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Spatial empathy is the awareness that an individual has to the proximity, activities, and comfort of people surrounding them. It is closely related to the notion of personal space, the concept that individuals have ownership of their immediate surroundings; and for others to invade this space represents an infringement on their privacy.
The degree to which different cultures exhibit spatial empathy differs dramatically. Typically, many developed Western countries consider unnecessary closeness to or physical contact with strangers (such as in a train carriage or store) as taboo. However, many Asian and Eurasian cultures do not exhibit the same aversion.
Spatial empathy was first termed by expatriate workers in Hong Kong, themselves typically from nations such as Australia, England, France and the United States. Part of the 'culture shock' of moving to this still very westernised city was the crowded walkways and public transport systems, where navigation through a crowd while avoiding physical contact often proved more difficult than in their home countries.
Spatial empathy has also been defined as awareness of the spatial condition that a remote person experiences. An "empathy vest" is a tool to achieve this.
- Regine (October 13, 2005). "The Empathy Vest". We Make Money Not Art.