For those of you... and there seem to be several... interested in coming to Ukraine to find 'love'
10.07.2008 30 °C
Talk to many Ukrainians about the short-comings of their country (corruption, incompetence, criminality, disease, drugs) compared to the general standard of living in more developed countries of the world and they (especially the ones in Odessa) will airily dismiss all your criticisms with the sage observation that 'Ahh, but WE have the most beautiful women in the world'. Forget the fact that having 'the most beautiful women in the world' doesn't make your standard of living any easier, sort out the drainage system or frequent power cuts... that is just their 'Russian soul' speaking. But are they really that beautiful? Desirable? Wonderful? You've probably seen them on the internet and have your own opinions, but here is some more information that I have learned first-hand during the last couple of years of living in the home of these 'most beautiful women'.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some women here may look great, but that doesn't mean they are beautiful 'inside' (see below...). On the 'outside' though, women here take a great deal of time making sure they look good. In Odessa, many ladies will get up at 5am to spend 2-3 hours getting ready before they leave the house. They will dress to impress - NOT so much men, but it's a perpetual competition with other women; women will eye each other up and compare where they stand. Most eat well and go to the gym, so, yes, they look 'beautiful'... but not, of course, if you prefer Asian women (for example...). Young women (mid-teenagers) race to look grown up to catch a man and, with make-up and the right clothes many easily add ten years to their real age... and with enough make-up just about any woman can make herself look more attractive. The women in other parts of Ukraine are on the whole a little less interested in appearance (that is Odessa for you: everything is superficial and flashy). But...
...there is a 'dirty' underside to life in Odessa. Especially in Odessa and neighbouring satellites, but more or less through much of Ukraine, a kind of institutionalised, acceptable, quasi-prostitution operates (partly linked to this is the massive AIDS/HIV epidemic that exists here). Ukraine is a very corrupt country and, if you are a young woman who wants to go to university but you don't have enough money to pay for your entrance exam, it is more or less acceptable for you to use your body to get what you can't buy. The same for accommodation, assistance in jobs, passing exams, etc. Capitalism and materialism are relatively new here and everyone is under pressure to 'own', to spend, to buy... so many girls turn to prostitution of one sort or another to try and lead the lifestyle they desire. In fact, if you go to Ukrainian/Russian dating sites, there is a special category: not just 'seeking men', but 'seeking sponsor' - a category which usually means that that girl is looking for a man who will pay for her as a kept mistress. Perhaps it happens to a greater or lesser degree in other countries, but here it is not very far below the surface at all. Sex is often seen as a means to an end - the majority of people marry for convenience or money, not love; the majority have lovers - and, as it is more or less freely part of life, Ukrainian people are quite sexually liberated. Intimate displays of affection are common: a display of 'passionate love'.... So, on the one hand is sex as a kind of currency, on the other, seemingly opposite, is the fairytale ideal of 'romance'. Every girl here wants to be a princess swept off her feet.... and this slightly odd dichotomy is what lies at the heart of many young women here in Ukraine...
Linked to the 'romantic' side, almost all women here have a traditional idea of gender roles, passed down from mother to daughter. Men provide, pay for, and protect; women cook, keep house, and have children. Even among young women, this attitude is the norm. While some women work very hard, many others (compared to Western countries) have never worked. The go to university, get married, have children, look after the home and the man provides them with all they need. As such, significant age differences between men and women are not uncommon: 10-20 year differences do not cause the slightest flutter of disapproval for Ukrainians: an older man can provide better than a younger one.
It is quite common for women to get married in their late teens, have children before 21... and to then get divorced before they are 30. They want the fairytale life of a wonderful house, wonderful children, and a man who gives them all they need (diamonds, Lexus cruiser, Gucci shoes...), without them working... and when this does not happen, they may stay, out of necessity, or leave. Or the man gets tired of providing and getting little in return... so he leaves! So, be prepared for that when you visit to 'find your love'. You WILL pay for everything and, if not, the lady will regard it as an insult. Give ODD numbers of flowers (a dozen roses is for funerals here in Ukraine!). Give presents, take out to fancy restaurants... it will all impress.... but...
Most young women want to leave Ukraine (many young men do too, but they have a harder route to take... no one is rushing here to marry Ukrainian guys...) . Referring back to the point I made above (sex as currency), many young women are not averse to using their body to do that or to use their looks to lead a life beyond their means. I personally know a couple of Ukrainian women who (cleverly) keep a number of men hanging on over the internet, get one to pay for a visit to Germany for a couple of weeks, then a different one to pay for visas and flights to South Africa, then another to Canada... then one visits and they stay in a fancy hotel and have expensive meals and the girls milk these men for all they can. It is, in essence, their job (but, like mentioned above, a sort of acceptable quasi-prostitution). So... if you contact a Ukrainian (especially Odessan) girl over the net and develop a 'relationship' keep in mind the fact that you may not be the only 'love' of that young lady.
Marriage agencies: They employ women to write letters to [you] guys (at a rate of 1 dollar a letter), and 50c per reply to an email. These are rarely the women you see in your pictures - they are people who speak good enough English to write romantic letters. Many agencies publish pictures of women who are not actually on their 'books' (but purchase these pictures from local modelling agencies, or just take pictures of girls in the street and add them to their galleries without permission). If you need a translator when you come to Odessa, the agency will give the translator a pittance, compared to what you're paying (so, if you're kind, tip your translator!). Don't be gullible enough to think that the 'gifts' (of flowers, for example) that you may be tempted to send over the internet, ever reach your intended: the money is split 50:50 (at best) between the agency and the woman. If you meet women at arranged meets, the women will be offered more money to stay for the duration of the meeting. So, you see from this that the general trend is... the women here (like almost everyone else, but at least the women here can use their good looks and charm to get it) are in it for money... not 'love'. If you don't mind that, then, good for you! You can meet some interesting, kind, charming, attractive girls here, but you will need to have money set aside and you too need to think of it as business. If things go well, you will need money and time and to endure a great deal of nightmarish bureaucracy with visas in order to get your 'love' to visit you in your own country, to get married and (ultimately... the ladies dream.... to get her a passport of your nationality). If your wife gains a different passport, she will have to (officially) forfeit her Ukrainian passport... but, under Ukrainian law your 'wife' is entitled to half of everything which belongs to her husband... exactly how this works when they have forfeited their passport, I don't know!
Practically, you could easily save alot of money by coming to Odessa without the aid of an internet marriage agency. It is a pleasant city, used to foreigners (unlike other cities in Ukraine). Most young women here speak passable English and they will be happy to meet you in the street, a bar, club, cafe, or sitting next to you in the park or at the beach, but it will be up to you to make the first move. It is exceptional for a woman to directly show her interest in a man - as a man, you must be prepared to take control of the situation (part of their 'romantic' view). Shrinking violets gain nothing here. If a woman starts talking to you in a bar or cafe, she may do so simply for you to pay for her drinks.... you may or may not receive anything in return - except the grace of her conversation. Alternatively she could easily be a prostitute trying to make money for an hour ('real' prostitution is rife in Odessa).
At the age of 21-24 (just after university), if they're not already married, many young women will be looking for marriage and to start a family. Getting married much later than that is unusual and undesirable for women. If you meet a nice girl, do not be pushy, accept some quite different world views to your own, some strange superstitions (do not whistle inside! do not sit on the corner of a table! do not put an empty bottle on the table you're sitting at!) and, as mentioned above, be prepared to pay for everything... and be aware that you will only receive something 'more' if the woman thinks she can gain something more from you. I have been advised on several occasions that 'the more you give, the more you receive'. . . well. . . I haven't always found that to be the case so. . . beware and make up your own mind if you think there should be a balance of giving and receiving.
Personally, while I have met some wonderful, very beautiful ladies here (NEVER through marriage agencies by the way... but then I live here...), in my experience, no matter how close you may become, at some point there is a very significant difference between Ukrainian mentality and expectations and Western ones... not to mention, no matter how good the lady's English may be, it will never be as good as yours (or your Russian will never be as good as her's), and if verbal communication is important to you, this will always present problems sooner or later.
[Note: I don't want to 'tar' all Ukrainian women with the same brush. As in all countries there are exceptions. My observations are based on my own experiences and talking to a great deal of local men and women and also expats here. The facts stated above are facts; the observations are shared by many of those I have talked to. In terms of ladies, there are variations between cities and areas of Ukraine. Many Odessa girls regard themselves as God's gift to mankind and simply deserve all gifts, diamonds, and money which you offer them. Girls from Western Ukraine and other cities are less 'up themselves'. Those in the West have a far more European outlook on life, fashion etc. . . but can be just as physically attractive.]
Related blogs: Ukraine... Honestly; 'Budget Travel in Ukraine', 'Ukraine: Highlights and Lowlights'.