The Expat Woman’s Predicament

1998 > Russia

You a single girl looking for a man? Don’t go to Moscow!

A sexy Dane on the lookout for a good man
Suzanna on the lookout

annE gave up and went back to Boston for a real man
annE searching hard
Now, on occasion, I have made reference to how under
appreciated expatriate (read American and British) women are in Moscow,
but the full brunt of this horrible slight was brought home to me last
Friday night. I called up a woman friend of mine to see what she was up
to. After realizing we both were hungry, I volunteered to cook her
dinner (I fancy myself as a decent cook, thanks mom). When I arrived, I
was a bit shocked by her apartment.

See, I knew she was a single woman, who worked way to much, and might
not have a well developed social life, but the shelves of Friends and X
Files videos really put the zap to my head. She didn’t have the random
show taped by a friend and sent over, she had each and every episode as
box sets, like one might have the Godfather movie series. I had heard
about such things, but not until I actually saw them with my own eyes,
and in the possession of a respectable woman, did I full comprehend the
female expat situation here.

A while back, I wrote into the local alternative paper, the eXile
(See a great topical article here)
explaining to a anonymous contributor, how I enjoyed the expat women of
Moscow and how scummy the expat men were for going after the local girls
for their bodies then leaving the country if it got ugly. An expat man
replied that he would date expat women, if he didn’t find so many who
were hermits with VCR’s. I dismissed him as a fool with one bad run,
until Friday night.

Then, in audience of the magnitude of her collection, I realized that
she had resigned herself to chastity, loneliness, and the escapism that
TV has to offer. Wow! I am in awe as to how she and all the rest of the
expat women have lasted so long if they were so removed from the
relative-to-the-states lonely scene that I experience here.

I guess I should expand on this note, no matter how un-PC it is, so
the non-Moscovite will understand. Expat women do not have much choice
here. Russian men are not deemed worthy for them because, well
frankly, they are still in the stone age. The Russian men, in
general of course, are lucky enough to be in demand here after several
wars and Stalin, so they can act like little boys (or complete spoiled
brats) and get away with it. Russian women are amazed at expat women who
actually marry Russian men who don’t beat or discredit their wives.
Like humiliation of wives should be the norm or something.

The majority of the expat men are too busy chasing the abundant
Russian women who are shocked a ‘decent’ man with cash to
burn, would want to be with them. This leaves few options for the
unfortunate expat women here. Either an expat woman can take her
chances with a Russian man, throw herself at a random expat man, or sit
back with a good Friends video, a Baltika beer, and watch the time slip
on into the future.

I still cannot condone her videos, especially since she is British,
and I made damn sure we were not going on turn on the TV, much less
watch a video, on my time. I do have to admit that my housemate, Ann,
was ecstatic when she learned of this Friends cache, and has forced me
to be the mule for a video loan program. Sick, I tell ya, sick!

Saturday, November 14, 1998, Moscow Times

Finding Love Here is Still Easier than an IMF Loan

By Lynn Berry

We all know the stereotype of the single expatriate woman in Moscow:
smart, attractive and borne alone on Saturday nights watching videos,
while the expatriate men are having fun with young Russian beauties who
throw themselves at their feet.

Well, guess what? It’s wrong.

Sure, as with any stereotype there’s in element of truth, and some
Western women do see it this way. Some have even picked up and left
Moscow for cities in the United States and Europe where they believe
their chances of finding a suitable mate are much higher.

Certainly there are plenty of single women in town, and not just
expats, who wouldn’t mind meeting that perfect someone. But most say the
stereotype is absurd. One suggested it was the creation of the newspaper
the exile with its crude insinuations ‘that expat women aren’t
getting any.’

Of course, the Western businessmen who go to places like the Hungry
Duck are swarmed by Russian girls, and these men don’t go to bars
looking for women their own age with graduate degrees. But are these men
the majority? Seems unlikely. And are they what most Western women in
Moscow want? Seems more than unlikely.

The thing is, most single Western women who come to Moscow are
educated, career-oriented and no longer 22. They meet few available men
whom they find interesting no matter where they live. Now more and more
Russian women who fit this description are finding themselves in the
same situation. ‘Think about how many stories you’ve read about
single women in New York,’ said an American foreign correspondent
in her mid-30s. ‘I’m not convinced Moscow is any better or worse
than any other place. There are more interesting, attractive women in
the world than there are interesting, attractive, straight men. It’s
just a fact of life.’

Many of the interesting, attractive women in Moscow naturally are
Russian, so it’s no surprise that many Western men end up with Russian
women. That part of the stereotype, that expatriate women are being
pushed aside by empty-headed, long-legged Russian deviishki chasing a
ticket out, seems to offend Western women as much as anybody. ‘My
Russian female friends are far too funny and smart,’ said an
American in her early 20s. ‘And my Western friends who have Russian
wives have lovely, smart wives and beautiful children.’

For some expatriate women, Moscow has proven to be a good place to
meet a kindred soul from back home because the expatriate men they meet
here are more likely to share their interest in Russia and sense of

But what about the Russian men? In this informal, unscientific survey
of expatriate women in Moscow, this is a question that provoked a flood
– no, a torrent – of emotional responses. ‘Unambiguously male’, and
‘more primitively masculine’ were the way two women gushed in
defense of the much maligned Russian man.

‘I like men who drink hard liquor and have a very physical
presence,’ said a New Yorker in her mid-20s. ‘American men, at
best the college-educated East Coasters I know, are a bit soft for my
taste.’ Again, more stereotypes with holes big enough to drive a
truck through. But for whatever the reasons, and despite cultural
differences, more American women are dating and marrying Russian men, a
trend noted by Lynn Visson, who wrote the book ‘Wedded Strangers:
The Characteristics of Russian-American Marriages.’

Even so, to- many single expatriate women in Moscow, meeting a man
they would want to spend their life with seems as likely as the Russian
Government getting another big IMF loan.

‘ A lot of guys I’ve met are great people – I love to have them
as friends, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to date them’ said a
woman in her late 20’s. ‘This applies to expat and Russian men.
‘Moaning aside, it all comes down to this: I came to Russia for
adventure and for my career, not to hunt for a husband.’