(Top photo: Erica Zabowski via Flickr, Creative Commons)
This article first appeared on VICE UK.
Panicking and ordering something you don't like at dinner because you don't want to hold anyone up. Pretending to understand what someone says the second time because it'd be embarrassing to ask again. Silently working out the hygiene levels of everyone on the top deck of the bus before you sit down. As a people, being awkward defines the British more than "tea" or "queuing" or any of the twee stuff you'll find in listicles titled "23 British Quirks Every 'Sherlock' Fan Knows to Be True".
A new study that was inexplicably commissioned to work out the ideal distances people from different countries would like you to stand away from them has gone one jot further to confirming this. The closest a Brit can stand next to a stranger without feeling uncomfortable, the study found, is three feet. Any closer and we begin to fret.
Mind you, we're not the most awkward by any means, ranking 26th in a list of 42 countries for the ideal distance away we'd like to be from a conversational partner. Researchers at the University of Wroclaw in Poland, using the testimonies of 9,000 people, found that Romanians want the biggest gap, at 1.39 metres, while Argentines are the most relaxed, saying they can stand as close at 76.5cm away before feeling uncomfortable.
The study said cultural differences could be behind the differences, but that other factors were probably at play. Generally, those in warmer countries were more likely to want to stand closer, while older generations and women prefer to stand further away.