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 around the world.
See what we discovered 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 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.
2. E De of Vietnam: Men Take Women's Last Names
The E De group of Southern 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 and take their bride's family name.
3. Japan: Only Women Give Gifts on Valentines 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 Valentines Day — usually just chocolate. Women do get a day of their own, however, on March 14, a holiday known as "White Day."
4. Various Arab Countries: Male Friends Hold Hands
In 2005, George W. Bush made headlines after a picture of him holding hands with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah surfaced. 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, this force-feeding has seen considerable decline in recent years.
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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