Gisele from Switzerland moves to Uganda for work and ends up falling in love with one of her colleagues. Here is her story on dealing with the cultural differences, especially between men and women, in Africa.
I never expected to fall in love during my two year assignment in Uganda. I went there with the intention to focus entirely on my work and to experience Africa as one could not on a ‘safari holiday’, which is definitely not my style anyway.
Regardless of my intentions, I met Akello. It definitely wasn’t love at first sight, since I was aware of the cultural differences, but contrary to some of the other men I worked with, he seemed less wary of me and more interested in my person. We began to meet up outside of work and eventually we both developed feelings for each other.
I remember the look on his parents’ faces when he brought me to their house for dinner one evening. It was clear disapproval and something along the lines of disgust. I felt horribly uncomfortable during the entire meal, despite his sisters’ and brothers’ attempts at making me feel at ease. After dinner, when he walked me home, I brought up the subject of mixed race couples and whether or not this was a big problem in Uganda. Akello assured me that it was not an issue for him at all and I shouldn’t worry about it as the main thing was that we loved each other.
Of course, being the romantic that I am, I believed him and thought no further about it, although the look his parents gave me nagged at me subconsciously for the rest of my stay there.
As in all relationships, things began to get prickly when the romance lost its novelty. We had moved in together pretty quickly which perhaps was part of the problem, but little things began to bother me, which I had not noticed as much before. Akello always left his shoes in the middle of the room, never found it necessary to dump his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, never helped me wash dishes, and the one time I asked him to go to the store he let slip that it was a woman’s job to do the shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Well that was it for me! We had a huge row right then and there as I would have had with any man who said that to me regardless of which culture he was from!
Although Akello apologized for said comment, something snapped between the two of us and I began to wonder if whether perhaps the cultural divide between the two of us was just too big to cross. In the end it was certainly so because I didn’t want to give up my own values and principles for someone who was unwilling to do the same for me.
Akello and I are still very good friends, but we both came to the realization that you can’t change an over-30 year olds’ mentality anymore, especially if it is one that you were brought up with.
Well, I’m not from Uganda but still an African woman, from West Africa. One thing seems to be undisputed in sub-Saharan Africa: the role of women and the expectations men have about them, no matter said men are supposedly modern or westernized. This whole idea of expecting women to do ALL the household chores, even if they have a job, is much alive in lots of African men’s heads, even the ones who have now spent most of their lives in Western countries. I think it’s utter rubbish and just a excuse to justify chauvinistic and patronizing attitudes towards women.
It’s such a pity that even today, educated African mothers do nothing to curb this kind of thinking and make sure their sons do not grow up to be like their fathers, uncles, grand-fathers and so on.
Nope, love isn’t everything! You can’t overlook these kind of cultural differences about the place and the role of the woman in the relationship. Indeed, at the end of the day, someone’s manhood shouldn’t be tied to the number of times he spent in the kitchen, at the grocery story or in the laundry room. Yet, trust me, many African men still think it is. I know for a fact that African men do not have the monopoly over this backward thinking, it is still prevalent in non-Western regions of the world. However, what I can’t stomach is people from those regions who are educated enough to know that women shouldn’t be relegated to these roles and that helping your wife around the house, does not make you less of a man.
Thanks for your in-depth feedback.
From my own personal experience, I can just add that plenty of guys in so-called “Western” societies still think that way too. It’s sometimes hard enough to have this discussion with someone from the same cultural context, and then dealing with it with someone from a different country, culture, and ethnicity — all factors one may or may not be that familiar with — makes it even more difficult.
couples shoule be equal. doing housr work is also a way to show emotion,,if you love a girl ,doing some little thing would never be a big deal.oppsite, it will be a really sweet thing. dont be too male chauvinism
i would like to point out here that culture plays an important role in shaping society whether in Africa ,West and Asia without culture world would be at chaos.
Its very clear here that the Western Culture husband and wife share responsibilities, so that is the way their society will be shaped.
However ,Its also clear that the in Uganda most tribes Culture husband and wife share responsibilities in a different way, while house chore are responsibilities of a woman, looking for food is responsibility of man, so that is the way our society is shaped.
Some one needs deeper understanding of any Culture why they act, do and behave the way they do before you can think of making a recomendation.
That said personally,i am a Ugandan and a Muganda by tribe i know that is the way our culture is shaped but i prefer to share the home chores, but that does not mean that my culture is bad, i am very happy about it.
You should know that even the women we marry come into the marriage well aware of all that and have no problem with it.
Very good story above by the lady, and all of us should take some good understanding of any culture before we can comment or criticize acts and behavior any society
Thank you for your feedback!
I completely agree that this story is a typical example of “culture clash”. Every partner acted like they expected from their own background — but in this case, that means they had very different expectations. Sometimes, couples manage to find a compromise, and for others – like in the post above – it can lead to the end of a relationship. It certainly doesn’t mean that any of these people acted in a “bad” way!
im so happy for you have a good life
Margit Grobbel says
Yeah, it’s really a pity when such issues lead to the end of a relationship. But arguing about housework and who did or didn’t do what seems to be a “favourite” of couples all over the world – at least judging from what my friends here in Germany complain about at times. 😉
Olalekan olanrewaju says
Such a touching story this is…it’s a pitty that some men in africa still think they shouldn’t help the woman or wife of the house just because they feel it’s a woman’s duty to do some certain things in the house. I’m an African too and infact from Nigeria. But things like are very rare in Nigeria becuause NIgerians believe issues like this will definitely make people go through heartbreak and at the end of the day;it makes one lose a true love..