Tuesday, October 1, 2019

In my military life I have learned about aspects of other cultures Essay

A military career is not only a way to apply one’s potential toward the noble cause of defending people; for me it was also a chance to travel and to expand my knowledge of other cultures and nations. I have a twenty-year military career to look back upon. During this time I was three times deployed to Iraq, once to Bosnia, and visited Japan for six week field exercise. This, in my opinion, is an impressive record of dealing with other cultures due to diversity of these nations and their relative difference from the US. These cultures were indeed very different. One reason may be the fact that they are located at such a distance from each other and my homeland that it seems that during travels you are spanning a huge distance and land in another world. Indeed, the Southern European setting of Bosnia is very different from Iraqi deserts and the cluttered Japanese landscape. Most of all, however, I was impressed with differences in lifestyles, attitudes and different aspects of culture that I had to deal with. I realized quite often how individualistic our culture really is, with every person defending one’s own point of view, without fear that others may disagree. In Japan, for instance, I often saw that people are not willing to impose their individual ideas. Instead, they are more willing to draw on the ideas and perceptions of the group they belong to. In fact, they always seem to have this feeling of a group in the background that stands ready to support them, a quality that even made me envious of them at times. I think it is very useful for a person to see how people in different cultures perceive individualism, or â€Å"the importance of the individual as compared with collective goals and efforts† (Couto, Cabral 2004). At the same time, I found it frustrating at times how the Japanese tend to treat Westerners as outsiders. As one gets to know them more closely, one learns that their society, too, is composed of â€Å"many groups and sub-groups — and not always in perfect harmony and cooperation as it may look on the surface† (â€Å"Culture Schock 101†). One learns that there is often a division of ‘them† and â€Å"us† between the Japanese and the arrivals, so that one can spend a lot of time there without getting close to the natives. I think there is no reason to get frustrated about it just as there is little reason to be frustrated about people being different from us altogether. Acceptance helps good relations and can often overcome differences since ultimately it is not similarity, but mutual sympathy and liking that matters in human interaction. Quite a few times, I had misunderstandings with our Japanese counterparts, like, for instance, invitations to dinner that people in Japan do not really intend to make. I several times fell for these invitations only to find out later that they meant simply an invitation to good cooperation. It took me a while to realize that people make these invitations to promote the general air of harmony in relationships. I later found out how important harmony is to the Japanese and began to avoid actions that could disrupt it. When we were in Iraq, this was surely different from Japan, partly because of the political aspects, and partly because Arab culture and in particular Iraqi culture is so different. I think my first surprise was the food that proved to be something in my taste, so that I learned a couple of recipes and brought them back to the US. Then another thing that captured my eye was all the material culture they had, like ancient artefacts and modern things that are so elaborate, elegant and at the same time bright and eye-catching. Then one more thing that soon becomes obvious is the importance of religion to the Iraqi people who think in Islamic terms about their daily happenings so that their whole philosophy is inextricably linked to their religion and its doctrine. In the US it often feels as if people leave their faith behind the doors of the church when they leave the Sunday service, but in Iraq they are committed to thinking about faith on a daily basis. It is like a glass through which they see the world, thinking about it in terms of what Islam wants them to do. I think a great part of learning about other cultures and their peculiar traits is that you get a more complete picture of your own background, putting it in context. Things that seemed natural and obvious begin to look different because now you have a chance to assess them from a different viewpoint. I recently came upon the article that talks about US culture as promoting â€Å"the behavior of women like drunken, sexually aroused yobs as a way for them to â€Å"be one of the guys†, a way for them to be funny and â€Å"with it† and cool† (Faisal 2003). Without having been there, I would probably feel hurt by this description. Now, in contrast, knowing the way of life people live over there I can understand how our world might look to them. Indeed, it is often hard to bridge the gap between cultures, but with a bit of common sense a person can make it, once one realizes that many values are vastly different across the globe. As for Bosnia, I was pleased to find out that in this relatively poor area people are so hospitable and sociable. I think that Bosnia, too, has a collectivist culture, but it is one that is relatively easy for foreigners to penetrate. I enjoyed seeing the neighborhood networks that are so well-developed in their culture and how people get together in locales called kafane and kafici. I also had time to realize that it is not in fact a homogeneous culture but one that includes great diversity, including divisions between Muslims and Christians. I believe that my background allows me to realize many cultural issues that would otherwise have escaped my attention. Dealing with individuals coming from other cultures on a daily basis allows insights into deep-seated cultural values and assumptions. At the same time, presence in the country acquainted me with material aspects of other cultures. For someone new in the culture, even ordering dishes in a local cafe can be a problem since one does not know what to choose. However, as one gets hold on daily happenings, one is ready for realization of more complex things. Bibliography Couto, Joao Pedro, & Vieira, Jose Cabral. â€Å"National Culture and Research and Development Activities. † Multinational Business Review (Spring 2004). 26 Nov. 05 . â€Å"Culture Shock 101. Japanese Culture — A Primer For Newcomers. † 26 Nov. 05 . Faisal, Amr Al. Raunchy Sexy Things. 2003. 26 Nov. 05 .

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