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Adventures with Alisha

Linking Arms: Cute, Immature, or a Violation of Space?

CHINA | Monday, 11 July 2011 | Views [3439]

Something odd, exciting, and a bit surprising about Chinese culture is that the girls (and sometimes boys) often hold hands or link arms while they are walking in public.  This symbolizes that you are good friends with the person.  Often, younger girls, three in a row, will strut down the street and with all of their arms linked.  Maybe it's a strength in numbers thing.  Anyways, since I spent most of my time either teaching little kids who I hold hands with anyways, my host family, or other foreigners (also working with children) touring the city, I never thought this would happen to me.  I thought wrong.

Yesterday, I went shopping with a born and bred Xi'an Chinese girl.  She was the daughter of one of the teachers at my school and since she and I were the same age, we hit it off instantly.  I enjoyed finally meeting someone my age in China.  I was really excited to see where real Chinese people hung out on Sunday afternoons, where they shopped, and to get the insider's take on bargaining.  Since the bus ride was rocky, and we were standing, my friend grabbed my arm to keep me from falling over.  I didn't think this was strange at all.  However, as soon as we got off the bus, she linked her arm within mine and I felt my heart freeze.

I know, as immature as this sounds, I was nervous.  It was like I was a little girl again.  I had no idea what to do.  Should I let go?  Should I keep hanging on?  What if I hang on too tightly?  Maybe when I was younger I held hands with other girls, though I never remember doing it and I'm sure it was all in good fun.  Grown women doing the same thing was a completely foreign thing.  I had no idea what to feel or what to do.  Obviously, I wasn't going to reject her arm and make her feel that I didn't like her, but then again, I felt a little uncomfortable being so close to someone.  And moving around in a pair.

Ultimately, I ended up linking my hand halfway so that it was hanging a little lightly in hers.  I think the situation didn't end up exploding in my face because I didn't pick up on any weird signals.  Then again, Chinese signals are probably way different from American ones.  And while I know Americans are very uptight about their space and want nobody to invade it, maybe the linking of arms is just a cute gesture after all.  I mean really, who doesn't like watching cute, fashionable women holding hands?  

Tags: china, friendship, girls, holding hands, linking arms, personal space, shopping, xian

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