My Philosophical thoughts:
When visiting specific places or sites around the world there are some considerations you need to research and be aware of before going. This is relatively challenging for me. I don’t like social conformity or being told what to wear, how to act or what not to say. Of course I’m never rude. I keep observant and polite even if I sense tension. That said, part of travelling is respecting the people, places and customs you are interested in seeing. You don’t see these places on your terms, they are presented to you if you respect their rules. I put my personal values aside and open up to theirs. Hoping to develop a deeper understanding of why.
My Story of Visiting the Anne Frank House:
I am a big world war 2 buff. I know I’ve mentioned it on here before but I try to take advantage when I’m in Europe to get to as many of those sites as possible and image the people and emotions that they felt while standing in the same place as me. So while in Amsterdam, my girlfriend and I went to the Anne Frank House. This was important to me because I heard the story growing up and now I am able to walk in to the very place this story took place. Now, in my humble opinion, my appearance in general, is not out of the norm. On this day though, I should have been more aware of what I was going to wear to this site. I was sporting a recently shaved-to-the-skin head. Black ‘beer logo’ T-shirt, camo shorts, skater shoes and a blue backpack. Nothing anyone would look twice at on the street right? Well, not the security guard to the Ann Frank House. As we get closer, everyone is just handing their ticket and walking through. However, I get asked to stop and if he could search my bag. I didn’t put two & two together at this point and became a little upset. I asked: “May I know why?” to which he replied: “We generally check most bags that come through”. I looked at my girlfriend who recently went through with her bag unchecked and decided not to pursue it any further. The Anne Frank House told an incredible story. Filled in so many holes from the one I grew up learning. More details were provided and the sheer non-fictional existence became even more real as you read the many exhibits setup about Anne and her family. You do get to see her diary at the end. Here is the link if you’re interested: http://www.annefrank.org/
I had my picture taken in front of the sign and after looking at it. I understood why my bag was picked to search. My appearance, when visiting a Jewish historical site, could be taken as quasi neo-nazi. While nothing is further from the truth, it is my fault for not taking that in to consideration when visiting. Lesson learned.
Other examples that probably most people experience in Italy is entering catholic churches. For men you cannot wear hats and women must have their shoulders & legs above the knee covered. In fact, they are people employed to monitor this as travellers and tourists ever churches. I’m not religious in any facet of the word (it’s just a method of social control to me). But, I love the art and architecture of churches and religious symbols. A many great and horrific things have happened throughout history (and now) in the name of (pick any of them) god. In order to see these pieces of history and art you need to accept their rules and enjoy what is being offered to you. A chance to walk through St. Peters Basilica and marvel at the craftsmanship of the marble monuments, paintings, architecture and details of the alters. Some by the greats: Michelangelo or Bernini. http://saintpetersbasilica.org/index.htm – Will give you all the info you need if you place to visit. Another would be wearing shoes in a mosque.
There are many, many customs, more than different cultures around the world. I bet you have some within your own family. One of ours for example, happens Christmas morning. Everyone can wake up early and open their stockings but we all have to wait until everyone is up and our cinnamon buns are ready before opening presents (okay, that’s like a bunch rolled in to one). It is these culturally unique things that I love learning about. It has more to do with the way of life you have been raised in. I may not share them but that doesn’t make them wrong. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. How does the world look from their eyes?