Russian women are probably the most popular topic in Russia, and it would be strange not to talk about it. People end up in Russia for a variety of reasons. One of the most talked-about phenomena of Russia is certainly the women, especially among male expats. There are jokes in every Western country about mail order brides, overly materialistic women, and high divorce rates in Russia. Where is the truth in all of these stereotypes? Are these stereotypes or simply cultural differences?
If you have been to Russia, there definitely is some truth to some of the stereotypes about Russian women. Stereotypes are based on reality, but generally, the stereotypes are drastically exaggerated to the point that they aren’t even accurate. That being said, we at Expatriant believe that the problems encountered with Russian women and the negative stereotypes are actually based on cultural differences.
Anyone who has been to Russia will have noticed that the country has many cultural differences from the West. Russian women are no exception. The less you view Russia and Russian women through a Western lens, the better chance you will have to see reality and the fewer struggles you will experience.
With that, let’s take a look at 7 cultural differences that you will notice in Russian women.
Russian Gender Imbalance
According to Rosstat, the Russian government-sponsored statistical agency, the population of Russia is made up of 54% women and 46% men. This is a significant difference from Western countries where the gender balance is more equal. Or even in some cases, there are more men than women. This has severe implications on many aspects of life in Russia and most significantly the dating culture. Here is a great article from Russia Beyond the Headlines on why there are so many more women in Russia than men.
The reality in Russia is that many women will never find a partner and this only contributes to Russia’s demographic crisis. Currently, the population of Russia is shrinking at an alarming rate and the government is doing many things in an attempt to make things better.
One thing that many men who visit Russia notice is how warm and inviting Russian women are towards men. When one looks into the numbers, it is immediately evident why. Even women who are very beautiful will never find a husband. Many women are forced to look abroad for love. There is no other option.
There are many stereotypes about Russian women looking for husbands abroad to escape Russia, but the economic situations in Moscow or St. Petersburg are significantly better than most Western people expect. Most Russian women in large Russian cities have no desire to marry simply to gain a green card or residence permit abroad. Their desire to date foreign men simply stems from the fact that otherwise, they will not find a partner. If you talk to Russian women you will also find that most would actually prefer to live in Russia with a foreign husband if possible.
That being said, you might be thinking, wow, it must be easy to find a great woman in Russia. And you are right. There is an abundance of Russian women who are of high quality and simply looking to start a family. You will also see many foreign men with Russian women who are “out of their league.” This is a dangerous game anywhere. Biological dating rules still exist in Russia. Just because you are an expat in Russia, does not make you immune to materialistic women. In fact, the opposite is true. You will be inundated with attention from attractive Russian women.
This makes it incredibly hard to find a real connection and partner in Russia. Russian women are incredibly pragmatic and they are always searching for the best deal they can get. All women are hard-wired to do this. In addition, the unwritten laws of dating are still true, you will not be able to get and keep a Russian woman who is significantly more attractive than you. It is easy to be lured into the Russian mail order bride scams, but the reality in Russia is not nearly as desperate as these sites claim. In fact, the best way to meet Russian women is to simply move to Russia. Check out our guides to legal residency in Russia and finding a job in Russia as an expat.
Therefore, if you are looking for a high-quality Russian woman for a long-term relationship or marriage, you would be much better off to be more realistic and target women who are still attractive but overlooked by most men. These women tend to be much more cultured in general than other Russian women and are usually looking for a man to start a family with.
Nelson Mandela once said something along the lines of “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
This is a powerful quote about language learning and understanding. Unfortunately, only those people who speak two or more languages will really understand what this means. It does articulate the fact that understanding and speaking a language don’t necessarily equate to cultural understanding.
Despite the fact that many Russian women speak English very well, it is important to understand that they still grew up in a culture, which is vastly different from Western Europe or the United States. It is very common for expats in Russia to speak English with Russian women and this inherently results in cultural misunderstandings.
It seems quite simple, but even the way Russians and Western people understand the words yes and no can be vastly different. Of course, it is an oversimplification, but most Western countries understand the word “no” to mean simply that, no. Russian women (and men) tend to understand the word “no” as simply an invitation to negotiate. The opposite can be said about the word “yes.” Russians typically only use the word yes, when they mean to agree to something. In Western cultures, especially American, yes simply means maybe.
If you truly want to learn to understand Russian women and Russian culture, you MUST speak Russian at least at a conversational level. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Learning Russian in Moscow for resources to learn.
At Expatriant, we firmly believe that knowledge of the local language is extremely important to success as an expat generally, and Russia is no exception. Read about the importance of learning the local language.
Russian Women Value Family
The family unit is much more important to people in Russia and Russian women are no exception. You will quickly find that Russian women value what their parents think, and are usually eager to introduce their partner to their parents. This can be overwhelming to many expats living in Russia. In American culture, for example, meeting the family of your partner usually is one of the last steps of a relationship before marriage. This is definitely not the case in Russia.
Not only do Russian women typically seek approval from their parents regarding their choice of partner, but they also will want you to spend time with their parents. This is important to understand because while you might sleep with the woman, you marry her family. Russian women value their family, so it is incredibly important that you understand that her family will now be yours.
The best way to learn about Russian culture is simply to spend time with her family. Most Russian families have a dacha or country house where they love to spend time in the summer months. Almost every expat or foreigner falls in love with Russian family culture, but it can take some adjustment.
In addition to Russian women caring for their own family, they have even more excitement for creating their own. Russian women are known for being great mothers and homemakers. What is more impressive is that almost all women in Russia work. It is an extreme luxury to be able to be a stay at home mother in Russia. Russian men, on the other hand, are known for helping very little with chores and tasks around the home.
Western men are generally much more helpful at home and with children, making relationships with Russian women more equal. Russian women typically expect less from men and Western men typically expect less from women. There are definitely advantages when expectations are lower for both parties to a relationship.
Russian Women Get Married Early
Probably the most troublesome cultural difference for foreign men in Russia is that Russian culture puts incredible pressure on women to get married and have children by 25 years old. This is certainly changing, but the older generation in Russia still sees family as the most important part of life. Therefore, it is important to understand that while your girlfriend might be happy to date for a prolonged period of time, her parents and grandparents will be asking her about marriage and children constantly.
It doesn’t help that many doctors in Russia also push women to have children as early as possible. To a point, this is understandable, older marriages and fewer children will severely impact the existing demographic crisis in Russia.
There really isn’t a way around this cultural difference. You will struggle with most Russian women to maintain a serious longterm relationship without getting married and discussing children. Unfortunately, this is changing and Russian women are getting married later every year. The number of marriages is also quickly declining.
Gender Roles are Much Stricter
In Russia, many people will be surprised that gender roles are much more strict within society than in Western Europe or the United States. In Russia, it is very rare that men are involved with housework or raising children. This may come as a surprise, but Russian women are incredibly grateful for help in this regard. Imagine someone being thankful for the help you expected to give.
Gender is a very sensitive topic in Russia, and you will find that most people are happy with the “outdated” standards of gender roles. This isn’t to say that there are not problems, but for the most part, society accepts and encourages strict gender roles. For many Western women, coming to Russia can be eye-opening in terms of expectations of women. There are a number of professions that Russian women cannot hold. It is important though to note that all of the jobs are quite dangerous. Think mining and manufacturing of dangerous chemical substances.
Despite the stricter gender roles in Russian society, women do actually yield many powerful positions in society, government, and business. According to a report from Grant Thornton, an international consulting firm, Russia is the top country in the world for the percentage of senior female leadership at 45%.
The top expat news source in Russia, the Moscow Times, wrote a great article on who is to blame for gender stereotypes in Russia.
The Man will Always Pay
One thing that usually surprises expats and foreign men in Russia is that men literally always pay on dates. At first, this may aggravate many men from Western countries who are used to splitting bills on dates or alternating. You need to simply forget your notions of dating customs and embrace the fact that you are in a different culture.
Notice that we didn’t say that you should simply pay for everything. You need to use common sense. Of course, there are Russian women who will try to take advantage of the fact that you are a foreigner in Russia. Always use good judgment, but be prepared for things to be different than in your home culture with regard to dating.
This goes back to gender roles in Russia and how they differ from the West. If you look back at Western dating culture 50 or 60 years ago, you will likely see the same types of behavior. It is much more conservative in Russia and you just have to be ready for cultural differences.
Russian Women Dress to Impress
Without a doubt, the thing that stands out the most to foreign men in Russia is the way Russian women dress. Even a short trip to the grocery store requires makeup and high heels. While Russian women are generally very attractive, they almost always take the time to make sure they look their best. This probably is a result of at least two of the cultural differences mentioned here, stricter gender roles and fewer men.
Russian women are at such a statistical disadvantage that it forces them to put significantly more effort into their appearance. You need to understand that no matter what you say, she will likely continue to do this even when she is in a relationship. She isn’t looking to leave you, it is just a culturally engrained behavior.
In addition to makeup, most Russian women pay special attention to their clothing and overall appearance. They typically appear much more feminine than in Western countries. Showing that they are feminine and good quality mates is of utmost importance for most Russian women.
These are just a few of the many cultural differences you will experience and observe with Russian women. They are all generalizations and stereotypes to some degree, but there is still much truth behind most of them. Russian society is rapidly changing, especially in most large cities that some of these won’t be nearly as obvious in 10 years.
None of this is to say that Russian women aren’t worth dating though. Quite the opposite actually. Most foreign men have incredibly positive experiences with Russian women. Just remember that significant cultural differences do exist in Russia. While Russian culture is still largely European, it’s as far away from western culture as it can be without being Asian or Arab. Cultural differences can be exacerbated by the language barrier as well.
The most important part of dating people from other cultures is to learn more about them and their culture. An international relationship takes work and understanding, but there is so much benefit to learning about another culture and language. Russian women are no different than all women for the most part, just enjoy the ride! For more information on living in Russia as an expat, check out our guide to moving to Russia as an expat, our guide to legal residence in Russia, and our guide to finding an expat job in Russia.
If you are interested in learning about other Russian cultural differences, check out Weird Things about Russia that Aren’t Actually Weird.