6 Gender Stereotypes Around the World


It’s easy to think that some behaviors are just inherently male or female. Boys like to play with trucks. Girls like to play with dolls. Men propose marriage, women take their husband’s last name. But what may be normal in the Western World isn’t necessarily so across the globe. Click through to read about gender norms across the globe.

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1. Belgium: Boys Wear Pink

When it’s time to paint a baby’s bedroom or pick out an outfit, many of us in the western world immediately choose pink for girls and blue for boys. But it wasn’t always that way, and, in some places, it still isn’t. Up until the early 20th century, the opposite was true — blue was considered feminine, and pink was considered masculine. Pink was thought to be stronger, and blue was thought to be dainty, hence the gender distinction. In contemporary Belgium, this is still considered normal.

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2. E De of Vietnam: Men Take Women’s Last Names

The E De ethnic group of Souther Vietnam has one of the most female-centric cultures in the world: all the property is owned by women, and inherited by daughters. Men move into their bride’s longhouse, like the one pictured above, and take their bride’s family name.

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Image Credit:Rungbachduong via Wikimedia Commons


3. Japan: Only Women Give Gifts on Valentine’s Day

American men often pick up some roses, a box of chocolates or maybe even a diamond or two for their female partners. But in Japan, the reverse is true. Yep, Japanese women buy their men gifts on Valentine’s Day — usually just chocolate. Women do get a day of their own, however, on March 14, a holiday known as White Day.

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4. Various Arab Countries: Male Friends Hold Hands

In 2005, George W. Bush made headlines after a picture of him holding hands withSaudi Crown Prince Abdullah. As bizarre as this seems to many of us in the Western World, where hand-holding among adults is generally reserved for couples, it’s quite common in much of the Arab world. In that part of the world, hand-holding is a common sign of friendship among people of the same gender.

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5. Mauritania: Obese Women are the Most Attractive

In Mauritania, a small country in West Africa, the fatter a woman is, the more attractive she is. Obesity is considered a sign of wealth, and thinness is considered a sign of poverty and sickliness. This beauty ideal has come with its own set of problems other than the obvious health issues: some girls and women are force-fed to meet their weight goals. Luckily, though, this force-feeding has seen considerable decline in recent years.

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6. Bissagos Islands, Guinea-Bissau: Women Propose to Men

On this small archipelago off the coast of Western Africa, it’s the women who propose marriage to the men — and the men can’t refuse. Women prepare a special dish for their husbands-to-be, a symbolic gesture akin to the western world’s getting down on one knee.

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V Madonna Schizoid
Past Member 4 years ago

Really interesting!

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

all VERY interesting :)

Tammy Baxter
Tammy B4 years ago


Valentina R.
Valentina R5 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Vicky P.
Vicky P5 years ago

I knew number 5 and the pink thing, the Japan one is a bit sexist I think..since here I know both genders give gifts.

Robyn L.
Robyn P5 years ago

Sad that touch is so sexualized in the US that two men holding hands is considered laughable.

Sure, in my neighborhood, they likely are partners, but in general, connection with people should be encouraged.

Now, I raised a son. His father was stereotypically manly. His stepfather was not (and I proposed!). Kiddo had television at dad's house but not mine.
He had a pair of dolls, both from pochohantas, one male, one female. He liked, and at 21 still likes, long hair.
What it telling is HOW he played with the dolls.
They would be siblings one day, partners the next, adversaries on yet another day.
He had some pretty cool negotiations going on with these two. They had interesting adventures, fought but had diplomacy, loved but had differences.

He's taken a lot of that forward in his life. Playing with "miniature people" gave him a lot of experience using tools to work with real people.

Summerannie Moon
Summerannie M5 years ago

Men here wear pink the same as women.
Asian women hold hands here as close friends. Thats not even blinked at
I knew obese women in some countries are considered wealthy. I was told that back in 73 in Bali, Indonesia.
Boys these days play with dolls as do girls with trucks and also boys i have seen which delights me, wear fairy costumes while the girls will dress as bat man or some other male cartoon or character.
I think its healthy and I credit their mothers for allowing them their freedom to dress as they like.
Arabic men holding hands? Hmm I havent seen that before here.


Klara Ertl
Klára Ertl5 years ago

A shame holding hands is not as common here - it must surely be positive for your psychological well-being!
I knew about chubby women being generally considered more beautiful in several countries of Africa.
But I didn´t know boys wearing pink in Belgium was normal, even though I live right next to it ! Personally, I think pink looks very good on most men and is even a sign of manhood, because you must be sufficiently daring and proud to wear that here. It seems it´s getting slowly more and more fashionable, though.

Yashee Ramlochun
Past Member 5 years ago


Kit S.
Kathleen H5 years ago

I found these interesting, though some I already knew, such as the Japanese Valentine's Day gifting tradition and 'White Day'. See anime is educational!

I like these because it shows how many of the stereotypes that in the US and UK are taken for granted - and lead to nauseating sexism in the form of functional items and toys being turned pink so girls will like/buy them: BLEH!!! - aren't as universal as the manufacturers would have us believe.