Courtship and Marriage

Dating is informal in the German countries. There are no rules. Few women expect men to pay for restaurant bills or cinema tickets. However, the majority of women expect men to initiate the first step. Going steady and often cohabiting for some time is the main reason for a later marriage; men and women want to feel comfortable with each other, trust and fidelity are important, many men prefer a "buddy-like" wife, and hold caressing (62%) in much higher regard than sex (19%). Seventy-three percent of all Germans see marriage as a lifelong commitment— men and married couples even more so at 77% and 81%, respectively. Seventy-three percent think that marriage is a symbol of love, 59% say that it is important because of the children, 42% say that it serves the purpose of providing support, and 16% marry for a more regular sex life.

There is also a trend towards a new high regard of the family as an emotional home. Surveys show that 72% hope to find Mr./Ms. Right and 33% think that finding an ideal partner is the most important thing in life. Ninety-four percent of young people say that they believe in true love, 70% hope for a single lifelong relationship, and only 4% say that they are not interested in an intimate relationship.

Despite the ideal of the family as an emotional home, in 1999, only one in 25 Germans lived in a household with five or more individuals. Single households have quintupled since the beginning of the 20th century. In 1999, 36% of Germans were living alone. A third were living with one other person, 15% living with two others, 12% with three others, and only 4% in households of five or more. Most of the latter are located in small communities of less than 5,000 people; most of the former live in the big cities with more than 500,000 people. Nearly half of the 1.2 million Berliners between 25 and 45 are single. In the early 1990s, 20% of Germans between ages 25 and 35 lived in a single household; in 2000 this rose to 25%. It appears likely that by 2010 a third of this age group will be living alone. In 1998 17% of all children under age 27 lived with a single parent. One third of all Germans experience the single life-style as being forced on them.

Marriage ceremonies vary from a simple civil wedding with just two witnesses to a traditional farmer's marriage (although the couple do not have to be farmers) with hundreds of guests, beginning days before with a marriage messenger walking to each guest's house and inviting them with a poem. In the traditional marriage, the day of the wedding would start early in the morning with a wake-up call by a traditional brass band and a first opulent meal with all guests. All go to church together. After the ceremony the newlywed couple and the guests go to an inn where dinner is served. The expenses are shared evenly by the parents of bride and bridegroom. After dinner some traditional "games" are played, which aim at showing that the bridegroom has lost his freedom and the bride has to be a good housekeeper and mother. The texts are often sexually explicit, though not pornographic. In the afternoon, some male guests "kidnap" the bride and hide her. The bridegroom has to find her, assisted by the guests. After the search, people gather for wine and more games before the crowd goes back to the inn where another meal is prepared. Dancing, drinking, and eating can last until the early morning. Such a traditional marriage is followed by a honeymoon vacation of 1 or 2 weeks. There is no restriction regarding the remarriage of widows or widowers.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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