CIMIC and CULTURE

Due to its multidisciplinary character, CIMIC and civil-military interaction (CMI) finds itself at the crossroads of several different professional domains. CCOE places special emphasis upon cultural competence as part of the capabilities which soldiers need to operate. There are thousands of popular, professional, academic, and other definitions of the concept culture. Two definitions by very well respected scholars are:

  • “Culture is the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values.” – Geert Hofstede
  • “A shared set of traditions, belief systems, and behaviors. (…). Culture evolves in response to various pressures and influences and is learned through socialization; it is not inherent. In short, a culture provides a lens through which its members see and understand the world.”- Wunderle

Culture contains many different elements that might be of relevance to a soldier who is deployed in a mission area, particularly when their familiarity with a specific culture is limited. “Entering a new, unfamiliar culture often involves high anxiety and, initially, only superficial knowledge of the location and people. A cultural schema may include features or concepts that have proved salient or useful in previous intercultural situations. Generalizing from these specific past experiences may help guide appropriate behavior, reduce anxiety, and facilitate learning the specific culture”.