Every year, millions of people across the world, including in the U.S., choose to follow a military lifestyle. But we don’t have many insights into what it is actually like. People pilot helicopters and keep engine rooms functioning on destroyers, but they rarely talk about how their life is different from before. Everything is very “hush-hush.”
This post attempts to blow the lid open on military life. We take a look at what it’s actually like and the real differences between it and conventional civilian existence.
What’s surprising is just how different things are in the military. The new style of life affects everything from your career goals to the type of friendships you make.
Communication Is Terse
In civilian life, everyone tries to be as nice to each other as they possibly can be. People are polite, gracious, and accepting of each other’s faults. They’ll use long sentences and a large vocabulary to say something that they could say in just a couple of words.
In the military, though, things are different. Feelings don’t matter. What matters is getting the message across in as little time as possible. In war, there isn’t time for niceties.
For people coming out of the military, the transition back into civilian life can be a little daunting. You have to get used to all the etiquette over and over again, which can be a little strange at first.
The Community Becomes Your Family
Most civilians don’t even know who their neighbors are. But when you join the military, the people around you become your family. They’re surrogates for all the people you leave behind as you go on dangerous expeditions.
The closeness occurs because of the fear that people feel. When they join the military, they worry about losing their lives in the next combat mission. And because of that, they tend to form close bonds with the people around them, particularly when everything starts to go wrong.
Situations like that are rare in the civilian world. And because of this, relationships outside of the military have a different character. They aren’t always as authentic as they could be.
You Need To Be Careful With Your Finances
Service personnel get paid like everyone else. But compared to workers in the private economy, wages tend to be low. That’s because the military pays all your living expenses while you’re on the job. Any extra money you make is essentially pocket money for spending back at the barracks.
For this reason, you need to be careful with your finances. Early on in your career, you’ll need to be frugal and plan your budget carefully. The more money you spend early on, the harder you’ll find it to build capital in the future.
You Will Move Less
Despite flying all over the world, life in the military often means that you actually move house less. Most soldiers are stationed at barracks, and these provide accommodation. Families remain in homes while military personnel go on expeditions or to war.
For many ex-servicemen and women, leaving this situation behind at the end of their careers can be challenging. Having to find accommodation that caters to all their needs is difficult. Even the process of buying a home is challenging.
You Learn Completely Different Skills To Everyone Else
Entering a non-military situation can feel a little surreal after many years in the forces. Going to a family dinner or working in a regular job feels alien. Everything is so voluntary and unstructured.
In the military, things are different. You learn completely different skills from everyone else. You have to find your own direction instead of being told what to do by a superior officer.
Fitting Into Civilian Relationships Can Be Challenging
In the military, you have two kinds of relationships: close-knit friendships with your crew, and subservient relationships with senior offices. You confide in the former and obey and respect the latter. There is no middle ground. If a commanding officer tells you to jump, you respond “how high.”
Things in the civilian world, though, are nothing like that. You rarely have the closeness of crews or the domineering authority of officers. Everything falls somewhere between those two extremes.
You Rarely Get An Opportunity To Treat Yourself
Cigarettes were like gold dust in WWII. Everyone smoked, even people who hadn’t picked up the habit before the war.
That’s because smoking was one of the few pleasures permitted in the army at the time. Officers could drink, too, but it was hard for regular soldiers to get their hands on liquor.
Today, even these treats are no longer a standard part of military life. Most soldiers focus on the rations they eat, or the free time they get off-duty.
In the civilian world, though, things are different. You can “treat” yourself whenever you want, either by going out for a meal, getting pampered at a hotel, or playing sports. You’re much freer to express yourself and do the things you like. Things like makeup, hair brushes, and grooming products are rare exceptions in military circles.
Your Clothing Becomes Much More Important
In the civilian world, people wear clothes to keep them warm and fashionable. But in military circles, wearing the right gear is essential for keeping you alive. Having a quality battle belt or wearing the correct armor could mean the difference between life and death. Camo could prevent the enemy from seeing you, helping to keep you alive in thick underbrush.
Soldiers always wear their military dog tags, just in case they do go down in a fight. They’re like special accessories that stay with them forever and help identify them if they should fall.
In summary, practically every aspect of life is different in the military. Personnel have to get used to a radically altered existence when they sign up for service and pledge themselves to the nation. Many of the indulgences of civilian life have to disappear in order to enable soldiers to do their jobs correctly.