Machismo, Moron, or Mesmerizing? A Cross-Cultural Examination of Men

“Guatemalan men are so shy…”

I looked across the table at Lucia, jaw dropped, wondering if I should refute this statement.

Perhaps it is my amazon woman height or slightly lighter than the average Guatemalan complexion, but to date I have found Guatemalan men to be extremely forward. What can I say? I guess I’m novel.

In addition to Guatemalan men, I have also encountered many British, Australian, German, and American men since I’ve been here. Antigua is quite the melting pot.

Naturally, such an environment breeds and begs for comparison. Over the past few weeks, the wheels in my mind began turning: comparing, contrasting, and modifying my schemas for males of various cultures.

Because my brain is in research mode, these comparisons began to take the form of a study. The current men under examination represent 4 countries: The United States, Guatemala, Italy, and Great Britain. These men were encountered in coffee shops, schools, and parks.

Because I like to be thorough in my research, I decided to explore the literature prior to conducting my own investigation.

I found that researchers from various fields have long acknowledged that men and women are very different (i.e. Gray’s Anatomy [1858], Men are from Mars Women are from Venus[1992].). However, there has been surprisingly few studies examining men’s personalities, and fewer still using a cross-cultural perspective.

Without doubt, Schmitt et al.’s (2008) landmark study entitled, Why Can’t a Man be More Like a Woman? Sex Differences in Big Five Personality Traits Across 55 Cultures, set the standard for research on this topic, with several revolutionary findings.

For example, In 34/55 countries, men were found to be less agreeable than women. Only in Korea were men found to be more agreeable than women (indicating that Lane’s mom on Gilmore Girls may be an appropriate representation of the culture). Women were found to be more conscientiousness in most cultures, with the exception of Botswana and India. Women are equally or more extraverted than men, with the exception of India and Malaysia. Considering this finding and comparing it to personal experience (of extroverted Guatemalan men…), it is important to note that Guatemalan men were not investigated in Schmitt et al.’s study.

However, given the breadth and quantitative (relies on numbers…)nature of Schmitt et al.’s (2008) study, it is difficult for readers to glean a useful, natural, schema, to guide their interactions with males of various cultures whom they may encounter. Kelly (2011) and Young (2012) provide valuable insight into the value of qualitative (relies on narratives…) research, namely its ability to provide more accurate and rich representations of research subjects. Thus, the current investigation utilizes a qualitative approach, analyzing my personal narratives from the past month.

I’ll save you the boredom of my methods of analysis, but rest assured, I adhered to best practice recommendations as set forth by national organizations. I have provided my narratives below, accompanied by their interpretation. Please be aware that the following examples may be biased, and are not generalizable to the general public. This is a standard limitation for case-study approaches. Therefore, it is not necessary to become offended by the schemas which have naturally developed from my experiences (please refer to the works of Bartlett, Piaget, and Beck for more information regarding schemas…)

The Guatemalan Male:

As aforementioned, the Guatemalan male is BOLD. He is prewired to whistle, honk, yell, “hiss” at, and greet women of interest…repeatedly…until they respond. No matter if he is a police man on duty—he will roll down his window to whistle at women of interest. Distance is of no restraint—he will yell from a block away. If familiar with his person of interest, he may sheepishly approach her and greet her….or walk repeatedly past the open door of the room she is occupying. However, it has been observed that the Guatemalan male can be quite chivalrous. My first week here while out with my supervisor, we had a flat tire, which was promptly changed by two gentlemen without any expectation of payment.  Consider also the following example: While taking a walk around the city center (el parque central), I found myself walking alongside a man of comparable height to myself. As this was quite odd, I did a double take, only to discover that he actually was walking in the street…which was about 8 inches below the sidewalk I was walking on. Imagine my shock. Further, imagine my reaction when I was caught with a look of shock on my face.

 Senor: (smiles) Hola.

Me: Hola (does signature curt nod, which typically discourages further communication, while mentally noting that this guy is more attractive than the average man…).

Okay, I’ll spare you the play by play. Over the course of the next two blocks, the conversation continued in the expected trajectory including information about my country of origin, reason for travel, name, religious affiliation, request for phone number (and subsequent denial), invitation to fiesta (also denied), and an invitation for coffee after church the following day (denied, but not without effort). It is worth noting that in the course of this conversation, I denied knowing where I lived. However, I will not neglect the most important part of this story:

Francisco: Donde vas? (Where are you going?)

Me: Solo camino. (I’m just walking).

Francisco: Voy a trabajar. Yo…. (I’m going to work. I…) 

He stops talking abruptly as we approach an intersection, which he apparently believes I am about to walk through. In a heroic attempt to save my life (which was not at risk…), he protectively extends his arm to block my path. How chivalrous!

Thus, I sum up the Guatemalan male as chivalrous and bold.

The American Male:

Contrast the prior example to the example of the American male. I don’t have to use any words aside from my narrative to describe these men. They make it quite clear what type of men they are.

I am sitting in the garden area of my favorite coffee shop, working on Spanish homework, on a sunny Saturday morning. Four American males enter the garden area, select the table closest to me (close enough for me to reach out and touch), which seats 8 people. They all sit on one side, facing me, as they all loudly exclaim that they refuse to sit with their back to a door. Immediately after sitting down, they begin describing in graphic detail what they’d like to do to a young woman they apparently have noticed and  deemed attractive somewhere on the patio. I am immediately offended on behalf of women everywhere by their objectification of women and their demeaning sexist language. I began to scan the area for their poor victim. I am dumbfounded and horrified when I realize that I’m the only female on the patio. They continue talking about me for the duration of their meal, apparently assuming that nobody in a foreign country speaks English…despite the fact I’m clearly holding books that indicate Spanish is not my first language. They discuss among themselves who is going to come talk to me (in Spanish…), as I refrain from vomiting. In a matter of mere minutes, they switch from objectifying me to insulting me:

Not-enough-of-man-to-earn-the-name: Aww, man, I’m not gonna talk to her.. you do it!

Also- not-enough-of-man-to-earn-the-name: Dude no! I’m not gonna.

Not-enough-of-man-to-earn-the-name: Yeah…she’s too old for me anyways….

Me: (radiating fury)

Not-enough-of-man-to-earn-the-name:…she’s probably 30…..

Me: (Snaps up head….LIVID)

Not-enough-of-man-to-earn-the-name:…maybe even 40.

Me: (slams down ink pen….dangerously close to spontaneous combustion). 

Thankfully, revenge is sweet. Prior to leaving the coffee shop:

Me: (stands, approaches table with camera) Puedo tomar foto, por favor?

Arrogant Americans: (exuding pride that they’ve attracted enough attention with their good looks to warrant a photo from a stranger…goofily smiling at each other). Uhh, sure…Uhhh SI!

Me: (Takes photo) Gracias…. I’m working on an article about arrogant obnoxious Americans abroad. This will be perfect (Smiles, leaves).

Sadly, the photo didn’t work…guess that happens sometimes after you drop your phone in the toilet.

As I said before, there are no words to describe American males. They are self-explanatory.

I have strategically saved the British Male and the Italian Male for the end, so that you may have time to calm down if the previous story caused you distress.

The British Male:

If asked to describe the British male in one word, I would use the word helpless. Consider the following encounter:

I am waiting at the bar for the barista to finish making my latte. A gentleman (attractive, well dressed, and clean shaven) approaches, sits briefly on a barstool along side me, hesitates, and asks the barista for an ink pen….in english.

Barista: (confused face)

Me: El dice,  “Tienes un boligrapho?” (He said, “Do you have a pen?”)

Brit: (looks at me…with a tinge of hope)

Barista: No, no tengo. Solo, este. (No, I don’t have one. Only this. [points to pen chained to counter]).

Me: Pienso tengo una. Gracias. (I think I have one. Thanks). Here, you can use mine.

Brit: Thank  you!! (with intense emotion/animation)

It’s hard to fully capture, but everything about this gentlemen exuded helplessness. His body language, his expressions, and his unwarranted enthusiasm when his problem was solved—as if I saved his life by offering a pen. Also, it is noteworthy that this very gentleman failed to stand up for me the following day in the same coffee shop when I was being demeaned by the American not-men—even though he made eye-contact and clearly recognized me.

And finally: 

The Italian Male:

Okay, confession: I don’t have a story about an Italian male, other than to say that there is an elderly Italian gentlemen at my Spanish school who is always rocking awesome shoes. Schema for Italian Men: Good shoes.

It is my hope that this study has offered clarity in an area of research which was previously vague. I welcome feedback, especially from American males. I am especially saddened by the behavior of the men utilized in my sample, as I myself am an American.  I have hope that there are decent American men, however I am in need validation. If you believe yourself to be an American man of integrity, please submit evidence of integrity to, or comment to this post. I also welcome defenses from courageous British men, as well as men not represented in the current study. Thank you for your contributions.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. I enjoyed the break- down of conversations taking place, especially at the coffee shop! I found the article very amusing; I can’t quite believe their attitude, but I have experienced something similar myself! The summary of what men are like in different cultures is interesting. I am now living in Madrid and notice the differences between men here, and the men in the UK; plus in Madrid there are plenty of men from all over the world visiting, it is great to observe their behaviours towards women! Some have just never been taught respect or manners!

  2. AH! Someone has arisen to the challenge! See attached email:


    In defense of American Men, obvious bias in your comparison….

    It appears that you are painting all American Men with the same brush. The same can be said for your depiction of Men from other countries. According to your “study”, you named 5 or so men. According to the 2000 census there are about 138.1 million males in the United States. Very small population size, Chelsey. The other issue I see in your comparison is the fact that you dealt with all of the other men from different countries as individuals. You dealt with your American group as a group. Now, the things they said were truly indefensible, but is a frequent problem when men get together in groups of 3 or more. Where three or more are gathered, there “machismo, moron” will be also. Your comparisons are unfair in the individual vs. group aspect.

    Evidence you say…. I know a guy that changes tires. I know a guy that buys extra umbrellas and gives them out when it rains. I know guys that pull out chairs, hold doors, get up when ladies do, and so forth and so on. Of course at this point it is my word against yours, but many people do not like what I have to say.

  3. Another emailed defense:

    Sadly, I think you are correct on some fronts. But I assure you, there are some of us that still exist that hold ourselves to a higher standard!

    The “men” you describe in you post sounds more like boys, frat boys to be more precise. They live in a culture that defines women as objects that are present for solely to please men. Sadly, our culture as a whole seems to be trending toward this idea. Our society has taken away the importance of personal responsibility, which devalues self-respect, which, in turn, leads to the development of men like that.

    There are, however, those of us who make a concerted effort to buck this trend! We (yes – I include myself in this group) still believe in chivalry. We still view women as not only our equal, but, outside Christ our savior, also as the greatest gift God has given the world. We still use sir and ma’am, thank you and no thank you. We place ourselves between a woman and the road when walking along the street. We open doors of all kinds – vehicles, restaurants and homes, to name a few – and allow ladies to enter first. Perhaps most importantly, we look for a woman to date and spend the rest of our lives with, not merely to have a one-night stand with.

    There are those of us that will compliment a woman for her beautiful eyes with no other intent that to let her know she is beautiful. We still help a woman stranded on the side of the road with no expectation of payment. We will hold a woman’s hand in public with no shame, and we will always place a woman ahead of our friends. We are hopeless romantics. Chivalry, I assure you, is not dead.

    Thanks for your contribution! Any other defenders of men?

  4. Karen says:

    As some one married to a man that is worth defending, not all are shameful! Some are wonderful enough to be looked up to and admired! Some work all their lives for others to see their dreams come true. Some have sacrificed more than you and I will ever know. We can not group all men in a pile in any culture!
    In America men would make their intent more clear for many years, even in the work place. With law suits and other employee/employer training they have been curtailed some what. The things you speak of in some cultures would be considered a complement. Good luck on your search. Always look a little deeper, you may be surprised at what you find.

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