Searching for the true face of Balkan men

Growing up in Serbia, surrounded by the men of the Balkans, I never really thought twice about their image. They were just a part of the everyday scenery. It wasn’t until I left the country ten years ago that I stumbled upon a surprising revelation: the rest of the world seemed to have quite the unflattering stereotype of Balkan men. Who knew?

My father and his childhood tattoo

The Balkans have a tumultuous history marked by wars, conflicts, and deep-seated nationalism. Men have often been at the forefront of these events, shaping the region’s patriarchal societies and leaving a complex legacy in their wake.

Immigration to the West has brought with it the perpetuation of traditional behaviors and attitudes, giving rise to the stereotype of the “Balkan man” – a figure characterized as temperamental, aggressive, and involved in illicit activities. This image, often portrayed in movies like those of Emir Kusturica, further fueled misconceptions about Balkan masculinity.

Curiosity led me back to the region to reassess its men and unravel the myths and stereotypes that surround them. Despite years of living abroad, I found that while some aspects of Balkan masculinity have evolved, others remain unchanged. Are Balkan men truly as the Western media portrays them, or is there a deeper, more nuanced story waiting to be told?