In Serbian society, the familija (family) and mutual support among members is highly valued. It is common to find several generations living under the same roof. Grandparents often help to look after their grandchildren while children look after their parents as they age. Many family members in the extended family try to remain in close contact with one another. Serbians will often view their cousins as siblings, in part because the Serbian language does not distinguish between cousins and siblings.
The Serbian proverb, “Far from the eyes, far from the heart” reflects the tendency among Serbians to stay in close proximity to their family in order to remain emotionally close. For example, children tend not to be encouraged to be independent or leave home. If they do move out, younger generations often live near their relatives. It is common for a Serbian family to host events or to frequently visit their family in order to maintain familial ties.
Honour and Loyalty
Honour is an important principle in Serbia and is closely related to family values. One’s honour is connected with family reputation. Thus, preservation of honour is often understood in terms of the collective rather than the individual. In the event of an individual’s shortcoming, the whole family’s name and honour are often affected. There is also an expectation that family members will make necessary sacrifices for the common good. Family honour manifests in the loyalty that one has among family members. Often, family members will use their networks to help other members find employment. Betraying one’s or failing to uphold a favour without an accepted justification often brings a sense of dishonour and shame to the individual.
Household Structure and Gender Roles
The typical household structure is , with authority tending to come from the most senior male. Women are considered equal to men but are expected to honour their husband. Age also gives authority in Serbian families and in society in general. The elderly are given utmost respect and are consulted when major decisions are made.
Regarding gender roles, women have the right to equal opportunities and many women are involved in the workforce. However, men often see it as their duty to care and provide for their family. It is often expected that women balance home and work commitments. For example, women will stay at home and raise children or care for sick relatives. There is an expectation from mothers that their daughters will carry on family traditions. For example, mothers will share recipes and teach their daughters how to cook traditional Serbian food.
Dating and Marriage
Dating generally begins in late teens. Young couples will participate in social activities such as going to cafes or restaurants or watching a movie or sporting event. Many Serbians tend to marry in their late twenties to early thirties. Typically, couples choose to be married in the church in accordance with the Christian tradition. Divorce tends not to be stigmatised in Serbian society, in part due to the accepting attitudes towards divorce in the Serbian Church.
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