Men’s Room Etiquette

So there I was minding my own business when I realized some “unspoken” rules should, in fact, be spoken after all.

I’ve recently come across some confusion with Men’s Room Etiquette, and I wasn’t sure how to react.

I am not the one to discuss game stats or weather trends while standing next to another dude during the sacred flow.  Remember:

 Silence is as golden as the flow of urine.

Needless to say, I felt compelled to clear up discrepancies in a public and shareable format and cease any further debate.

General Rule:

It is the Man’s responsibility to show consideration and awareness when entering a Men’s Room.  The Man is not to impose on another Man in any way, unless absolutely necessary.


Common and Acceptable Phrases:

  • Shake hands with the President
  • Drop the Browns off at the Super Bowl
  • See a man about a horse
  • Skip to the loo
  • Put out a fire
  • Drain the vein (or main vein)
  • Drop the kids off at the pool
  • Head, John, or Can
  • More will be added in the comments section!


A Man is found to be in violation if He…

  • Shake hands with another Man for any reason.  Introductions and respectful greetings can – and will – wait until after the Men have rested; hence Restroom.
  • Sparks conversation.  The Man should wait 30 to 45 seconds until the snake is back in its cage, and then state his incredible insights about the weather that couldn’t wait.
    • Or if a Man takes offense to a guy not carrying the conversation, regardless of importance of topic- especially while you are both putting out urinal fires.
  • Brings food into a Men’s Room.  Drinks are ok.
  • Shakes more than twice.  Means your playing with it. In which case, head to the nearest stall.
  • Splashes water.  When a Man leaves the sink area, there shouldn’t be puddles of water everywhere.
  • Misses the urinal.  Stand closer, or get hand warmers for your human thermometer before you make your fellow Man have to wash his shoes.  Worst case, throw some brown paper towels on top of it and kick it around with your own shoes.
    • Minor transgressions of the occasional side of the urinal splashing, are not considered a “miss”.
  • Miss the trash can with a basketball-style toss.  This is when a Man tosses out trash from a distance greater than 3 feet, misses, and does not pick it up and try again.
  • Make eye contact.  In almost all other cases except a Men’s Room, eye contact is a sign of respect and attentiveness…  In the Men’s Room, any eye contact beyond an occasional glance – maybe – is a sign of disrespect, and attentiveness is a poor Restroom trait.

Proper Urinal Etiquette:

Relevant Terms… [does not apply to urinals with the short privacy walls separating them.]

Parallel Parking  –  occurs when a Man  “parallel parks” himself between two urinals being used.  See #4 in below example.

Every Other Rule  – there will be 1 urinal of space between urinal users.

Situational Example…

If there are 5 urinals next to each other (labeled 1 through 5 respectively), this means there are 3 usable urinals available.  2 are reserved for times of high demand.

This is the correct procedure:

  1. First Man will choose an odd number of either urinals 1, 3, or 5, but never 2 or 4 as it limits the options of other Men that may enter after.
  2. Second Man will choose his urinal using the Every Other Rule, leaving at least 1 urinal of space between them.

    You’re an ass hole if…

    Say the First Man chose Urinal 1.  It’s an ass hole move to choose urinal 4 because if a Third Man were to walk in, he would have no viable urinal options with the required 1 urinal space of separation, set forth by the Every Other Rule.

    Whatever the Third Man chooses, he will be wrong.  In this case, the stall or simply waiting are his options.

  1. Third Man will choose the last available urinal upholding the Every Other Rule.
  2. Fourth Man… now this Fourth Man is at high risk for violating the Parallel Parking Rule.

This creates chaos and should be avoided except for extreme wait lines, in which case Men’s Room Etiquette adjusts to the situation.

The Fourth Man will have to wait the 30-45 seconds, or use a stall.

Parallel Parking is especially awkward when, out of 5 urinals, 3 in a row are being used, leaving two lone urinals dry with confusion.

Don’t be the one to choose urinal 2, when 1 and 3 are in use.

If a Man were to mess up the rotation and choose an even number of 2 or 4, the Every Other Rule still applies.

Proper Stall Etiquette:

Relevant Terms…   3 Methods of Protection

  1. Hover Method*–  Make a fist and place it on the wall behind you, giving you stability and leverage to relieve yourself a few inches above the seat.
  2. TPS Methodor “Toilet Paper the Seat” – lining the rim of the seat with carefully placed strips of toilet paper, creating ample protection from whatever horrible history the public porcelain seat has been through.  A minimum of one-ply should be good enough.
  3. FIIG Method**or the “Fuck It I’m Going” – taking a risk by sitting down without seat protection.

*Great for porta johns.

**Not recommended for porta johns.

Stall Etiquette :

Stalls are not meant to be places of comfort while publicly shitting.

It is where Men can seek refuge in dangerously close circumstances they may find themselves in.

Women use stalls every time for both things, but when a Man walks into a stall, it’s safe to assume what kind of “shit” he’ll be tending to.

  1. Keep things brief.  As soon as the emergency is over, get out of there. Don’t take phone calls or watch too many YouTube videos.  The Man can take his time when he gets home.
  2. Be considerate.  If a Man is knowingly in a stall when you walk in, and there is not a sound in the whole room, flush the urinal out of consideration to break the silence.

Stay brief as well, because chances are he’s clenching back a losing battle and time is running out.  He is clenching for your sake, show your appreciation by drowning out the silence.

3.        Express yourself.  You may draw/write on the stall doors, regardless of how nice the rest of the building is.  It gives Men a good laugh in when they find themselves in shitty situations.


It’s important not to forget about the Up-Splash.  This can often be remedied by preventative toilet paper layer placed on the surface of the water.

If you are a victim, contact your primary care physician.

Post-Relief Etiquette:

It is mandatory to wash hands thoroughly after visiting a stall, or touching any handles.

Exception…  Automatic flushing urinals allow for a “no hand wash” option.  Men do not have to touch anything at all to take a piss at a urinal except a zipper, everything else is experienced and precise finagling.

Next up:  Men’s Locker Room Etiquette

Matador… that’s the word.

I have a painting on my wall of a – shit, can’t remember what the word is- but the guy that fucks with Bulls and flaps his flimsy red napkin in an arena.  

They taunt the Bulls and everyone cheers.

The dude shakes out a red rug in front of thousands of people and let’s a 1 ton bull sprint towards him trying to end his life.

I mean, I stop shitting when just ONE person walks into the men’s room.

He has lead cannon balls for testicles compared to me and I walk past a picture of him without a thought.

Well here’s your damn kudos.

[The featured image is the exact painting I have]

Killing with Kindness

Killing with Kindness

Oh, that feeling I get when a sarcastic fucking ass hole gives me the ol’…

“Have a great day!!”

Complete with an exaggerated friendly nod like we were best friends from childhood.  He had to pass me 3 times, and said it loud with a stupid grin on his face each time.

Fucking. Ass hole.

It was apparent he was proud of himself for thinking up this witty comeback to our little disagreement, assuming he could beckon a rise out of me.

He almost did, but he’ll never know that.

I tricked the outside of my body to do the exact opposite of what the inside felt like doing.  And while this bought me several minutes to talk myself down to serenity

Some notable thoughts crossed my mind…


Mostly because I needed to reassure my ego [so it can let go of its hold on me] I recognized that if I unleashed myself, there’s no doubt I’d have a choice on the level of pain I wanted him to feel until I felt an internal sense of Justice being served.

Thus relief from the fury.

Being a Sergeant in the Marines, I’ve been in enough ‘altercations’ in my life where it was clear to me this dude had no idea what animal he was poking a stick at.

Just thinking about that made me feel better momentarily.


He drove a shitty car, wore shitty clothes, overall unkempt appearance, I judged him to have a more pathetic life than me; and with less opportunity. 

Assuming my judgments were close to truth, he had a dead end job making just enough money to get by, with inadequate retirement funds, and will have a shitty life until he dies.

And because I’ve proved myself to be superior to him in my head, he became less of a “threat” to be taken seriously. 


Still angry but moving towards reason, my next thought…

Even though he’s being an ass hole today – and to ‘super important me’doesn’t mean he needs to be taught a lesson. 

And I certainly don’t need to be the teacher.

I barely have time for my family, I’m not about to spend more time teaching this piece of shit when to shut his mouth.

Thought #4!

This thought was a bit calmer…  It didn’t go as far as remorse or guilt, but I concluded that I was being an ignorant douche bag for thinking his clothes and shoes were shitty.  And that I shouldn’t assume he had a shitty job, shitty future, and shitty life altogether; just by how I see him today.

Even if I was correct, I began to feel awkward about having felt the need to belittle and insult him in my head.

Do I really need to criticize someone’s appearance and life choices in order to calm down and make myself feel better?

I expect that’s what a shitty person would do.

Thought #5

This thought made me suddenly realize what was actually going on…

He was just being “nice” to me.  No actual threat was happening.  He had already chosen his weapon of being super duper kind, and was not going to escalate further.

He had passed the ball to me, and I generously caught it.  And responded with 3 variations of, “Thanks, you too, brother.”

At first, I wasn’t sure if it actually was as genuine as it sounded.  Either I’m a terrific actor, or I’m growing up.

Thought #6

My next thought made me realize that the powerful emotional cocktail that flowed through my veins was the main source of my inner turmoil; not even that ass hole.

The intense emotions made me feel like a balloon packed tight with air, ever more pushing the limits of the cheap latex material, and awaiting explosion any moment. 

My emotions literally blinded my logic and objectivity of the situation.

So a sarcastic fucking ass hole taught me a good lesson.  He allowed me to see a flawed part of me that I wanted to overcome.

I would hope that I can be a person that overcomes tearing people down [whether in my head or not] to make myself feel better about bad situations.

I don’t need to prove myself superior, because I’m really not superior to anyone or anything. 

We are all on the same level, just walking different paths.

I want to be someone who respects others and accepts everyone as they are.  The most I feel is acceptable behavior is to influence others by holding myself to a high standard and living by example; even if its as simple as admitting when I’m wrong when interacting with others or picking up trash on the street.

In conclusion…

Even though my thoughts are my own, I didn’t want to enable myself by justifying my terrible thoughts because he “deserved” it.  As if I were God and get to decide what’s just and fair.

After all, I don’t want to be a shitty person.  And I don’t want to justify being a shitty person because other people are shitty to me.

All that leads to is everyone getting doused in shit.

Block 2: Afterthought…

The Identity you have is a choice that you make.  Even though you can’t change your past, or remove memories (on purpose), you can change how you view and interpret those memories.

I learned this in the Marines, but we are all quite adaptive.  We adjust to shitty situations until they become our new “normal”.  Like wearing a watch or a ring- after a little while you don’t even feel them on you.  Or walking into a loud concert- after a while it will become the new normal and won’t seem so ear-piercing, and when the music stops, your ears will have to adjust back to low volumes.

Bad days don’t last forever. Not because situations actually change (they might, but that’s irrelevant), it’s your outlook that changes.

Good days don’t last forever either.  People adjust to a “good” normal and start to complain about frivolous things.  It will become increasingly harder to keep having good days.

Chasing happiness.

When you look around and you feel empty with no obvious reasons why.  That might mean you’re “normal” needs to be reset with bad days (relative to your good days), or through intense reflecting.

The point is that our Identities evolve and change regardless of what lies ahead in the future.  In other words, we all can change our identities without making any new decisions, new memories, anything.

We can choose to re-interpret our existing memories and experiences; essentially re-defining who we are.

I hope you enjoyed Block 2.

Block 3 coming soon…

Previous:  [2.6] The Identity

Go back to Block 1

[2.6] The Identity

I’m hearing independence and self-sufficiency in the theme of this Block.  I feel like my extreme anxiety about outside validation is not only preventing me from progressing in my career goals, but as a person as well.

I can be better than I am if I can only be okay with my own personal judgments about the things I do and the way I behave.

But does that mean other people’s views are no longer relevant?

Well that doesn’t sound right either.

This must be one of those gray area things.  A good balance between the two ends of a spectrum, whatever the hell that means.

Nothing has confused me more than the concept of a gray area among things.

What is a good balance of opposites?

In other words… yes or no.  And how much yes and how much no. That’s all gray area is to me, a balance of chaotic confusion of things that don’t match.

What’s the balance between an apple and a carrot?  Sometimes it is just that confusing to me and it drives me nuts trying to figure out that perfect balance.

Maybe I’m trying to understand it wrong.  Or from the wrong angle.

Life is best understood backward, but must be lived forward.

What if I change my approach to the question of what a good balance is in a spectrum of opposites?

These are difficult questions to be asking.  Especially when you don’t give yourself enough time to find an answer.  It has been tearing away at me from the inside for as long as I can remember.

Whenever these moments of thought run through my mind, I get that insecurity about whether or not I should ask others these questions, or whether or not I’m strange for thinking to ask them in the first place.

Of course it’s strange.  Most people do not entertain these thoughts as much as I do, but that is only an assumption I have about the people I’m around.  Not on a larger scale.

What if I’m not so strange, just strange right here?

This is why I am having trouble adjusting to things.  I don’t know what to adjust to.  And because the internet removes the imaginary geographic barriers to what defines traditional normalcy, this is only getting increasingly confusing; for millennials across the board, as well.

Throughout my life thus far, I’ve made myself aware of some other ways people can live their lives.  I’ve met people from many walks of life, in different countries, and in a wide range of settings, and I can’t seem to figure out where I fit into all of it.

Retreating back to the very beginning…

If everyone were to disappear, who would I be?

That’s an extreme question.  As mentioned, it’s probably a balance of things and that’s why that question seems so difficult.

Perhaps, I’m asking it wrong.

Let’s try separating the question into 2 opposite perspectives…

If everyone were gone, except those most important to me, who would I be?  

I’m not sure.  The same confused person maybe??  I guess I would at least find comfort in not going through everyone dying off by myself; I have my closest family and friends with me.

What if only those most important people to me died, leaving everyone else in the world, who would I be then?

The second question feels like everyone else might have well died also.  If everyone important to me died right now, I wouldn’t have much reason to go on with life- at least that’s how I think I would feel.

My thinking just doesn’t make logical sense because there are other people, billions of others.

Ok, I think I’m gaining some clarity.

It’s the memories you have of the life you’ve lived so far- that’s what makes people and things important to you.  And you’ve shared the most memories with “important people”.

That is also where you base and learn your judgments from.  Even the memory of someone telling you something is a memory that you can use as a personal identifier.

It is new memories, accumulated, that make new important people and things in your life- and provides you with your own sense of identity.

I would like to add that epiphanies and personal reflection can allow you to interpret your memories in different ways, leading you to a redefined identity; simply by changing your perspective.

Regardless, without memories, you lose your identity.  Without memories, sentimental value doesn’t exist.  Nothing will be important.  In the absence of memories, you have no definable identity.

This is probably why people feel the need to shed their identities when they feel they need to “start over” (usually after a bad break up or a death).  They throw away a lot of stuff, they kick people out of their lives, get makeovers and change their profile pictures on Facebook, or just pick up and move somewhere else leaving everything behind.

After all, by throwing things away, or by the loss of someone, there is nothing left to hold their memories accountable.  Their memories now become whatever they say they are.

But until they remove their own memories, they cannot actually “start over”.  That is why this phrase is so popular, “you can’t run away from your problems, they follow you.”.

It is you who is following yourself.  What the phrase refers to as “problems”, is nothing more than the words you’ve chosen to judge your own identity.

Who am I?

I am a collection of my own memories of the past and how I choose to interpret them for use in the future.

…there.  That wasn’t so hard.

Block 3 coming soon…

See Block 2: Afterthought…

Previous Piece:  [2.5] The Judgement Principles

Go back to Block 1

[2.5] The Judgement Principles

Principle I:  Judgement is a Natural Ability

We all know that people judge others, at least we are all born with the ability and craving to do so.  Whether we evolve enough as individuals to remove this impulse from our being is a separate issue.  For those that haven’t…

People like to ‘people watch’.  I know I do.

We sit on our thrones and make a game out of critiquing unaware people while they ignorantly carry on about their day.  Chances are our playful judgements are meaningless, but the takeaway here is how common people just sit and judge each other for no apparent reason.

We say our secret judgments to ourselves or someone close to us as if we were the only ones that have them- and they do the same about the two people snickering to each other across the room.

Mini spotlights of judgement and you never know when you are in the middle of it.

Is it the moment you bumped into a wall?? …casually turning around to see if anyone noticed your clumsy mistake; as if it would make a difference if you knew.

Imagine sitting on a bench, and as you peruse the scene in people watch mode, you come across another bench.  You look at who’s sitting there and you lock eyes briefly with another person, who also happens to be people watching.

It’s as if you were caught doing something you weren’t supposed to.

Curious thought:

Running with the “bump into a wall” example… everyone is clumsy once in a while, why are we so critical of ourselves?  If you turned and saw people staring, maybe even smirking, that’s usually when embarrassment comes into play.

But why?

If you turned and saw no one, you would feel nothing.  What does that mean?

We make that choice to feel embarrassed.

Principle 2:  Judgement is linked to Insecurity

I also believe there is a strong correlation between the level of judgement and the level of insecurity that person feels.

In other words…

The more you judge, the more insecure you may be; in theory.

We all know judgments happen and almost constantly so in public settings.  Even though people may not care about you, or care to know you, we care how they feel and think about us- to the degree at which we judge others.

There is a reward we all receive intrinsically for being “accepted” by those around you.  Humans are reward seekers; as is all other forms of life.

A new person’s judgments are like fun, mini-validations of living the right way.  Endorphins gained from a compliment can change the overall feel of someone’s day.

Sometimes a stranger’s quick judgement of you (good or bad) based on limited information is highly important to us.

Well, hold on a second.

I thought only important people in our lives hold this sort of weight upon us; perhaps you’ll never see that person again

So how can this be true?

Due to the craving to know who we are, we give unpredictable and immeasurable weight to the quick judgments of those we don’t know so well, or at all.  It’s almost as if the more desperate, or lonely and searching, a person is, the more seriously random judgment is taken.

On the latter of that thought, a fulfilled and satisfied person may give very little to no weight on random judgments.

Insecurity skews reality and makes you forget that the person has no idea about anything else you’ve done or accomplished in your life.  Even if you made a mistake and know it, the judgement is extreme because that person only has that very limited information about you.

Limited information = ignorance.

For whatever reason, I don’t readily think ignorance when I’m faced with someone else’s quick judgement whom I do not know personally.  I think it’s because I give them the benefit of doubt that maybe they do have ground to stand on with their opinions and judgments.

So, skewed by my own insecurity, I recognize ignorance in myself; as oppose to the ignorance of the other.

Principle 3:  Judgement is a Defense Mechanism

Judging others isn’t always a bad thing.  And I know a big part of it is for self-preservation (a defense mechanism).  Judgments stem from values instilled by others (those most important to us) and personal experience.

If your judgments are screaming danger based on those things, you should not treat is as if it is the first time you’ve encountered whatever it is.

Stated that way it sounds reasonable.  But consider the word racism.

A brief real life example…

I was jumped by a gang of about 15 black people.  I say gang, because the gang had an official name, I say black because they were all black.  One of them struck me on the side of the head with a 2 by 4 piece of wood, with nails sticking out the end of it.

What they didn’t realize was my being a Marine veteran and my roommate was an Army veteran- a true American war hero.   So we jumped right back.  But it was still a looong recovery and legal proceedings that ensued.

My heart is actually pounding right now thinking about this.  That is how a judgement is learned and ingrained for future use.

That makes me feel better about it.  I feel as if it is my own, uncovered by myself.

The point is now when I see a group of black people walking towards me, with a similar fashion sense to those that jumped me (not business suits), I will not be comfortable.  I will try to avoid the situation altogether.

Yes, in some cases that can be misconstrued as racism, because the group of black people may actually be very nice people.  But my instincts tell me I might not get a second chance to even find that out.

This is a learned judgement drawn from personal experience, not so much instilled from other sources like media and societal influences.

These Judgement Principles play out within each of us every day, and we apply them to everyone and everything-equally.

The Final Piece:

[2.6] The Identity

Previous Piece:

[2.5] Validation

[2.4] Validation

To seek validation is to confide.

My experience in confiding in those close to me is that sometimes they cannot handle it and that confiding in other people needs to be kept with the person [being confided in], in mind, not just all you.

They are only receiving the information you tell them, not the full story by a long shot. They aren’t privy to facial expressions, situational factors, things you’ve misconstrued, or anything else [that you don’t tell them, or that they cannot experience for themselves].

After learning my lesson slowly, I’ve found that you need to be careful what you say and who you say it to- as obvious as that may sound – a family member, spouse, best friend may not be ideal.  Especially if circles cross.

This doesn’t mean those confided in would tell others about what was said.  A private conversation is usually kept rather private.

But they can never be exactly where you are, see and experienced what you have, so what you are saying will never be equal and fair information.

They are only getting your side.

A simple example is that if I were to confide in person A about person B, person A may start to take the new information and form judgement about person B [without even interacting with B].

And person A will begin to change the way they treat person B; leaving person B very confused.

That’s why we shouldn’t jump to conclusions when the grapevine comes along informing us of second, third, or more hand information.  That goes for products, opinions, thoughts on life, whatever.

It leads to chaos, confusion, and no one knows why something happened.  Heed caution when others confide in you to not alter your judgments without sound reason.

A Quick Note…

Someone very close to me inspired me by example to start this blog.  Until very recently, I’ve always kept my personal thoughts toward life, people, and the way things are confined to the hard drive of my computer.

I was neglecting myself from outside validation.

Writing is my escape.  My release from the stuff I don’t say for one reason or another.  Mostly because I feel bad for overpowering people with my stupid thoughts on life and questions and observations that run sprints in my mind every day.

I’ve learned to just simply stop myself and bottle up all of those unanswered questions, however irrelevant they may be.

Well, bottling never does the trick, and I can’t seem to shut up sometimes, so I am admitting that I need outside validation from these inner turmoils that prove inappropriate in public settings.

Live Writing is my confidant…

I’m sick of writing dated word documents as if it were a journal to myself.

“Knowing” no one is going to read your journal only allows you to be more honest and blunt about the way you feel.

It doesn’t address the validation of someone else knowing about what you are going through.  Just one other human being to know what you are thinking so you can gauge whether you are crazy or completely sane.

I’ve found myself in some pretty rough states because of that question being unanswered.

Without validation, I am in a purgatory of what is normal.

So I am going to not only continue writing, but post the writings of the past; some of which are very dark.  Just the thought makes me feel vulnerable and insecure, but I think I’m about ready for public validation.

Assuming this is all worthy, of course.

It’s validation that makes the risk worth the reward; whether it comes from within or from other people.

In the Marine Corps, the louder you yelled and the more forceful your words are (and the more you drank) earned respect points (the reward).  Of course this is a very much abbreviated version of a respected Marine, so don’t think too much into that.

In the suburban society I currently preside in, a raised voice can mean danger and stay away.  Drinking too much means you have a problem. So I adjust my behaviors to what the society I’m around most of the time views me as “normal”.

It gets hard when you are around different groups of people, and all of them have a different “normal”.

That begs the question, what is my “normal”?

For now, it seems as if I am one of a small few with this version of normal.  It made me feel lonely and depressed as a kid, and continues to do so even while I’m in a room full of people who love and care about me.

But I think I’m getting closer and closer every day.

Next Piece:  

[2.5] The Judgement Principles

Previous Piece:

[2.3] The Little Picture

Culture Shock or PTSD: Condensed

Part I:    Culture Shock may be getting confused with PTSD

Culture Shock happens when you find yourself in situations where everyone accepts your behaviors, and then move to a place where everyone rejects your behaviors.

At the peak time of my violent behavior, I felt somewhat normal.  The Marines and other military organizations are a violent culture (on purpose), that uses comradery as a weapon.  The civilian culture I returned to, was not these things.  Everyone looked at me as different, critical, and fearful and I looked at them with utter confusion.  They at the very least felt as if they had to be on their toes around me for one reason or another.

I knew my intentions as I carried myself each day, which I viewed as positive, motivating, highly efficient and productive.  But everyone else perceived my actions and behaviors as having more intimidating, belittling, fearful, or even destructive intentions.

It took me some time to realize that the reason I had such trouble adjusting was not just being stubborn or confused, it was because everything they wanted me to “adjust” to seemed like a lesser trait.

As if they were forcing me to adjust to a more inferior version of myself.

But I was associating “lesser” and “inferior” with the intense emotional cocktails I was used to feeling.  If I didn’t feel powerful emotions, I felt like I was wasting my time and energy adjusting to a boring and mundane lifestyle.

An extremely toned down lifestyle… but that does not mean less rewarding.

Part II:     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”.

The behaviors that everyone deemed to be “different” and “wrong” ended up getting amplified due to the spotlight brought on to them.

“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.

Part III:      A Note on Trust and Communication

Veterans seem to prey on the unpredictablility of civilian-hood, if you will.  It gives them that sense of purpose again.  It is one of the few guaranteed things that can provide jolts of much needed emotional cocktails; when you look for trouble.

It appeals to all of our training, to not get complacent or you will die, because you can.  You can get robbed/jumped (I was), or a car accident can take you out, or a billion other things.  Veterans have been trained to focus on what can kill you and how can I kill it first.  Most people don’t walk into a room with this perspective.

It can make formal networking events quite difficult at times.

What’s happening is that the veteran is essentially facing a larger playing field of unpredictability, and doing so all alone for the first time.  Because veterans came from an ultra supportive environment of people that will actually die for them without hesitation.

Civilians differ in that their loyalties aren’t tested the same way to one another.

This is a huge conflict that veterans face when forming new relationships with non-vets.

How can they expect to trust someone who won’t die for them? 

This was a given expectation in the Marines.  I’m sure it’s not much different in the other services, or law enforcement.

It is also a question only veterans ask, civilians don’t even think to consider going there.  They’ve never even had to think that way before.  They can’t understand why trust is so difficult to achieve with a vet.

It’s because they don’t even know the question.

All the same, veterans don’t even realize they are looking for an answer that is impossible to ask in day to day life in America.

It is a communication break down.

They are both asking basic cultural questions for each of their respective cultures.  It’s the same question of “can I trust you?” but asked in two different ways.  And the answers they are looking for, will give each side something to base their own sense of trust, among other fundamental relationship aspects.

In effect, both sides are speaking different dialects of the same language.  Some of the words have different meanings and perceptions when they get either said or heard.  For example, the words “never”, “always”, and “promise” have very different uses.  Military culture is more literal and specific, with as little grey area as possible.  Civilian cultures tend to have more grey areas and exceptions, or changes.


Last Thoughts…

The effort- towards patience and understanding – is required to be on both sides for any form of communication to exist.  It should be interesting to find out how different others view the world, and why.  Especially if they are a family member or close friend.

Keep in mind that everyone, regardless of their culture, has something more they can learn about life and living.  If you remain open to understanding another point of view, or consider a different ethical response, you might like what you explore.

See Related:

Culture Shock or PTSD: Storyline 1 for full entry.

CS:  Breaking Barriers for an activity to help ease communication friction.

Culture Shock or PTSD: Breaking Barriers Activity


I didn’t always know these things.  I drew these insights and messages from my own experiences by being aware of myself and the situation around me.

I asked an annoying amount of questions to my friends and family about what they are thinking/feeling at any given moment.

I recognized fundamental differences in my family’s culture from my own at the time; a culture that I used to deep down understand myself.

At that point I realized my innate culture has been forever changed.  I can’t unlive these intense experiences. I can delete those lessons.  I can only learn new ones and use them for a more aware future existence.


Step 1… [see tip 1 at bottom]

Both the veteran and the family member (or anyone else for that matter) are to write down two descriptions in the set order.

Each description is referenced below.

For the Veterans:

  1. Describe Marine Corps culture/respective branch
  2. Describe your own culture

For Family/Friends/Everyone:

  1. Describe your own culture
  2. Describe what you think might be Marine Corps culture (or respective branch)

Step 2… [see tip 2 at bottom]

Compare your responses.

Use the differences as talk points for deeper explanation.

At every moment, keep it on the front of your mind that this is the person you love and care about deeply.

Become intrigued by the differences and unexpected responses.

It should be interesting to know more about them, their views, and why they have those views.

Most importantly… No matter what you hear or where the discussion leads, Don’t Judge.  Save that shit for some other time.

Step 3…

Set up a time within a week or two to compare responses all over again.  The conversation should delve a little deeper than the first time.

Stay open.

Prepare yourself to start questioning and adjusting your own cultural views.  There isn’t one way to live, knowing more about how others live can be enlightening.


Tip for Step 1:

Pick a definition below to use as an aid.

  • the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.
  • the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time
  • the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization
  • the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic


Tip for Step 2:  

Veterans, Family, etc- try to redefine what you think an “open mind” is.  Chances are you are both going to have things you can’t readily wrap your head around.

Sometimes new and raw information needs to ferment in our minds for a little while to truly grasp the concepts that lie within.

See related for more information on this activity:

Culture Shock or PTSD: Condensed  Summary of Culture Shock vs PTSD.

Culture Shock or PTSD: Storyline 1 – the expanded version.

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.