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Cross-Cultural Differences in Marriage Practices

Comparing Marriage Practices in North America and Africa

While most African countries usually have separated and clearly defined roles of both the men and the women, particularly due to the traditional nature of their societies, America is different in the sense that the functions or roles tend to be a bit blurred. American culture permits both spouses to be involved in whichever activities that need attention for the well-being of the family. It is quite normal to find stay at home dads and career mums. Men here do not really recoil when it comes to certain home chores which are perceived to be meant “for women”, for instance, cleaning, cooking or taking care of the children among others. In general, the American standard of living demands are extremely different from Africa’s lifestyle, therefore, even idea of hiring help in the home is quite costly as opposed to Africa where it is not as hard to employ domestic help. The hectic first world lifestyle in America gives no options to couples; they are obligated to work together.

American marriages tend to be more expressive. The couples are not embarrassed about showing off their feelings for each other even in public, unlike Africans who prefer to keep it less in terms of emotions. The North American culture is more affectionate and effusive.

The entertainment industry and the media tend to portray America as a place where marriages seem to be deteriorating and people are increasingly cohabiting as opposed to being officially married. This is, however, just a small percentage of the total, There are many working and stable marriages as well as happily married couples who are advocating for marriage in America. Marriage ministry is not really as common in Africa and most people just stay together for years without getting married.

In North America, the law recognizes both men and women equally which is expected. Once the society values women, it means that minority groups and other vulnerable people are protected. For example, a man has to take care of his children even after he left his wife, getting a girl pregnant also means that man has to take care of her as well. This is not the case in Africa where women are supposed to be treated equally under most of the countries’ laws but when it comes to the society, it is not the case. They are still being looked down upon and being taken advantage of. The society is gradually starting to recognize women but there is still a long way to go since most men are not held responsible for their actions, especially against women.

Marriages are viewed as a form of community initiative in Africa. There are stronger society ties compared to America. Relatives, friends and neighbors usually do not make plans to visit each other. Getting married in Africa means having to get used to people just dropping in unannounced to check up on you or just catch up. In America everything is usually planned and most people are too busy to make time for each other which reduces community ties. The married couple in the African environment experience life together with others, and if there is a problem it is usually solved fast because of this interaction in society. It promotes a form of healthy independence since it combines both aspects of community and personal life. The American environment, on the other hand, endorses fierce independence which may cause problems for a marriage in the long run.

Regardless of the fact that modernization is rapidly bringing a lot of changes to the world, most African states still hold on to some of their traditional values and beliefs. Such values have been passed down from one generation to the next and are believed to be intended for living well with people around you as well as making a stable home and family. For instance, a man is up to now still considered the head or leader in the home so he must be given respect regardless of how he runs his household. Furthermore, submission and the woman having to remain home to take care of the children is not exactly an issue which can be controversial. In general, such values which were advocated for by the parents and grandparents are not perceived as hindrances or weaknesses, instead they are appreciated.

In some cases having a comfortable life makes couples in marriage drift. Most couples in the African states seem to agree that hardships or not having enough has a tendency to make the couple grow and deepen their bond. Challenges compel people to embrace firmly to the small things that they do have as opposed to focusing on what they don’t have such as the fact that they have a spouse. Many Africans do not have most resources and privileges enjoyed by other states that are developed like America, this forces them to use what they have to thrive and grow both economically and in marriage. Other differences are parenting styles for these cultures.

Cross-Cultural Perceptions

With all these different practices, each culture has different opinions about the others practices. Africans are not yet at the point where they wish to embrace women as much as the Americans. Even though there have been steps towards this change, men still believe that the woman’s place is different from theirs and make fun of men who are actively involved in the house work or help their wives. Most African men also feel that being expressive, especially in public, may be a sign of weakness. African men also believe in polygamy whereas the Americans do not, they consequently feel like they are more of men compared to the American men who they consider “stuck” with one person. This perception, however, is beginning to change due to modernization and the Africans’ life is becoming more western-like. On the other hand, American couples consider the submission of women to their husbands that they are taught traditionally as a form of unfair or unjust practice. As much as they respect each other, American couples do not see it as necessary value that has to be followed. They also have the notion that since African couples have little resources they are prone to suffer and drift apart which is not the case because Africans are used to their situation and are working towards better but together, they make these hardships a tool to stay together.

Personal Perceptions

In my own culture, the practices are similar to those in North America since it is still in the United States. There is equal value placed on both men and women, which has, however, been an issue to some people since women are currently becoming aggressive and forgetting their roles as wives and mothers in the United States and other countries as well. Consequently, women who are seen as housewives are starting to be looked at as not intelligent or professional. Women from the United States view African women in this manner as a result of the urbanization aspect that has swept the world. Because of an increased number of intermarriages these cultures are gradually becoming merged even though it will take time. Married couples relocating to other countries is not a new thing, since due to search for greener pastures people are increasingly getting work in different countries and they are forced to move. There are however different laws that guide the relationships in different countries. For example having to move to North Carolina or any other state would require the couple to make their marriage legal in that state to enable them to work and avoid being deported. Relocating into different regions is becoming normal which is a good thing because it reduces the separation.


Diversity is a good thing because it brings people together and makes people aware of the various cultures that exist and how people should interact. As a result of this, the world embraces differences in pour cultures which makes it easier to work together and develop not just our countries but the world as a whole. Apart from being able to appreciate other cultures, diversity brings about; one is able to be introduced to a variety of foods, people are able to integrate their values to form strong ones. For example, Americans are known to value independence while Latino culture values the family, a combination of both the family values and the interdependence. Another important benefit of diversity is the capability to compromise. Combining cultures means that the couple has no option but to learn to negotiate on the various elements that should be incorporated in to the relationship. With time, both spouses are able to identify the parts of their cultures that tend to strengthen their relationship as well as those ones that do not.


Cross-cultural marriages are challenging because of the issues that the couple has to deal with before they are able to understand each, which takes a lot of time and effort not just for the couple but for their friends and family as well. Despite this, cross-cultural marriages have various benefits. People become more exposed to different worldviews which broadens their mind and way of viewing things. Investing in such relationship often leads to creating a prosperous family. Unification of cultures forms is a powerful and distinctive bond for the couple.

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