setting mechanisms, but it is a vital part of a complex system of behavior. Arabs consistently breathe on people when they talk….”

Bathing the other person in one’s breath is a common practice in Arab countries. The American is taught not to breathe on people. He experiences difficulty when he is within olfactory range of another person with whom he is not on close terms, particularly in public settings. He finds the intensity and sensuality overwhelming and has trouble paying attention to what is being said and at the same time coping with bis feelings. In brief, he has been placed in a double bind and is pushed in two directions at once. The lack of congruence between U.S. and Arab olfactory systems affects both parties and has repercussions which extend beyond mere discomfort or annoyance.”

Source:

Hall, E. T. (1966). The hidden dimension. New York: Anchor Books.

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