Traveling exposes you to multiple cultures and beliefs, which makes you constantly doubt your own culture. One of the most striking differences I noticed while traveling were the gender norms. Americans and Europeans seem to come from two different planets from the point view of gender norms. At the same time, East Europeans are suspended somewhere between the above.
I never went to America, but I went to several international camps organized by my university, where I got to meet Americans. Their perspective upon gender is completely opposed to the European perception.
American men are always showing off their masculinity, but exposing their muscles, their love to beer and steak and by challenging their peers to rather violent games of American football, box or skanderberg. Guns are also a defining feature of masculinity for them.
And then you have European men, who love to wear pink, sometime they dance and they are not afraid to confess they sometimes have a mani and a pedi. They are not afraid these things make them less manly. They like to do them and they do it!
European men are not ashamed to do what they like, even if this thing is seen as a feminine activity. In fact, as I write this, I realize we don’t have feminine or masculine activities. We just have activities, which can be enjoyed by anyone.
Europeans challenge gender norms a lot more easily, compared to Americans. An American man could hardly be convinced to dance or to wear a pink short. Or course, we do raise our boys in blue clothes and give them little toy cars, while girls are dressed in pink and they receive dolls. But when these kids grow up, they are comfortable with who they are and what they like. If a girl wants to work at the stables, she does it! Even when she’s 7 months pregnant!
Speaking of girls, Europeans are not afraid to show off their natural beauty. A girl’s night out doesn’t necessarily mean lots of makeup and high heels. European women are just as comfy in sweatpants and a messy bun. Meanwhile, most American girls love to dress up when they go out. I admire them! I also love to dress up when I go out, but not always.
My Netherlands peers always pointed to women with lots of makeup and said “She’s definitely American”. That’s because they were wearing sneakers in the club, which allowed them to dance the night off. A beautiful woman in Europe is a woman who shows off her natural beauty. Being real is sexy. Being able to emphasize your natural beauty with small amounts of lipstick and mascara is what makes a woman turn men’s heads around her.
Europeans seem to embrace their true self and live how they want. They love to be truly unique, they love to be real. This doesn’t mean you won’t see women with lots of makeup or men who fight for fun. They are also there, in Europe. But they sometimes give up on all these stereotypes and challenge the gender norms. Their culture allows them to do this.