Letter home: A Diasporan discovers Armenia and “Armenianness” – The Weddings

Danielle Hartounian: importance should be given to overcoming the shock for the unknown.
The cultural differences between Armenia and the Diaspora never cease to amaze me.

Break room discussions continue to nourish my curious appetite to further educate myself about the vast inequalities in socialization, of which the aspect of gender roles fascinates me most.

Being a nineteen year old female from Southern California, I am avidly curious to discover and learn as to how girls my own age are raised here, what expectations society has of them, and the expectations they have for themselves. Working in the same environment with locals from Yerevan aids my comprehension and contributes to my knowledge regarding the matter.

I had an idea of local girls here in Yerevan, but being an outsider in a foreign country, I preferred to digest the matter with my coworkers and hear what they had to say about the subject prior to my expression, for fear of voicing my own thoughts, which could very well be rather narrow assumptions.

Apparently though, the truth was indeed that the majority of girls my age are socialized to get married and start families. Coming from the “land of opportunity”, this was unfathomable; I refused to believe it until I asked or heard from someone who would know the truth. On that note, it was also true that there was definitely encouragement toward the advancement and pursuit of education; I was relieved to hear that it is very normal for young females to receive their college degrees because the way in which I have been socialized within my own culture has no other way. With these considerations, at this point it is just a matter of what these young women are doing with their degrees. Or aren’t, for that matter.

The discussion was interesting and eye-opening. As I was recollecting, reflecting, and revising my thoughts, I was also visiting the churches of Hripsime and Gayane. During my time there, at least two weddings were taking place at both locations. The weddings themselves were immensely interesting to observe, but what fascinates me most are the aspects which stood out to me most in the occasions: first, that of age. None of the brides could have been more than twenty-one or twenty-two.

Depending on the cultural lens, this age could be either quite agreeable to social paradigms, or not. Second, there was more than one wedding being held simultaneously. My girl friends and I discussed the potential havoc that would erupt from such an occurrence that another bride had scheduled her wedding within the same time span. Furthermore, it was unexpectedly surprising to me that our casually dressed group of sweaty, tired, worn out college students could simply walk into the church to light a candle to say our own personal prayer as there was a wedding ceremony taking place.

These minor details elicit the essence of the diversity between the culture of Armenia and the culture of the Diaspora (in America, at least).

As I argued in another “Letter Home”, I believe importance should be given to overcoming the shock for the unknown, and to the flexible adjustment of deciphering what to make of these differences. The gender roles is a specific branch with which I am particularly intrigued because my personal socialization has not prepared me—in any way, shape, or form, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or academically—to be engaged or married in two years. Consequently, I am trying to understand these circumstances in order to refine and sharpen my perspective by practicing different ways in which I perceive my new surroundings.

Danielle Hartounian, 19, is a student at Orange Coast College, in Southern California, where she majors in English and minors in studio arts. She is a participant of the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s Yerevan Summer Internship Program, during which she is interning at ArmeniaNow.com.