I got married not very long ago. Just before my wedding I announced to one of my Dutch girlfriends that I was getting married. I was expecting the usual ‘congratulations’. I was shocked when the reaction I got was ‘why?’
I've been to some weddings here in the Netherlands but they are always between a Dutch guy and an international girl. In most cultures in the world, girls dream about their wedding day since they are kids. In Africa it is even more pronounced because an unmarried girl is a shame to her family. But this is not so in The Netherlands. Getting married is old fashioned. The word boyfriend has a completely different meaning here. In other countries it describes a guy that a girl is dating for a short period of time, with the possibility to evolve into a husband or an ex-boyfriend. But in the Dutch dictionary a boyfriend is a guy you've been living with for the last ten years, with whom you have two kids and common properties but whom you will never marry. This has nothing to do with keeping an escaping door to a relationship, no. These couples are in a very committed relationship. They argue and then reconcile like any married couple. They even have invented rings they wear which are not friendship, engagement or wedding rings. Just don't mention the world 'marriage' and they will live happily ever after.
Brigitte Uwimana, PhD student Wageningen UR, Plant Breeding