Barrett’s Cultural Awareness Guide

Updated: September 29, 2010

As a tribute to my time in Germany, and a tribute to the places I’ve either been deployed or sent TDY to, I bring your “Cultural Awareness with Barrett,” debunking the myths and spreading the truth…

Today’s First Truth: Nude beaches are NOT awesome. I know what you must be thinking. Barrett, you are bassackwards on this one. Trust me, I haven’t always thought like this. There was a time that I, like you, thought that the pinnacle of awesomeness was to be nestled on the beach, sipping a cold one, ogling the nude beauties that walked by. In fact, and to be precise, it was 1998, and I was stationed onboard the USS John C. Stennis, as she underwent pre-deployment certification and workups. After three weeks on the open blue, we spent the next four days in port, three of those on liberty in Saint Thomas. The good life, baby. Half of the beaches on Saint Thomas are nude, so of course that is where all the Sailors headed to. I grabbed my flippers, snorkel and mask, my walkman cassette player with Billy Joel banging on the ivory, and headed off to enjoy this particularly sunny day.

The Navy shuttle dropped ten of us YAHOOs off at a popular beach/snorkeling spot, and we all nonchalantly ambled down to the sand, each of us holding ourselves back from running down the hill, hollering and laughing at the prospect of non-ending nakedness. Like I said before, the good life. But unless you’ve actually ever been to a nude beach, you don’t really know what to be prepared for. You see, we have clothes for a reason. There are actually very few people in the world who should be unclothed in public, and none of them frequent the nude beaches. Nude beaches are a cornucopia of sagging bellies, wrinkled back fat, waistline boobs, and 80 year old swaying testicles. That’s pretty much it. As I waded into the surf, heading to a small island about 250 yards off the beach, I was struck by the beauty of one particular brunette. She held my vision for several seconds until she lifted her arm over her head and my foot simultaneously struck a vicious piece of driftwood. Double whammy! The illusion of her beauty gave way to the copious layers of her scraggly, dense armpit hair, and I almost severed my pinkie toe on that damn shard of wood. I spent the rest of the day in the ship’s medical office, my foot and my memories both in pain.

Truth #2: The world views the U.S. through the lenses of Hollywood. Now, I don’t mind the flattering stereotypes, they’re pretty cool. Like the headline in the local British paper while we were on liberty in Spain. “Barrel-chested yanks on Holiday steal all the local ladies with their good looks and wads of cash.” Clearly the reporter for this piece was in another province when the fat and broke yanks in Speedos scared the local woman away. But whatever, we enjoyed our day in the headlines.

Barrel-chested yanks aside, it’s the negative stereotypes that perpetuate problems for Soldiers and Sailors, the ones that Hollywood irresponsibly promotes. In this instance, however, it wasn’t Hollywood, it was the Turkish movie industry; the offending film, “Valley of the Wolves – Iraq.” If you haven’t seen the movie, check out the trailer here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvN8DuLiPm0. In a nutshell, this piece of propagandistic trash starred Hollywood “icons” Gary Busey, Billy Zane, and MMA ass-sweat Tito Ortiz. Sorry Tito, the USO tours don’t erase this piece of cinematic anti-American douchebaggery. Gary Busey hasn’t made a movie even mildly entertaining since Point Break, and Billy Zane’s most significant contribution to the theater was as himself, cornering Derek Zoolander in his walk-off with Hansel…Hansel…Hansel…That Hansel, he’s so hot right now.

But I digress (Zoolander does that to me. Tell me Blue Steel isn’t sexy). It’s with this backdrop that I stood at a Doner Teller shop in Mannheim Germany, waiting patiently for my Doner sandwich. If you’ve never had a Doner, you are missing out. Greatest fast food on the planet, no contest. Anyway, as I stood there, mouth slightly open, eyes glittering in greedy anticipation, a scruffy faced young Turk idled up to me, hands in pocket, head up and to the side (this is the international posture for “You Americans don’t look so tough.”) His head bobbed up another inch as he stopped about a foot to my right.

“Uh, how are you.”
“George Bush. He’s a bad guy, eh?”
Oh….craaaaaap. I just want my sandwich. Can we please leave the politics out of this one today?
“How do you mean?”
My new Turkish friend looked over at his buddies sitting at the lone outdoor table, sipping their fantas and smoking their hooka. They nodded in encouragement. Their faces said it all, ‘Go get em’.
“George Bush. He’s a bad guy. Iraq. He’s a bad guy.”
Eyebrows now simply cocked in a confused look, he waited for my reply.
“Um…why do you think that?”
“Valley of the Wolves, Iraq. You’ve seen this movie?”
“Nope, can’t say that I have.”
“Is a good movie. George Bush is a very bad man. Kills many innocent people in Iraq. Bill Clinton was goooood. Bill Clinton was much better than Bush.”
“Oh, well, I don’t really get into politics that much. Except when Monica Lewinsky was in the news. She was hot. Have a good one.”

I grabbed my sandwich and walked away. In hindsight, I’d love to say I said something witty, something scathing, something insightful, really anything at all. But I didn’t, because the truth of the matter is that some folks can’t be reasoned with. I Googled the movie that night and instantly realized why this young Turkish tough thought the way he did. As I scrolled through the comments below, I also realized how distressingly stupid, naïve, and ignorant a good many of my fellow Americans were.

“I’m ashamed to be an American!” whined one.
“The world needs to know the truth! We need to get out of Iraq!” whimpered the next.
“I wish I lived in another country I could be proud of!” droned yet another.

Fortunately, I had the proper sense of duty and outrage to comment back to a good number of these young, misguided, mentally fragile college freshman (Just an assumption of course, but probably a pretty good one) and give them just a glimpse of reality. Unfortunately, however, reality is seriously lacking in our movie industry today, whether it’s Hollywood, or the most expensive Turkish film ever made.

It’s good to be back! I would love to hear your comments on your experiences with nude beaches or Hollywood inspired debates with the mentally deficient.




  1. Slobyskya Rotchikokov

    September 29, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Excellent article, well written – look forward to more.
    Only experience with a nude beach many years ago – the only people showing up were all horny twenty-something guys looking for hot women, who were not there at all, and also saw the ones you mentioned, swinging scrotes and other parts. Like when I was a kid and a friend had illicitly obtained a nudist magazine… we eagerly opened it and found, well… nothing more exciting than maybe an old copy of National Geographic. Hubba hubba.

  2. Dawne

    September 29, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Nude Beaches- I have to say that you hit the nail right square on the head!! UGH! Disgusting! As a senior in high school, (let’s just say…a while ago)in Germany. A bunch of us decided to go to the French Riviera. No worries, we’d be a good distance away from the nude part of the Riviera. Some of the guys decided that they were going to hike the distance to the nude side. We’re all suited up, our graduating class size is like 47. The bus driver pulls up in the parking lot and lets us know we are good to go, he’ll pick us up in 8 hours. We all get off the bus and he drives away. I swear, the scene that played out before me was something out of a movie. Here I am, I swear the lone virgin among my friends, lined up looking at a sea of fat, greasy, old men either naked or in speedos of every colour speaking in different languages! I suddenly had a vision of my Italian grandfather who would rub himself down with olive oil and eat garlic like no tomorrow in his turquoise speedo and bake in the sun for hours. I thought this was a joke and I turned around to see the bus leave the parking lot. I wanted to throw up. There were some women there too….but I digress, it is a sad site to see gravity take hold and not let go. We decide it best to set up all together on the edge of the parking lot in the event the bus makes an early appearance, and we can leave. So we set up and immediatly we feel like lunch in the lion’s den. I left my sweats on…red heads don’t tan anyway! Little did I know, that had I just worn my board shorts and bikini top that I wouldn’t have been the center of attention. Most of my friends were froliking in the water and talking in broken French, Spanish and whatever language these men and some engaging women spoke. I was set upon by two men that started speakin the worst French? I had ever heard. After about an hour of heckling, I said in my most authoritative voice in Italian, “If you don’t leave me alone, i’ll beat you so hard and so fast, you’d think you were surrounded!” ( My dad used to say that to my brother and I playing around) I thought that if I spoke another language they might have actually thought I was an exchange student or just a bithcy American. They quieted down for about five minutes when one of my rather attractive blone female friends come bounding up from the beach in the skimpiest bikini I had ever seen. She tried to coax a few of us to get into the water. I can’t swim, and i’m still really creeped out anyway. So I decide to stay back with the small group who feels the same way I do. I’m engaging in conversation with a couple of the girls when they gasp rather loudly and one covers her eyes and points to my left. I know this can’t be good. So, I turn slowly and i’m faced with a very large olive oil covered man and his friend who reek of garlic. The only thing that I see…the man’s rather large appendage poking it’s head in my direction! In perfect Italian, he tells me his name is Paolo and wants to meet my rather buxom friend. I tell him her name and decide it best to ignore him the rest of the afternoon.

    I came to the quick realization that beaches themselves aren’t for the faint of heart. But after being confronted by Paolo and his ‘member’ i’ve never become a fan of the beach after that experience. The bus, if you were wondering, came 45 minutes late, and the bus driver, after we all boarded was having a great laugh at our expense. Driving the whole long way back to Hahn Air Base with the biggest smile on his face chuckling.

  3. Ryan

    October 18, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Summer of 99, we took a tour of Le Havre on a day we had some shore leave (I wasn’t always Army, long story). The day went fine until we invited our tour guide out drinking with us after the tour was over. After he got drunk he spent about twenty minutes telling us his JFK assassination conspiracy theories, and we ditched him. Yes, Hollywood ruins us for Europeans.

  4. James

    July 28, 2011 at 1:39 am

    Okay, the nude beach thing – Europe is NOT the place to do nude beaches! This is where old nudist seem to go to die. Try an Aussie nude beach, still has the old guys, and old women, but you will find decent looking women, better beaches too.

    We Aussie also have a very casual attitude to topless girls on beaches. Tip for the traveller – don’t bother with Bondi Beach unless you are time poor. Try the Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

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