(idea submitted by and dedicated to Justin K.)
It is customary in the Western World to maintain an appropriate “buffer” between yourself and another person for reasons of politeness, respect, or “personal space”. Rarely will two people touch in public beyond the casual hand-shake or cursory hug. While this is the norm in most societies, Jewish Young Adults are substantially more touchy-feely than their Non-Jewish counterparts, sometimes shockingly so to casual observers.
There are many theories to explain this peculiar behavior. One theory is that the years spent in close quarters at yeshiva/Jewish summer camp/basic training has eroded the notion of “personal space” for JYAs, making them much more comfortable and free. Another theory postulates that JYAs are touchy-feely as a way to show emphasis or gravity when they speak. Arguably the strongest theory suggests that JYAs use touchy-feely behavior as an attention grabbing mechanism, diverting conversations back to themselves when they have strayed.
It is important to note that there are varying degrees of touchy-feeliness amongst JYA communities. American JYAs might be a little thrown by the degree of touchy-feeliness found in their Israeli counterparts. Similarly secular JYAs might feel awkward concerning the amount of touchy-feeliness within the sexes in more religious circles, whereas orthodox JYAs would feel awkward concerning the touchy-feeliness between the sexes in secular communities.
Non-Jews should be aware that there is a high probability that they will be casually touched when they are in the company of JYAs, and should prepare accordingly. Fortunately, JYAs also have a penchant for carrying Antibacterial Wipes, in case there is a hygienic emergency from all the hugging.