One of the more interesting cultural differences is personal territory. This is how far away strangers have to be from you for you to be comfortable around them. In the U.S., our personal territory runs about 18 inches. As a result, our common greeting with strangers is a handshake – reaching out while keeping our preferred personal distance.
When you plan your home’s seating, an understanding of personal territory can be very useful. For example, have you noticed that frequently only two people will sit on your sofa even though it would hold three or more? Notice that in the photo of the people watching baseball, there are only two people on the sofa, the other two choosing to sit on the floor rather than break into anyone’s personal territory. The only exception to this unspoken rule is family members, who frequently have less or no personal territory among themselves.
To help contain your seating at the appropriate distance, use an area rug. Choosing the right size rug will help you capture your seating at the right distance. Set any additional chairs at that eighteen inch distance and people will comfortably sit in them. This works just as well with dining and snack-bar chairs. A little additional thought to issues of personal territory and you will have a good party with guests who are comfortable with themselves and each other.