Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore and compare emotions perceived while coding and presenting for software students, comparing three different countries and performing also a gender analysis. Design/methodology/approach Empirical data are gathered by means of the discrete emotions questionnaire, which was distributed to a group of students (n = 174) in three different countries: Norway, Spain and Turkey. All emotions are self-assessed by means of a Likert scale. Findings The results show that both tasks are emotionally different for the subjects of all countries: presentation is described as a task that produces mainly fear and anxiety; whereas coding tasks produce anger and rage, but also happiness and satisfaction. With regards to gender differences, men feel less scared in presentation tasks, whereas women report more desire in coding activities. It is concluded that it is important to be aware and take into account the different emotions perceived by students in their activities. Moreover, it is also important to note the different intensities in these emotions present in different cultures and genders. Originality/value This study is among the few to study emotions perceived in software work by means of a multicultural approach using quantitative research methods. The research results enrich computing literacy theory in human factors.