When speaking about cross culture marriages, there is an interesting trend: a relationship between a man from the USA and a woman from Australia is an "international relationship", yet a relationship between the same man and a woman from Russia is a "mail order brides" thing.
My site Russian Brides Cyber Guide http://www.womenrussia.com is at the top of many search engines for the term "Russian brides", and as a result I often receive requests for interviews from newspapers and magazines all over the world; USA, Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Finland, Hungary, Australia, South Africa, Russia - and the list goes on. And I see a worrying trend - often a reporter already knows what kind of story he or she is going to write, before they even start their interviews.
Marrying a Russian woman is routinely portrayed by the Media as the "mail order brides" process. Those words tend to leave a nasty taste in your mouth, don't they?
The first time I heard those words were soon after my marriage when "Cosmo" happened to interview me, quite by chance. I was sitting at home, bored and decided to send a letter to a competition that the magazine was launching. "Cosmo" was looking for somebody to feature in their article about Russian brides. My letter was like a God send, and they phoned me asking for an interview. This was my first interview with the Media, and I was pretty naive at the time. I thought that "Cosmo", like all our friends and family, would find the way we met "very romantic". Imagine my surprise when I read the announcement of the future article: "South Africa's Mail Order Brides"! Honestly, I was shocked and humiliated. I had no idea that, that was the official name of the process! (The actual article had the heading "South Africa's Mail Order Romances" which sounded a bit better, and the article itself finished with the words "Welcome!" and "Good luck!" addressed to all us Russian women. All in all, the article was quite all right.)
Now, getting back on track. The history behind the term "mail order brides" goes as far back as the time of the first American settlers. The settlers, most of whom were men, could not find suitable women to marry and had to write letters to Europe asking women to become their wives. In those days, arranged marriages were common, and marrying somebody you barely knew was nothing out of the ordinary. Back then; the women truly were "mail order brides".
These days the term "mail order brides" is currently used to label the relationship between a man from a first world country and a woman from the third world country or the countries of the former USSR.
The common misconception is that the women only want a way out of their misery and terrible economic situation. Being incompetent in Filipino, Thailand, Colombian, Mexican and other mail order brides, I can tell you with confidence that this is NOT the case with Russian women seeking husbands abroad.
Russian women have a much better education than the brides from Asia and Latin America. About 90% of the women that apply to our agency have college or university degrees, or are current college or university students. With their fair complexion, their intelligence and their astounding beauty, men have often asked me if our selection is real! Our women appear too beautiful to be seeking husbands on the Internet.
Being intelligent and educated, Russian women are still feminine, warm and gentle. Competing with men is the last thing they seek in their family lives. The Russian ideal of a man is the man with whom she feels like she is "behind the stone wall", the leader, the provider and the protector. Believe it or not, the reason for all these beautiful Russian women seeking their destiny over the Internet is that they cannot find their ideal man in Russia. It is that simple - even if it sounds unbelievable.
Most Russian women seeking husbands abroad are NOT focused on finding a "foreign husband" but more importantly on finding "The Husband". We often receive requests from Russian women featured in our catalogs to remove their profiles, because they have married Russian men living in Russia - this is a clear evidence that most Russian women seeking contacts with foreign men are not fixed on moving abroad but on finding a serious relationship and getting married. For many of them, finding a husband in her home country would be preferable to moving abroad, and sometimes we even receive requests from women if she can find a man who will move in with her in Russia.
In Russia, women outnumber men (there are 10 million more women than men, according to the latest census!), and in most situations it is a question of luck if a woman manages to find herself a man or not. Russians marry early, and at the age of 25 most people are already married. If a man is not married, it can only mean he is not willing to commit - even bad men can find themselves a wife! Women must act fast if they want to get married and to ensure that they have a husband, one can only hope he will be a good man. There were even talks about changing the family legislation so that it would allow men to have multiply wives so that there would be competition among men too. (This is not a joke; this question was discussed in Russian parliament.)
Now, what is the general idea about Russian "mail order brides"?
Most men thinking about "mail order brides" services are not even aware that they will not receive their bride delivered to their postal box (or their door) on request and will have to spend time, money and effort to convince a "bride" that he is a worthy candidate for her to consider. Yes, the first contact happens usually by mail, air or electronic, but this is the case with using any Internet personals, isn't it?
The interpretation the media gives to the term "Mail order brides" is that a Russian mail order bride will marry any man, of any age, just to get out of Russia. The Mail order bride service is interpreted by most people as a service that "sells women", a service that is neither respectable nor trustworthy. Some men still believe they can point their finger at any woman and she must marry him because he paid for her address.
This "mail order brides" idea is an insult to any decent Russian woman.
C'mon, guys! Those women do not think you are doing them a favor by writing to them. They feel as if you were one of the guys who would approach her at a bar: where she can say, "yes" if she likes you, and "thanks, but no, thanks" if she doesn't. She does not owe you anything just because you selected her from the thousands of other applicants or paid 10 bucks for her contact details. If you dare to be arrogant or offensive in your letter, you are out. She knows your music and movies as well as you know them, and is also SEEKING HER SOUL MATE so remember that! Do not jeopardize your chances with her by letting yourself believe in the "mail order brides" nonsense.
Let me tell you about myself. Before I left Russia, I was working as a regional manager of a large marketing agency, which had offices in 22 regions all over Russia. At some stage I had 150 people working for me. I lived much better than most of the regular citizens, and my income would fit in the top 10% of the population. I have traveled all over Europe and Asia. I was not miserable because of the economic reasons. I was content with my life style and envied by many people, though I would be lying to you if I said my life style did not improve since I moved to the west. But as I said, for a woman in Russia I was doing very well. The only reason that I did not feel completely happy was because I could not find a good husband - and yes, finding a husband and starting a family was VERY important for me. Because of this, and only because of this, I decided to look abroad. I made a few disastrous attempts to find a partner using local personals, which I will not describe here because the subject of this article is a serious one and my meetings with the guys from personals would turn it into a sitcom. Being an industrious person, sooner or later I would end up at the "marriage agencies" as they call dating services in Russia. With me it happened later, after 3 years of thinking, because I could not believe that good, faithful, honest, caring, professional, ambitious, career orientated AND single men existed in this world, men who did not have a long queue of hopeful women knocking at their door. This would be too good to be true. Why did I eventually do it? It was the same type of thing that one does when buying a lotto ticket - do you REALLY think you will hit the jackpot? No, but it doesn't hurt to try and if you don't try, you will never even have the "hope" that you might just win.
When I started to receive letters from mostly nice, good-looking, successful guys (far from the portrait of the "looser" that the Media wants you to believe in), I was absolutely smitten. I could not believe those guys were telling all these wonderful words to ME! It could not be real. It could only be a dream. They wanted to have a family and children! They wanted TO GET MARRIED AND SETTLE DOWN. Those were the things that I could never expect from a Russian guy. Russian guys are hunted down, and would only capitulate into marriage after a proper siege. Too good to be true? This was exactly my feeling from all those photos and letters.
You probably get the same feeling when you read ads of Russian women on the Internet, well, Russian mail order brides. It is too good to be true, and there must be something wrong either with the website itself or the women that advertise on it.
Well, well, well… YOU are looking for a wife. You personally, you are OK, aren't you? So are they.
Why you see so many negative stories about Russian mail order brides in the Media? The Media concentrates on scandal stories because they must sell their newspapers, magazines, etc, and horror stories attract more attention than "happily ever after" fairy tales. (When was the last time you saw a story about a happy marriage on the front page? But a "mail order brides" horror can easily make it.) To sell more copies magazines must publish something "newsworthy". Murders and treachery sell newspapers. This is one reason why you will rarely find happy stories about international couples in the Media.
But there is also a more powerful reason. WHY newspapers want to sell more copies and TV channels to attract more viewers? They would never survive if their only source of income were the regular Joe buying the newspaper on the street corner.
The driving force behind the Media is ADVERTISING, and newspapers, magazines and TV channels' most important goal is to sell advertising space in their editions. Half of their audience is WOMEN. Imagine if they tell in their stories how wonderful are Russian mail order brides, how happy are their husbands and what great kids they have?
Put it simpler, you are not getting all the truth. You are getting the negative information, and seldom the positive.
Let me give the word to people who work in this industry themselves:
Alan, publisher and journalist: "I met Aryna, my Ukrainian bride, through one of these big dating sites and asked the company to publish our story. However, while the site does carry 'true stories' and its service and profiles span the globe, the company's management views and perceptions appear to be parochially American. If the romance is not "N.Y., N.Y. meets Washington D.C." it isn't worthy of publication!"
Anthony Bochene, journalist (also the author of Foreign Bride Guide): "Lena and I are an example of just one more success story that you don't read about in the local newspapers. Added to the dozens of other happy couples I've come in contact with in the last few years who would not have met each other without the help of the international romance tour industry, means the general public is not getting the whole truth about this business."
When a negative report is about your own country fellows, you understand that the cases featured in a TV story or an article are extreme; you know very well what the real picture is.
When the report is about some other country, you have no idea about the real picture and often build your impression on incomplete facts.
The thing is, the journalists who write the stories are also only people, and most often, they do not possess the complete information themselves. Often they are affected by the same common misconceptions and myths. The best and most objective stories are usually written by reporters that live in the country they write about. But even then, writing about something they are not professionally involved with, the reporters often follow the usual stereotypes: "mail order brides" mean something that is highly suspicious, and most likely a scam.
I can confirm it from my own experience with interviews to newspapers and magazines: very often they are not supplying you with all the facts. I do not mean that they purposefully mislead their readers; most likely, they just follow their stereotypes. It is not easy to break a common stereotype, built through many years, in the short time allocated to an interview. The very questions journalists ask show how little most of them know about Russia and the situation between sexes in Russia. Some questions that seem to me crucial in the "Russian mail order brides phenomena", are never asked.
Often reporters take some words out of context and it then looks like you said something completely different than what you in fact really said. For example, they would ask me why I did not want to marry a Russian guy, and I would say that I would be happy to marry a Russian guy; that I was actually looking for a Russian guy for a long time but could not find somebody suitable. That because I had a very good career in Russia, good education, and was earning good money, and generally lived very well, I wanted to find somebody like me, who would also be educated and career orientated, and at the same time was unmarried, and willing to commit. I did not look for somebody rich or famous, just a "normal guy". But to find such a guy in Russia for a woman over 25 is all but impossible - and I was already 28, the age where all your family and friends had already written you off as an "old maid" who would never get married: 28 and never married in Russia - is a life sentence. This is why I decided to try to look abroad. Then the magazine would write in their article that I decided to look for a husband abroad because I wanted to marry a guy who had money and a good career, and lived well. Taken out of the context it would sound like I was a perfect "gold-digger"!
This is non unusual in compiling stories. On the TV, they ask you 100 questions, and show only 2-3 of them. So a two-hour interview turns into a few phrases that would sound very different in the light of the previous discussion.
I believe the Media is actually doing a bad service to their countrymen, making them believe that Russian women are hard up and will marry anybody just to get out of their misery.
This is the concept that is extensively exploited by scammers, you have probably heard about them. Dating scammers usually contact unsuspecting men through large Internet personals and start professing their undying love and desire for marriage after a few short letters. The scam scenario fits perfectly with the Media's insinuations, and men believe all they need to do is to pay her travel expenses and they will have a perfect mail order bride at their front door next week Friday. When "she" does not show up on "D"-day, they say "All those Russian women are just a scam" and if they are very unhappy, probably another "mail order brides" horror story is born.
Would people believe this story if she were from Cincinnati, Ohio, and not from Ekaterinburg, Russia? No way! But the Media created a "mail order brides" myth, which led them to think this unbelievable situation is possible in the case with a woman from Russia. After all, she is just a mail order bride. See the consequences?
The real, legitimate Russian dating agencies do NOT offer Russian mail order brides.
Russian mail order brides is a thing that does not exist.
There are Russian women that seek contacts with foreign men with the intention of future marriage. Those women are educated, intelligent and smart. They are not going to become intimate submissives or maids. They seek equal partnership and will not tolerate infidelity or abuse. There is nothing wrong with them; they are not doing anything different from women that place ads in your local personals. There is a lack of men in their country, why can't they look elsewhere? We all have the right to seek happiness.
As said by a reporter from Irish TV after I answered their questions about why Russian brides are suddenly so popular in Ireland, "From what you said I see a legitimate matchmaking service and not just some slicky mail order brides operation". And this is exactly what Russian dating agencies offer - introductions to real, existing, marriage minded Russian women. They do not sell women. They offer a way for people from different countries to find each other and be happy.
But those people are free, and bear full responsibility for their own actions. One would not complain on a national television about problems with his "girl-next-door" fiancee, but if she is from Russia, it is the "Russian mail order brides" problem.
It is just a problem of a particular guy, with a particular woman!
There are bad people among all nations; in your country, too, there are probably some men and some women who get ripped off through their marriages - unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about it. Just try to avoid the bad ones to the best of our abilities. No relationship is guaranteed problem-free; it is impossible.
There are hundreds or even thousands of happy international marriages, and there are only a few unhappy ones. One can get into trouble in a marriage with her countryman or his countrywoman; and you know yourself it happens all the time; it probably happened with somebody of your family or friends. Yes, there are gold diggers and social climbers; which nation does not have them? It is not the reason to discriminate against of Russian, or Ukrainian, or Uzbek women.
I do not say a marriage to a Russian woman will guarantee you will live in paradise on Earth. Not all marriages are the same! But it does not mean it has to end in trouble either.
Most things in life are potential trouble-makers. But, for example, no one cancels adoptions because there were a few adoptive parents that abused their adopted children, and a few adopted kids that later caused great problems for their adoptive parents. People understand that they were rather untypical cases.
More people die in road accidents than of cancer; but no one is thinking about prohibiting cars. What is done concerns road safety.
There are sexually transmitted deceases, including AIDS, but no one is thinking about prohibiting sex. Just take precautions when you do it!
There was a case where an American husband killed his Russian wife. Now what? All Americans marrying foreigners are paranoid murderers?? Was not there ever a case where an American husband killed an American wife? Were marriages in general announced dangerous after that?
Don't throw away the kid with the dirty water, and don't judge a phenomena by some untypical, extreme cases. I went through the process of marrying a foreigner myself, and I was not exploited, or trafficked, or abused, and neither was my husband. It was a story of two people from different countries meeting each other and falling in love.
I am proud to do what I am doing. I am not in the "mail order brides" business. I am in a dating business. I am helping people to find their love. I hope with my input there will be a few more happy couples in the world, and a few less lonely people.
Because good people deserve to be happy!
Copyright 2004 Elena Petrova
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The author of this article, Elena Petrova, is the creator of Russian Bides Cyber Guide, the first website about Russian women seeking foreign men for marriage, designed by a Russian woman.
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