Iraqi Culture

These questions are spurred by having recently watched The Hurt Locker.

It seems the Iraqis are friendly and curious to a fault. Granted, some of them appeared to be trying to sucker Coalition forces into traps. But even well-meaning Iraqis are portrayed as completely failing to grasp the concepts of “I don’t want to talk to you right now” or “I want you to leave this area, for my safety and yours.”

Is this a part of Iraqi culture - to be zealously friendly and inquisitive? Or did I completely miss the point that Iraqi friendliness is all a big sham designed to trap Coalition forces?

Maybe they don’t understand English. After all, if someone is talking loudly at you, you get closer to see if you can understand them. oddly enough, speaking loudly and slowly does not make english easy to understand unless you know it already.

Also, hand gestures may not be as familiar. IIRC, “come here” in the middle east was the opposite of USA; hand bent downward and fingers bent, brushing toward you, not upward and beckoning. For people who rarely interact with outsiders, it may take a while to figure it out. OK is usually the “thumbs up” sign. Maybe they confuse big “go away” gestures with just waving. Maybe they think the Blackwater guy standing in the road waving his gun, is just directing traffic, since often (armed) Iraqi police did traffic duty.

it’s amazing how many simple things we think are universal are actually cultural.

I saw a really interesting blog a while ago dealing with tourists in Egypt and “why won’t the D%#@ street sellers leave me alone?” The author was an expat living in Egypt, and said a very obvious and simple fact - when you tell a merchant, “no thanks, not interested” - that’s exactly the opening of an intense haggling process. So you think you are telling them “Piss off, not interested” and they think “this person is at least talking to me, and saying all the things that indicate they are interested but my price is too high”.

The author suggested the solution was to do what Egyptians do if they are not interested - no eye contact, don’t acknowlege, just keep walking away. We think ignoring someone is rude, to them it’s a simple social signal - sorry, not interested.

Cultural differences.

Except when the “thumbs up” sign means “fuck you, buddy.” Very common in the Middle East.

Well they are also in areas frequented by tourists, it isn’t a stretch to guess they ARE tourists. I’d bet the merchants behavior is not indicative of anything but mostly selling to tourists.

Oh, they ARE persistent, simply because one or two sales can make their day. But the basic social signals don’t tell them “go away”. I found that really ignoring the persistent types usually meant they went away, while engaging in a running back and forth of “no… no … no …” meant they would not leave you alone.

I imagine the finger-to-thumb OK and the thumbs-up Ok are very specific to only certain cultures and liable to misinterpretation by others.

I have to wonder how I would interact with an occupation force that was vastly superior to any defense I could raise, and which seemed to be able to move and act with impunity in my neighborhood. I could hate them and want to fight the silent fight–pretend to be friendly and lure them to their deaths one at a time; or I could try to keep myself and my family safe by ingratiating myself–if you can’t beat 'em, join 'em. Were I to choose the latter tactic I’d waste no opportunity to get to know just who my occupiers were, both culturally and personally. That’s tough to say as an American, because we’ve bowed to no one on our own soil–ever, at least Notherners haven’t. :smiley:

But I have to thinq Iraqis are just humans.

Not once on 3 tours did I ever experience an Iraqi not understanding the pushing out hand gesture to back up, especially since it’s used in their own culture for the same thing. Also, every single soldier on the ground in Iraq knows “Imshi”: Go away. It’s considered rude, but it’s the most effective at clearing people away and even thier own forces use it.

Iraqis are a friendly people. They’re also inquisitive and quick to pick up on cues and words. In fact, because of how social they are when compared to Americans, I think it gave them an edge in picking up english when listening to what we said compared to what the interpreter said than the other way around for us. I was always trying to pay attention to what someone said to me and then what the interpreter said so I could try to learn more Arabic, but the ball seemed always in the Iraqis’ court. However, the only “friendly to a fault” that happens is when they simply won’t leave you alone and simply become annoying.

I haven’t seen Hurt Locker - I’ve seen parts and that was enough for me, especially after hearing what everyone else had to say about it - but if they portrayed Iraqis not understanding when Coalition Forces wanted them to back up or clear an area, the movie is at fault.

Do not believe anything in The Hurt Locker. Totally unrealistic from beginning to end.

From Laverne and Shirley:

Annoyed boyfriend: “If I gave you a quarter, would you go away?”
Clueless Iggy: “Why would I go away from someone who’s giving me money?”

What you think you are saying may not be what you are saying.

The scene that most sparked my interest was near the beginning. An Iraqi was trying pretty valiantly to have a conversation with a US soldier, asking “Where are you from ? New York? I want to go to New York!” while the solider, with a gun pointed at the man, kept trying to get him to go away while the Iraqi kept trying to engage him in conversation. Could have all been a trap, but still… if a dude with a gun asks me to go away, my response is going to be “yes sir!”

It is a movie, it is a work of fiction told from the viewpoint of US soldiers who deal with improvised explosives left as traps by insurgents. Paranoia of civilians that could be insurgents is a big part of that story, so they are trying to make you the audience feel what it is like to be able to trust no one, is this guy friendly or a disguised insurgent?

It isn’t a documentary.

It’s a movie in which someone uses a fire extinguisher to put out a burning car full of artillery shells rigged to blow. That’s all you need to know how realistic the movie is.

Forgive me but didn’t Native Americans (facing annihilation) bow down very deeply to immigrant invaders from Europe? :wink:

Iggy is no fool.

Likewise, ignore everything Point Break had to say about surfer bank robbery. My surfer bank robber friends couldn’t stop howling at all the goofs.

Maybe you can open an “Ask the guy who has a friend that is a surfer bank robber” thread.

nitpick. Laverne and Shirley’s upstairs nieghbors were Lenny and Squiggy. Thank you SDMB for making me into a pedantic :stuck_out_tongue:

It was an unforgivable error.