Safety / Survival / Army Field Manuals / AFM 3-05.70
Contact With People
Some of the best and most frequently given advice, when dealing with the
local population, is for you to accept, respect, and adapt to their ways.
Thus, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." This is excellent
advice, but there are several considerations involved in putting this advice
22-1. You must give serious consideration to dealing with the local people.
Do they have a primitive culture? Are they farmers, fishermen, friendly people,
or enemy? In a survival situation, "cross-cultural communication" can
vary radically from area to area and from people to people. It may mean
interaction with people of an extremely primitive culture or contact with people
who have a relatively modern culture. A culture is identified by standards of
behavior that its members consider proper and acceptable but may or may not
conform to your idea of what is proper. No matter who these people are, you can
expect they will have laws, social and economic values, and political and
religious beliefs that may be radically different from yours. Before deploying
into your area of operations, study these different cultural aspects. Prior
study and preparation will help you make or avoid contact if you have to deal
with the local population.
22-2. People will be friendly, unfriendly, or they will choose to ignore you.
Their attitude may be unknown. If the people are known to be friendly, try to
keep them friendly through your courtesy and respect for their religion,
politics, social customs, habits, and all other aspects of their culture. If the
people are known to be enemies or are unknowns, make every effort to avoid any
contact and leave no sign of your presence. A basic knowledge of the daily
habits of the local people will be essential in this attempt. If, after careful
observation, you determine that an unknown people are friendly, you may contact
them if you absolutely need their help.
22-3. Usually, you have little to fear and much to gain from cautious and
respectful contact with local people of friendly or neutral countries. If you
become familiar with the local customs, display common decency, and most
important, show respect for their customs, you should be able to avoid trouble
and possibly gain needed help. To make contact, wait until only one person is
near and, if possible, let that person make the initial approach. Most people
will be willing to help if you appear to be in need. However, local political
attitudes, instruction, or propaganda efforts may change the attitudes of
otherwise friendly people. Conversely, in unfriendly countries, many people,
especially in remote areas, may feel animosity toward their politicians and may
be friendlier toward you.
22-4. The key to successful contact with local people is to be friendly,
courteous, and patient. Displaying fear, showing weapons, and making sudden or
threatening movements can cause a local person to fear you. Such actions can
prompt a hostile response. When attempting a contact, smile as often as you can.
Many local people are shy and seem unapproachable, or they may ignore you.
Approach them slowly and do not rush your contact.
22-5. Use salt, tobacco, silver money, and similar items discreetly when
trading with local people. Paper money is well-known worldwide. Do not overpay;
it may lead to embarrassment and even danger. Always treat people with respect.
Do not bully them or laugh at them.
22-6. Using sign language or acting out needs or questions can be very
effective. Many people are used to such language and communicate using nonverbal
sign language. Try to learn a few words and phrases of the local language in and
around your potential area of operations. Trying to speak someone's language is
one of the best ways to show respect for his culture. Since English is widely
used, some of the local people may understand a few words of English.
22-7. Some areas may be taboo. They range from religious or sacred places to
diseased or danger areas. In some areas, certain animals must not be killed.
Learn the rules and follow them. Watch and learn as much as possible. Such
actions will help to strengthen relations and provide new knowledge and skills
that may be very important later. Seek advice on local hazards and find out from
friendly people where the hostile people are. Always remember that people
frequently insist that other people are hostile, simply because they do not
understand different cultures and distant people. The people they can usually
trust are their immediate neighbors—much the same as in our own neighborhood.
22-8. Frequently, local people, like ourselves, will suffer from contagious
diseases. Build a separate shelter, if possible, and avoid physical contact
without giving the impression of doing so. Personally prepare your food and
drink, if you can do so without giving offense. Frequently, the local people
will accept the use of "personal or religious custom" as an
explanation for isolationist behavior.
22-9. Barter, or trading, is common in more primitive societies. Hard coin is
usually good, whether for its exchange value or as jewelry or trinkets. In
isolated areas, matches, tobacco, salt, razor blades, empty containers, or cloth
may be worth more than any form of money.
22-10. Be very cautious when touching people. Many people consider
"touching" taboo and such actions may be dangerous. Avoid sexual
22-11. Hospitality among some people is such a strong cultural trait that
they may seriously reduce their own supplies to feed a stranger. Accept what
they offer and share it equally with all present. Eat in the same way they eat
and, most important, try to eat all they offer.
22-12. If you make any promises, keep them. Respect personal property and
local customs and manners, even if they seem odd. Make some kind of payment for
food and supplies. Respect privacy. Do not enter a house unless invited.
22-13. In today's world of fast-paced international politics, political
attitudes and commitments within nations are subject to rapid change. The
population of many countries, especially politically hostile countries, must not
be considered friendly just because they do not demonstrate open hostility.
Unless briefed to the contrary, avoid all contact with such people.