Culture Shock or PTSD: Storyline 1


Sometimes a little banter provides the reader with a fuller picture of the message in their minds.  I use this Storyline as a tool to discuss the topic of Culture Shock in a more relatable way to a military life.

Now I don’t want to offend any other branch of service.  It’s just easier for me to write it this way:  When I say Marines, I am projecting all other active military life (army, navy, air force…).

Even though each branch has big lifestyle differences, they are across the board on another culture plane as civilian societies.

If they needed labels to aid in understanding, I would call the planes Institutional Society and American Free Will Society, respectively.

Institutional can mean prisons, or government agencies, military circles, and the like.  Even though each item listed is completely different from one another, Institutional Societies tend to have more control over quality of life such as the removal of pay, poor working conditions, lifestyle restrictions (drinking, sexual conduct, how you dress/speak/act in public settings…).

American Free Will can mean any place with long term life among infinite varieties: small town in the south, big city in the north, CA vs NY, to name a few quick ones.

To compare, people of this American Free Will culture plane can quit their jobs, start a business, get in a romantic relationship with virtually anyone they see.

However, these people also have to seek out every single thing they ever want or need by themselves.  If they want help, they also need to find out where and seek that out as well.

Institutional cultures usually have reliable and consistent medical care, food, shelter, etc already in place.  Avenues for seeking help are posted on a board nearby.

Each plane has different fundamental benefits.  Therefore…


Every behavior, tradition, conversation, thought, and anything else are all occurring secondary to their respective culture plane.


If one plane is generally higher risk to life on an expected and regular basis, it should surprise no one that their language use, ethical considerations [right vs wrong], or aspired traits [that are well respected by peers] can all be foreign to those from another culture plane.

The problem is the awareness of cultural shock in the veterans that return home from institutional culture plane to an American Free Will plane; and are somewhat expected to immerse themselves immediately.

Perhaps if they knew it was simply a culture clash, as we all face every day in America, it would be met with greater understand and patience.

Instead, veterans are suddenly separated from an entire culture of people they’ve just worked so hard at adopting as their own.  One that they lived by and relied upon for survival.

And this new culture they’ve come into ostracizes the differences in behaviors.  [see Tangent cs1 at bottom]

This ostracization amplifies the behaviors, which are usually the ones most inappropriate outside of Institution, and results in a growing gap of understanding.


Ask yourself, “What does it mean to be of a different culture? “


My initial response is a group of people who live differently than I do, with different value systems, traditions that I don’t always understand, and they probably look or dress different as well.

This is so confusing because the veterans leave their families and friends and return looking like the same person.  So the veteran is expected to behave a certain way, based on who they were as they were known back home.  The families want them to change back to what they are comfortable with, as they knew them, the way they used to be.  And the veteran doesn’t understand what exactly they are doing that is “wrong”.

“Wrong”, as it is written above, gets confused with “different from expectation”.

It sets off alarms in people’s heads when something is expected to be one way, and it turns out it isn’t.  Like going to drink water, and realizing it was milk.

The alarms are just signals that something is different, not something is wrong.  Those words are mutually exclusive.

Misusing these words creates friction in communication and rebelliousness to adapt with the veteran.

When cultures clash, both sides think the other is “wrong”.

We meet people that we know is a different culture, and demonstrate understanding and patience because we expect them to act and behave different from the way we do.  That’s called cultural awareness.


What does this tell us?


That being aware of the expectations we project onto others can either make patience and understanding easier, or much more difficult.

When you have communication issues with another, and you try and try and try, and don’t seem to know what the problem is… check your expectations.



Please move on to Culture Shock or PTSD: Storyline 2



Tangent cs 1:

Marine Corps culture was screamed into each recruit in boot camp.  Recruits were to refer to themselves in the third person to remove their sense of personal identity. No music, tv, advertisements.  No family, no friends, or personal items whatsoever. There was nothing to influence the balls of clay we all quickly became- except the Drill Instructor.

They promote the most intense emotion and not just push every button you have, but they break every button you have.

There was no longer anyone outside of the Marine Corps who could do or say anything that would actually get to me.  That is probably why Marines seem arrogant.  It truly is confidence and pride in belonging to force greater than yourself.  It only seems arrogant because the feeling Marines work hard to achieve is rare and hard to relate to.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some boot ass overly confident Marines that need to get their asses in check.  They are just new to feeling invincible.  A deployment or two should fix’em.

The point is…

there isn’t much in American Free Will cultural planes that beat in its values at such an extreme level.

To just let go seems like a ridiculous expectation.



Next Piece:

Culture Shock or PTSD: Storyline 2 (coming soon…)


See Related:

CS: Condensed

Main takeaways from the storyline.  Much more easily shared and can help more people in a more expedient form.

CS: Breaking Barriers

A quick activity I propose to aid in any friction that might be occurring.

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