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Cultural Variation

In: Social Issues

Submitted By weatherman1214
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ESSAY #1: Write a description of how you or someone you know responded to cultural variation

Setting the scene: It’s December 2009 in Baghdad, Iraq. I was a 21-year old Private First Class that had graduated from the United States Army’s School of Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia in May of that year and now found myself in a completely foreign, hostile, and culturally varied population just seven months later. As I was to find out, going from Ft. Benning, Georgia to Baghdad, Iraq was a rather steep learning curve!
It’s hard to describe- even now- just how different my environment was from the one I had grown up in. I was used to being the person who was dressed differently due to always being in Army fatigues; however, I now found myself in the middle of a population in Iraq that dressed in what appeared to me to be nothing more than colorful sheets and thick headwear- that Arabs wear “sheets” or “towels” is a common misconception that is permeated by Hollywood and people who have no clue about life and culture in the Middle East. Yes, it was odd to my twenty-one-year-old brain since I hadn’t yet been stripped of the restrictive lens with which I viewed the rest of the world.
Now I was living and working in an environment in which things that had been viewed as routine at home were viewed as highly offensive gestures or behaviors in that part of the world. Simple things such as spitting, drinking alcoholic beverages, publicly showing affection towards females in any way, or even politely saying “no thank you” could all viewed as offensive. I know because I caused a stir when I did all of the above mentioned activities within the first week of being in Iraq! I was dumbstruck several times that simple things such as just having to spit and having to turn down some Chai tea were viewed as virtual slaps in the face by my Iraqi counterparts.
On one of…...

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