Monday, May 23, 2011

The Big Misconception about US Marriages

Living in Rwanda, I live in a different reality. While many things I experience here are bizarre, sometimes it doesn't really occur to me when the bizarre thing is completely ubiquitous.

But yesterday, I remembered my old frame of reference and one of these bizarre, ubiquitous things came to my attention. Rwandans have a very big misconception about US marriages:

I heard that in America, you make a contract when you get married. When you get married you make a contract to be married for a set time-- 3 years or 5 years or so-- and when the contract expires the marriage ends. Then the husband and wife leave each other to marry other people.

In a conservative, highly religious society like Rwanda, I can't imagine how believing this would make someone feel about people from the US.

What's really interesting about this rumor is how widespread it is. I've heard about it in my training in Nyanza, in the Eastern Province near the border of Uganda, in Kibuye on Lake Kivu, and many times in my own corner of Rwanda in the Southwest. Every volunteer I've talked to about it seems to have heard it as well. Factors like educated or uneducated, rich or poor, and geography don't seem to matter.

I wonder if this rumor lives in other parts of East Africa or if it's confined to Rwanda.


  1. So in Rwanda, do they celebrate birthdays? just wondering :)

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  3. I would also like to know do they celebrate birthdays or christmas? I have just sponsored a child there and I want to know what is culturally appropriate. Thanks! PS - interesting take on western marriages. Seems the truth is more shocking to us than them.