Life in an Elevator

Scientists in the States have recently published their findings about people’s behavior in an elevator.

The personal dynamics and the quest to maximise personal body space becomes a battle and the cultural background of the people in the elevator is the catalyst. The spark that starts the internal and external war between the bodies in the elevator is the number of people.

As the number increases so does a person’s desire for body space and comfort.

They studied western people and how they interact in an elevator. If there is 1 person in the lift they will stand near the controls. OK that is normal. I get that and agree with that.

If there are 2 people, then they will maximise the space between themselves. That is to say they will be on the diagonal. Yes I like this too.

Three people inside and they will form a triangle.

Again maximizing body space. I like it!!!! Yay!!!

Four people will occupy the corners and the fifth person will stand in the middle.

Body space; a wonderful, beautiful, comforting cultural anomaly.

Person number six and each subsequent person will endeavor to occupy as little space as they can muster. Thus the body space structures remain in place until critical mass is reached and then you have to hope and pray you are stood behind the person without the flatulence and beside the person who has great personal hygiene.

But in Korea, as in many non western nations the concept of body space has not been endorsed. There is a common acceptance that if you are in an enclosed space; an elevator, a train, a bus or a plane; as the number of people increases, your right to space decreases.

Let us all touch each other and stand as close to each other as we can. Touch me, tease me, feel me.

Here is the lowdown on Korean elevator etiquette.

One person in the elevator usually stands in the middle of the doorway awaiting to alight as quickly as is possible. But they fail to realize that other people have to squeeze past them. Both into and from the elevator.

Two people will invariably stand side by side creating a wall behind the doors. When the doors open one is greeted by people unwilling to move.

A third person squeezes in behind. So we now have 3 people occupying the doorway with a completely empty elevator behind them. Each subsequent traveler in the lift will move through the human wall until the elevator cannot take any more people.

Well that is technically not true. People will squeeze into the elevator until the overload alarm sounds and usually the last in will get off.

But sometimes, just sometimes the last person will feign ignorance or maybe arrogance and someone younger feels compelled to alight in their stead. This is the hierarchical society at work on a daily basis.

In a company, this attitude towards a more senior person is amplified and if you happen to be with that more senior figure, you automatically get treated as the same.

This is all very confusing and off-putting for the liberal Westerner!!!

Ahhh. The joys of being a sardine in Korea.

The subway is another eye-opener. But I will save that for another day.