BACKGROUND Self-rated health (SRH) is a widely adopted tool to compare health across countries. Our aim was to examine SRH differences between Italy and Serbia and to observe the role of predictors of SRH referring to health behaviors within and between both countries. METHODS We used cross-sectional population-based data from Italian and Serbian national health surveys carried out in 2013. Post hoc cross-standardization was undertaken to ensure that the information from both data sets was comparable. RESULTS Univariate and multivariate multinomial logistic regressions showed that Serbians reported bad-SRH significantly more often than Italians. Moreover, consistently across national groups, younger participants, males, higher educated participants and participants with lower body mass index (BMI) had more chances than older, lower educated and higher BMI participants, respectively, to report better SRH. Finally, smoking and drinking behaviors did not correlate with SRH, while the frequency of fruits and vegetables intake was differently associated with SRH across countries. CONCLUSION Health assessments based on SRH in Italian and Serbian national surveys are directly comparable and show similar relationships with socio-demographic correlates and BMI. However, the effect of health behaviors on SRH may differ according to national and cultural contexts.