The majority of our stereotypes about gypsy culture are true. They really do love bright jewelry and a lot of decoration. They are very emotional, as well — if there’s a wedding, the whole world should know about it. If there’s a quarrel, they make sure that future generations remember who their enemy is and don’t engage in any communication.
Modern communities (for example, American gypsies) look quite different from what we expected: women don’t wear long bright skirts and shawls. However, there are still some strict customs for all of the members of the community. For example, it’s not common for a gypsy girl to get an education.
Here at Bright Side, we found out some rules that gypsy girls are obligated to follow.
Customs and traditions are sacred for the gypsy culture. A non-gypsy person who wants to marry a gypsy girl is called a Gorger — one who doesn’t belong to the community and is not a gypsy. In the majority of cases, girls find their love within the community. A desire to preserve their culture is so strong so that marriages between cousins are a common thing here.
When getting married, a girl should be a virgin. If a girl loses virginity before marriage, she is considered to be “dirty.” It means that she desecrated the community. By doing this, a girl puts herself at great risk. None of the gypsy men would violate the rules of the community and marry such girl.
By the way, the average age for marriage among girls is 16-17 years old, while among men, it’s 18-19 years old. According to the traditions, it’s not allowed to get divorced. A married gypsy girl shouldn’t even think about it. Second marriages are not welcomed in gypsy communities and in order not to “desecrate” the community, a girl should marry once.
Women leave their husbands but very rarely. As a rule, they do not start new relationships after. In the eyes of the community, it overshadows not only the woman, but also her daughters.
Growing up in a gypsy community, a girl is surrounded by the rules set by her parents. Of course, such a system is a part of many cultures, but in the gypsy culture, parents (especially, the father) have great authority, and a girl should do what she is told. When she grows up, she is allowed to leave her house together with some members of the family (it doesn’t always mean parents — sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles can also accompany a gypsy girl.)
Parents also choose a husband for their daughter without asking her opinion. Arranged marriages frequently occur among gypsies. After a gypsy girl gets married, she should obey her husband as she obeyed her parents before.
Boys have more freedom in this case — they can leave the house alone, choose a bride for themselves, and so on.
It’s forbidden to call the police
As a rule, a gypsy quarrel is loud and emotional. Fights between rivals are common. It’s also a part of their culture. However, all the problems are solved by the families themselves. Calling the police or going to court is a violation of the rules. It’s more likely that gypsies will come to an enemy’s house and bring their entire family with them or start a fight at a wedding. In the worst case, the family will renounce the one who called the police. Every person in the gypsy community knows that it’s wrong to do so. Men accept it, but some girls still try to calm down their relatives using the power of the law.
You have to put up with abuse
Family abuse statistics in gypsy communities are very high. A British study showed that 61% of married gypsy girls in Great Britain are abused by their husbands. Women have to put up with it. Gypsy Sisters show participant Melly told that once, her husband locked her in a trailer and when she escaped, he hit her several times. The girl’s family convinced her to take the man back. A girl explains why it is so, “It’s a gypsy tradition, and it should be respected.”
Keeping the house clean
In the majority of cultures, a woman can refuse to be a housewife and be lazy sometimes. However, it’s not acceptable for a gypsy woman. Hygiene takes a special place in their culture and a woman is responsible for keeping the house clean. There are also certain rules that she must follow, like not being able to share her dishes and cutlery with anyone (including her spouse.) All the dishes are thoroughly washed several times: under running tap water, in a bowl with hot water, and again under running tap water.
Men’s and women’s clothes are washed separately. The upper part of the body is considered being clean, and the lower part is considered being dirty. So, the clothes worn below the waistline are washed separately. Underwear is also washed separately.
Pregnancy is a special period
A pregnant woman shouldn’t contact anyone physically. During her pregnancy, she doesn’t even sleep with her husband in one and the same bed. She should wash only with blessed water. Apart from that, a pregnant gypsy woman is free from chores: during this period, her husband is responsible for cooking and cleaning.
American gypsies neglect this rule — their women are more independent.
Wearing bright and provocative clothes
A gypsy girl must behave modestly; however, her outfits say about the opposite. This way, she can attract the attention of her future husband without putting in too much effort, since a gypsy girl is not allowed to meet guys first. The brightest example of such behavior is that of the American gypsies who dress like it’s a party every day. And if there’s a wedding or a birthday, they choose the brightest jewelry and the most luxurious dresses.
You can’t go to the second floor.
Evgeny Dolmanskiy, the photographer, took a picture of gypsy men and women entering a bus using separate doors in order not to touch each other.
The notion of “the abomination” is still very well-spread in the gypsy culture. The lower part of the body is considered being dirty. It doesn’t concern little girls and virgins, but an older woman is considered being dirty below the waistline. It’s not allowed to touch her skirt or shoes. That’s why if a family lived in a house with 2 stories, women were not allowed to go to the second floor. Only kids and young girls were allowed to do so. However, in some houses, there’s a garage on the first floor, so a woman lives automatically on the second floor. People that live in such houses are considered to be “filthy.” At the table, men and women sit separately for the same reason.
Guests come to men and women separately. For example, in Kalderash gypsy (a subgroup of Roma gypsy) culture a male guest can only visit a man and a female guest can only come to a woman. Everything else is considered being lewd.
Earrings are only for women
Gypsy women love jewelry. The bigger and the brighter they are — the better. While many of us imagine a gypsy man with an earring in his ear, expert in gypsy culture Kirill Kozhanov says that in their culture, earrings are a part of a female image and no man would wear them.
A woman should wear only skirts after she is married.
In this picture, you can see that a little girl is wearing pants. At the same time, adult Kalderash women wear only dresses.
Kalderash gypsies believe that a married woman can wear only skirts. Kirill Kozhanov says that young and single Kalderash girls wear jeans, and after marriage, she can wear skirts right over them.
Some gypsy traditions are very old-fashioned and outdated. Moreover, they support spousal abuse. Do you know any other gypsy customs in other countries? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Preview photo credit gypsy-life.net / Luisa Putsu, Gypsy Sisters / Mellie J Stanley