Friday, October 1, 2010

Culture Clash

A not insignificant chunk of the training we go through before arrival focuses on the differences in culture between State and the Military. You can divide us into two opposing columns: we're passive-aggressive; they're hyper-confrontational. We tend to be egalitarian; they focus on rank and discipline. They keep a tidy desk; we live in squalor. Physical fitness matters to them; if we had push-up tests, we'd lose the vast majority of our service. Few foreign service officers smoke; the military loves its cigarettes but REALLY loves its smokeless tobacco.

Having been good friends with the Marines at my last two posts, none of this was new to me. I was a little surprised at how many people here use tobacco products -- everyone smokes cigarettes, all the officers smoke cigars and it seems like every enlisted man has a hunk of chaw in his mouth at any given time -- but beyond that nothing surprised me.

"Foul language," we were told, "is another area where the military isn't like the civilian world. You can expect that the language will be a little salty." This also wasn't news to me -- but I must say that I'm surprised at the the degree to which it's rubbing off on me. I wasn't particularly saintly in my speech habits before this deployment, but I also can't remember ever having dropped the F bomb in a staff meeting. Here, that's closer to de rigeur.

All of this is to say that I anticipate that the language in this blog will continue to go downhill. I don't anticipate studding my writing with obscenities, but as I continue to quote the people around me, the likelihood of using foul language goes up. It is, I suppose, one of the lesser-mentioned dangers of living and working with the military.


Adam said...

You used to be so pure Mark.

Nan said...

Dakota, your fans are eagerly awaiting another post. Also, in addition to insightful notes on your work and the culture of Afghanistan and the military, could we get a facial hair update? Still a close-trimmed beard?