To be able to operate in an environment, you must be comfortable in that environment. You must understand the environment, be able to live in the environment and have no pre-programmed prejudices against the environment.
Sounds simple, right? The reality is a bit different for most people though… Everyone has prejudices, this is part of being human, but these are usually due to ignorance. Or on the other hand something’s can just not be for our taste, if you don’t like chocolate ice cream then that’s your decision and loss. But if such prejudices or tastes are that strong that they disrupt the environment you’re living or working in then there is going to be a problem as these will distract you from your tasks, life and cause problems for you and others.
From a pre-travel planning perspective, I regularly see threat assessments for countries and locations that were clearly written by those who have never been to those countries or understand the cultures. For example, reports on the Middle East written by those who are Islamophobic or reports written on Eastern Europe by those who are Russophobic.
It makes me laugh that many corporations and NGO’s pay for risk assessments that are written by those who I doubt have ever been outside the comfort zones and maybe even their own countries. Such flawed risk assessments can immediately make those reading them uncomfortable and insecure about their intended travel or operations and potently create problems by pre-installing prejudices. The same can be said for many supposed Hostile Environment Awareness Courses that are taught by those with only military experience who have little understanding of the real world and find it difficult to accept or comprehend opinions other than what they have been programmed to think.
As I have matured from my hot-headed younger days, I have learned that you must be able to not just see, but also understand both sides an issue or situation to be able to properly understand it. If you are able to clearly do this, then this put you at an advantage over the other parties involved who can only see and interpret things from their one-sided perspectives. By fully understanding an environment you should be able to realistically assess the risks and work out if it’s really comfortable for you or not. If not, then leave or, make it comfortable.
On the operational side simple things such as eating the local food can be an issue for some people. Within the close protection and security industry the people that seem to suffer the most from this are fitness addicts and bodybuilders who need to eat specific diets, at specific times, or drink gallons of water, especially if they are taking steroids. To me this shit is an addiction, not fitness. If you’re fit and healthy as long as your body has sufficient water and solid calories it will run comfortably. Freaks having protein withdrawal is pretty pathetic and amusing really, especially in say Africa…
Now, I am all for the saying that “A little dirt never killed anyone”. If you are germophobic then you’re not going to be comfortable outside of your own little sterile world. I think one reason a lot of people have weak immune systems in the US and Western Europe is due to their overly processed unnatural food and their disconnection from outdoors and country living.
From a close protection perspective working with such germophobic clients in a developing area can be problematic as they will be constantly frustrated and not focused. Luckily, I have never worked with such security team members outside of the urban US, and when I did employ one germophobic individual it was amusing for me but not so much for him, a very good guy but strictly a US only type dude…
You don’t need much to live comfortably, a bed which can be a mat on the floor, clean water, a shower or a bucket of water to wash in, a toilet, somewhere to hang your laundry (if you know how to hand wash it) and these days electricity and internet access…
It’s nice to be working from a nice hotel or house but you need to make yourself comfortable wherever you are. If you need widescreen TV’s, air-conditioned gyms, hot water, and food on demand then you’re going to be very uncomfortable in many places, even if you have the cash to pay for it. Some people, even supposed tactical tough guys, need their comforts, and suffer if they don’t have them. Such suffering leads to frustration, loss of focus and friction with others. At a basic level smokers of cigarettes are classic examples of this when they can’t go for a required smoke…
Being comfortable with the culture of the environment your in is extremely important. Over the years I have dealt with white people who were not comfortable around black people and black people who were not comfortable around white people. All I can say about this that such people need to get comfortable around different ethnicities or just stay in their comfort zones.
To be comfortable in the various environments you could end up living and working in you need to have an open-minded perspective and view life as an adventure. To me borders, countries and politics are really just man-made bullshit to control and tax people. The concept of a worldwide passport standard is relatively new and was first introduced in 1920. Before this people were relatively free to wander.
People are naturally tribal and tend to stay within their own cultures, this is something you need to understand when working or living with cultures other than your own. I have come across some people who think that it helped them to gain acceptance within other cultures if they started wearing local cloths and using local accents, which really just made them look and sound like clowns. If you’re comfortable in your environment, have some basic self-confidence, are polite and respectful you should not have any issues dealing with other cultures.
Being comfortable is a state of mind, nothing else, as physically and materially you don’t really need much. More you know the less you need, right? The saying “To know life in every breath” (Apparently Bushido) can put many things into perspective for those who understand what the words are actually trying to purvey.
Life is temporary, beyond the man-made borders and rules the world is yours, it’s your home. So, relax, explore, listen, learn, understand and be as comfortable as possible in the environments you are in… Also, be comfortable knowing the fact that there are people out there who want to do you harm… But if you are aware of this basic fact of life you should have planned, prepared, and trained to deal with such people quickly and efficiently…
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