History affects the kind of thing we experience on our travels. This may be obvious, but I think that we can easily forget about this when we are engulfed in our daily lives or the excitement of a new trip. An example from my travels: One night during our time in Dortmund, we were about half way through our papadums and palak paneer, when a police car drove by with a megaphone “attention please….this is the police [stuff we didn’t get because we were sitting indoors]….a bomb [more stuff we didn’t get]…corner with […] street.”

Did they just say bomb?

Construction workers had found a bomb from World War II. The fuse had been damaged by the excavator and they wanted to try and defuse the bomb. If that failed, they would have to blow it up. This is not necessarily unusual in Germany but it was the first time I was caught in the middle of it. Our hotel was right on the border of the evacuation zone, there were roadblocks everywhere and I’ve never seen that many emergency vehicles in one place.

History influences our behavior and how we feel about our travel experiences. Amongst other things, experiencing culture shock means being confronted with other people’s behavior and feelings as well as our own. Sometimes, both behavior and feelings are influenced by history. When we view our travel experiences in the context of history, we realize a few things:

  • Being able to travel is a privilege. As a TCK, I used to consider travel a given: to visit any other family members, we had to leave the country. There was no way around it.
  • We become witnesses to the consequences of history and become more aware of our interconnectedness.

Part of culture shock means becoming aware of other people’s realities, gaining a deeper understanding of your own and trying to make sense of both.

History influences our perspective. When I first moved to California, it was the first time I consciously heard people joking about WWII and Nazis. Before, I associated WWII with collective shame and guilt. It wasn’t something you made fun of, except maybe in La Grande Vadrouille. I’m not saying this was true for everyone, but it was my perception at the time. So when I moved to California, I began to understand that history and geography influence our perception not only of history, but also of the present and of the people we meet.