Ukrainian Women: What They're Like and How to Meet Them
Last update: April 2014 (massive update and expansion of article)
Ukrainian women have been sought for as wives and lovers for centuries, and today they continue to be prominent in the international marriage and dating industry. Many foreign men come to Ukraine in the hopes of finding the true love (or quick thrill) they couldn't find at home. At their service are scores of marriage agencies, travel agencies with dating tour packages, and a thriving sex industry.
How did Ukraine win its reputation as an international supplier of accessible and marriageable women? Are Ukrainian women all they're cracked up to be? This article takes an objective, cold-blooded look at Ukrainian women and tells you how to meet and date them.
A Sunday stroll down Khreschatyk Street in Kiev...
At some point many visitors to Ukraine will take a weekend stroll through the historic center of Kiev in warm weather and end up on Khreschatyk Street, which is closed off to automobile traffic on the weekends. If you're a man, you are likely to be blown away by the number of beautiful women nonchalantly displaying their scantily clad bodies. Drop into a nearby cafe, and you'll see many well-dressed Ukrainian women with a slim and honed appearance. Stop for a meal at TGI Friday's and you'll find yourself ogling and being ogled. Head to a nightclub and you'll be bedazzled by carefree, gyrating "devushki." Open your mouth and say something with a fine British, Scottish, or Australian accent (American might work, too) and you're an instant winner. "I must be in heaven," you wonder.
This is fact, not fiction. Ukrainian men and visitors from Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Central Asia, etc. also come away with the same impression. The women of Kiev, Odessa, Nikolaev, and countless other cities around Ukraine
What is different about Ukrainian women?
Compared to women from many western countries, Ukrainian women have a lot of things going for them that contribute to their appeal:
- The art of attracting a male is more developed in Ukrainian culture, and flirtatious behavior is generally viewed positively.
- In Ukrainian cities it is frowned upon for a woman (especially of childbearing age) to become obese, not take care of herself, or have a "mousy" appearance.
- Most Ukrainian women must walk a lot and are thus unable to develop a flabby and untoned appearance even if they do become overweight. Also, unhealthy fast foods and overly processed sweet and fattening foods, though more abundant, are less common than in the West (sadly, by 2014 this is no longer true; the modern food industry is making more and more Ukrainians fat).
- Spontaneity, emotionality, and a carefree and humorous attitude are valued in Ukrainian and Russian urban culture. Women are largely unhindered by prudishness, moral prohibitions, or an inability to take things lightly.
- Ukraine lacks most of the gender role confusion and paranoia about sexual harassment that has become characteristic of western society. Displaying sexuality and overtly masculinity or femininity is generaly viewed positively.
- Ukrainian women probably identify less with their careers and usually do not feel an imperative need to be independent from men. On average they are more comfortable with typically female roles and do not need to compete successfully with men or even outdo them to feel empowered.
For your average male these traits are all desirable. In Ukraine one can often hear foreign men gripe about the women in their countries: "unrealistic financial expectations...", "too success-oriented...", "don't take care of themselves...", "not nearly as feminine..." For such men, Ukrainian women can be irresistable. They seem to have lower expectations and to be more domestic, feminine, and attentive to their appearance.
Compared to women from many eastern countries, Ukrainian women also have certain advantages:
Feminine, long-legged blondes are the object of many eastern men's sexual fantasies. Women in their home countries are often dark-haired, swarthy, and short or short-legged. And of course, they usually dress more modestly...
Many or most Ukrainian women have somewhat traditional gender role expectations, which makes them compatible with men from the East and South. However, they have not been conditioned to be bashful about sexuality like women from those countries. Thus, Ukrainian women generally find it easier to give and receive pleasure and experience less shame around sex. The prospect of having a passionate romantic relationship that doesn't necessarily begin with a marriage commitment can be irresistable to sex-starved eastern men.
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Are Ukrainian women really the "most beautiful in the world?"
Other than Ukraine, the author has also visited a number of other countries (Slovakia, Poland, and Russia) where people also claim that their women are "the prettiest in the world." In these countries, foreigners are often asked with a wink what they think of the local women. Visitors to Ukraine often note what seems to be a larger numbers of stunningly attractive women than in their home countries. There are several factors that contribute to this impression other than the actual beauty of Ukrainian women themselves. Consider that some of the perceived beauty might actually turn out to be a kind of "optical illusion."
- Almost all foreigners in Ukraine spend their time in big cities where the women are more fashion conscious and enjoy a higher social status. At home, these foreigners spend their time in suburbs. In Ukraine, they stroll around central areas of town; at home, they spend their time at work and large stores. As tourists, they are exposed to a different category of women than they tend to see back home.
- Ukrainian cities have public areas where large numbers of people are "on display." To get the same effect in the U.S. you might have to go to the local indoor shopping mall.
- With higher population densities in Ukrainian cities, there are simply more eye-catching women per square kilometer than in your typical low-density American suburb.
- In the U.S. (much less so in Europe) post-college life can easily turn into a monotonous "work-home-work-home" routine where your only contact with freely roaming young women is limited to the supermarket or Walmart. In contrast, Ukrainian society and infrastructure provides constant close contact with strangers, including attractive women that you might not see at your job or drive-through restaurant.
- Ukrainian women tend to dress in flashy, tight clothing (even many heavier women) and high heels, while loose, androgynous clothing is more popular in the West. This makes Ukrainian women by comparison appear curvier and more feminine.
- Most men will be paying attention to the "under 45" category. Obesity over this age is just as prevalent as in the U.S. (and, sadly, growing steadily in all age groups thanks to the modern food industry).
- Few foreigners venture into the smaller towns and villages where things may be very different. Here, robust chunkiness and very little makeup (maybe just some dark red hair dye) are often the norm, even for young women. Women and their husbands and boyfriends may even be teased if they are too thin, and it is common to hear expressions like "(she's) chubby and pretty" or the derogatory word "emaciated" instead of a positive "thin."
- If women from other countries (the U.S. and others) dressed and made themselves up like Ukrainian city women, might they appear similarly attractive?
To get a more well-rounded picture of Ukrainian women after being dazzled by the beauty on display on Khreschatyk Street in summer, try spending some time on minibuses in outlying neighborhoods of the city in colder months of the year. You will find that obesity is rampant among women who have had children (and among men over 30) and that most women are in the "plain" category. In the past decade obesity has gone mainstream and is now a problem for children and even a large number of student-age women, who were almost all thin ten years ago. When they are unable to dress scantily due to colder temperatures, you might find Ukrainian women to be about as appealing as those back home.
There is also the issue of personal taste. Many men will be immediately taken with the prevailing "femme fatale" fashion, while others will find it over-the-top and trashy. You might find yourself put off by the fact that so many women seem to dress like prostitutes. I must confess that after many years in Ukraine I find much of the prevailing fashion gaudy and pretentious. The emphasis on appearances can be tiring. And so many of the women who make themselves up and use particular clothing styles to make themselves look better seem to be hiding deficiencies.
On the other hand, I note how so many women of plain appearance who seem frumpy and indifferent in the United States have Ukrainian counterparts who dress up and take care of themselves to accentuate their better parts and compensate for what is not-so-perfect. I do not believe that the Ukrainians have any inherent physical advantage. Not long ago I visited the university town of Ann Arbor, Michigan and was positively blown away by the number of good-looking girls -- no fewer than on Kiev's Khreschatyk Street.Click here to find Romance Tours to Ukraine.
Attitudes about sex
Prevailing attitudes about sex among Ukrainian women are very similar to those in other European countries. The only people who abstain from sex before marriage are either die-hard Orthodox churchgoers or adherents of austere Protestant churches from the West. This amounts to perhaps 5-10% of the population at most. Ukraine is not like much more traditional countries to the east or south where women are expected to be virgins at marriage and may even undergo special surgery to "restore" their virginity in order to not shame their husband and his family. It is also not a place where men are expected to be sexually experienced and promiscuous and women are expected to be virtuous, chaste, and generally bashful and passive about sexual matters. In Ukraine women can freely talk about sex with no more shame than men would experience. This is most true of urban Ukrainians. Traditional "double standards" of sexual behavior have been much weakened by modernity. Women are faithful or unfaithful in long-term relationships and marriage about as often as men.
Note that what is written in this section is more true of urban women than women from small towns and villages, where more traditional behavior is the norm. Also, western Ukrainians are more religious on average than predominantly Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east and south and will tend to be slightly more conservative.
Ukrainians have a large range of contraceptives available for use (pills, condoms, intrauterine devices or IUDs, morning-after pills, etc.), and condoms are readily available in kiosks, supermarkets, and pharmacies. Sex shops are now commonplace in larger cities. Abortions are legal and not difficult to get. As of 2010 women could buy contraceptive pills without a doctor's prescription.
STDs and testing
Awareness of STDs is fairly high in Ukraine, and access to testing is fairly good. There are centers offering free and confidential HIV/AIDS testing. Foreigners can use these services as well.
Expect attitudes towards different sexual acts and practices to be similar to elsewhere in Europe. Women know about, but may or may not practice: masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, sado-masochism, role playing, etc. etc. Pornography has been widespread for many years, and people are aware of and discuss these topics to some degree. Women generally do not feel too much shame about eroticism or enticing a man sexually.
Prostitution is officially illegal but widespread and rarely punished by law enforcement. Male hotel guests are frequently propositioned by in-house prostitutes over the phone — and not just in posh hotels in Kiev, but even in less expensive hotels all over the country. Many towns and cities have locations near busy roads where it is commonly known that you can pick up a streetwalker. Business cards for escort services are sometimes handed out near nightclubs or fancy hotels, and taxi drivers tend to be "in the know." Strip bars and gentlemen's clubs exist in large cities offering different kinds of sexy entertainment. Massage parlors are widespread, but discretely located, in large cities and offer various erotic massages and services. Some saunas offer sexual services as well. Every Ukrainian city has its behind-the-scenes sex life.
Different women will have different attitudes towards prostitution and other sex services. The prevailing attitude is negative, but not hysterically negative. Anyways, what can they do about it? Such services also exist for women, though they are less common.
Most women in Ukraine are looking for a traditional relationship pattern, where dating leads to an exclusive relationship and, eventually, to marriage with expectations of faithfulness. Most women also want to have children — generally one or two. A small subculture of "swingers" exists in larger cities. Occasional couples maintain "open relationships" of various kinds (i.e. how much mutual consent and information is required of partners regarding their other relationships). Polyamory probably exists, but not as a community. The author's impression is that there is less openness around alternative consentual relationship forms than in Western Europe.
Many Ukrainians pursue their untraditional relationships online. There are dating and advertisement sites where they can discretely advertise and search for like-minded partners or couples.
Lovers and mistresses
On the other hand, it is commonplace to hear about lovers and mistresses in Ukraine. This form of relationship configuration — where one or both partners/spouses has a relationship on the side but doesn't tell the other — is quite accepted and often talked about. Many successful businessmen, politicians, etc. have lovers that they support. Some women are interested in this kind of relationship to resolve financial or career issues.
Homosexuality is less openly tolerated than in most European countries, but a gay and lesbian culture exists if you look for it. Venues oriented towards LGBT people exist in the largest cities. Gay couples generally hide their affection in public. It may be a bit easier for lesbian women because it is perfectly normal for female friends to hold hands in Ukraine.
What chances do I have with Ukrainian women as a foreign man?
Let's be frank. If you're a western male of European descent, your chances are probably pretty good. Turks, Arabs, and men from the Caucasus region (Georgians, Armenians, Azeris, etc.) don't do poorly, either. Coming from a developed country immediately places you a rung or two higher in status compared to your average Ukrainian "competitors." If you go to an economically depressed small town or village, you may practically feel like a god. As an average bloke in your home country, you may find yourself flattered and spoiled by attention from women the likes of whom you rarely met back home. At the risk of seeming overly cynical, here are some tips to maximize this advantage...
But first, tip #1: dress presentably and observe good grooming!!
Being a unkempt tourist/backpacker might not get you far. A sloppy appearance — baggy shorts or pants, sandals, and a poorly fitting shirt — is almost standard in some western countries, but it is generally looked down upon in Ukraine. Look at how Ukrainian men dress who are accompanied by women. That's the degree of grooming and care for your appearance that you should aim for or exceed. This will convey that you are someone of value.
You should definitely:
wear clothes that fit you well (are not baggy, loose, or falling off your waist)
wear items whose colors, textures, and style go together well
wear quality fabrics
generally steer towards more formal clothing (slacks, nice shirt, jacket or sport coat) unless you have another kind of style that is well-developed and attracts positive attention from people
shine your shoes if wearing dress shoes
keep your clothes relatively wrinkle-free
shave regularly or groom your beard/moustache
get a haircut and do your hair as nicely as possible
So, back to some tips to maximize your foreign allure:
Stick to situations where you can preserve your foreign allure, which can be more fragile than you might think. Avoid situations where you might look like a bumbling fool alongside culturally skilled and experienced Ukrainian men, such as trying to solve uniquely Ukraine-related problems on the fly. Leading an English conversation club full of young women and confidently teaching them new phrases is good. Clumsily complaining to a restaurant administrator about poor service in front of her is not.
Present yourself as a foreigner (i.e. speaking English confidently is better than trying to speak Russian/Ukrainian without confidence), but appear knowledgeable about things that would be relevant to a typical Ukrainian. For instance, try to learn and use some basic Russian or Ukrainian (after you've caught her interest), learn about the local history, culture, geography, and politics. This will give you lots of fun small talk material and will make you appear less self-centered. It will also give her a convenient way to compliment you.
Don't dress like a slob (your local "competitors" certainly won't). Don't seem desperate or preoccupied with sex. Don't expect to circumvent basic courtship by flashing dollar bills and credit cards, giving a girl a cheap gift and suggesting you've done her a great service, or otherwise letting on that your "superior" citizenship allows you to "buy" her so easily. Preserve a sense of dignity even if the materialistic factor is obvious.
And finally, for the sake of other expats living in Ukraine, please don't assume that all foreign men in Ukraine must be "sexpats" — a condescending term among the expat community to refer to foreigners whose main purpose in Ukraine is to pick up girls.
Men from more "masculine" or male-dominated cultures of the East and South
Men from Mediterranean, Arab, and Caucasus countries have a slightly different situation. Their main advantage over Ukrainian men is generally not wealth and prestige, but rather "many behavior:" confidence, directness, skill in leading dominantly, and passionate romanticism. Given the demograph prevalence of women in Ukraine, Ukrainian men don't have to try so hard. In many countries there is a tangible "scarcity" of women (e.g. the Caucasus region, some Arab countries, and some parts of India and China). Men in such cultures may have to go to great lengths to win over a woman. Many women in Ukraine find this highly attractive.
While gender roles and expectations are more flexible in Ukraine than in many countries to the east and south, most Ukrainian women gravitate towards traditional gender roles that are more or less compatible with expectations common among, say, Turkish, Caucasian, or even Arab men. In these societies the sexes are socially segregated to some degree, meaning that people largely pursue friendship among their own sex and view the opposite sex primarily as romantic objects. With few exceptions, men from these countries will attract Ukrainian women with more traditional mindsets.
Where to meet women in Ukraine
For convenience we'll divide our audience into two groups: foreign visitors to Ukraine and expats (more or less permanent residents of Ukraine). These two groups have somewhat different opportunities for meeting women. We can differentiate further by dividing these groups into those who speak Russian/Ukrainian and those who don't. The basic idea is to put yourself in places where you have a good chance of meeting women who may be looking for someone like you. Hopefully the chart below will be helpful.
|WHERE TO MEET UKRAINIAN WOMEN IF YOU'RE A...||Russian or Ukrainian speaker||Non-Russian or Ukrainian speaker|
|expat / resident||
As you can see from the chart, foreign visitors may need to be more overtly active in approaching people, while long-term residents can use more typical methods of making acquaintances through various events and focused activities. We also see that Russian/Ukrainian speaking expats pretty much have to use the same strategies and venues as local men. However, they can also use the avenues more typical for non-Russian/Ukrainian speaking expats. However, in these locations the women they meet will generally not expect them to speak Russian or Ukrainian and may actually be more interested in meeting men that they can speak English with. It could be hard to get them to speak Russian/Ukrainian.
How to make women in Ukraine approach you
Luckily for men, Ukrainian women are usually not so shy that they expect men to make all the moves. Many foreigners have found that just by speaking English out loud (on the phone, to a friend, etc.) in a public place is enough for women to approach them. Yes, it does seem cheesy, but it apparently works — provided the man is decently groomed and appears self-confident and approachable.
In general, being sociable, confident, and approachable increases the likelihood that a Ukrainian woman will approach you in some way, no matter what the venue. There's serious competition in Ukraine for good men, so women have learned to be fairly active.
There's also no taboo about pursuing women one meets through one's business activities. This means that women in English classes you teach, etc. are basically fair game — as long as you are discrete about expressing your interest as to not make students or employers uncomfortable.
Romantic relationships between people of different cultures hold many surprises and much allure. Many people find the different perspectives highly rewarding as long as basic values and relationship expectations are on the same page. Both parties have a lot to learn from each other that people from the same culture might not, including: languages, history, traditions, songs, culture, etc. Furthermore, after marriage people can now choose from at least two countries where they can legally reside permanently.
I don't remember the exact statistics, but I've read that divorce rates between westerners and their Ukrainian spouses are quite a bit lower than average for their respective countries.
A downside of intercultural relationships and marriages is that one or both partners may never feel at home in the cultural setting of the other, with their family and friends, etc. They may become socially isolated and overly dependent upon their foreign partner/spouse for social support. The spouse who is the foreigner in the couple's country of residence may end up sacrificing professional and personal opportunities because of their imperfect command of the local language.
Now toss that passport out...
At some point into a serious relationship, if transporting your bride to your home country is not an imminent prospect, your citizenship will cease to be a major factor. It could even become an impediment if cultural conflicts arise and your girlfriend realizes that everything would be easier if you were Ukrainian. Your privileged passport will only get you so far. The "magic" in a long-term relationship comes from how each partner is able to maintain the interest of the other and meet his or her personal needs and expectations.
What if I speak the language well and know the culture?
If you are well assimilated and speak good Russian/Ukrainian, you have the advantage of a much larger pool of eligible women (including those who don't necessarily speak your native language and those who haven't thought about dating a foreigner). On the other hand, you will actually have the disadvantage of usually not being in the places where girls specifically come to pick up foreigners, and not being able to play the typical uninformed foreigner chit-chat game. It also means you'll have less contact with women who might want to use you and that you'll be on a more or less even playing field with local men. Rather than getting to know Ukrainian women who are specifically looking for a foreign boyfriend, you'll be mostly getting to know women who haven't thought about it much and may actually have serious reservations ("what if he leaves soon?" "can he make a living here?" "can he fit in?" "can he get along with my family?"). Some Ukrainian women entertain hopes of moving abroad and living happily ever after, but even more do not!
On the other hand, your cultural and language knowledge will make it easier for you to get to know Ukrainian women well and remove the psychological barriers between people of different cultures. Your background puts you in a slightly better position to have an authentic experience dating or marrying a Ukrainian women.
Learn Russian or Ukrainian as quick as possible
I've written a whole book about this.
Becoming fluent in a foreign language is not easy. There is no "secret" that will allow you to learn the requisite 3000-4000 words in an extremely short period of time. That's going to take hundreds of hours of hard work. You will have difficulty developing a relationship in Russian or Ukrainian with a vocabulary less than this. Chances are, your Ukrainian girlfriend knows close to this many words in English.
Still, there are better and worse ways to learn languages. You can start conversing remarkably quickly, or you can waste years and get almost nowhere. I've got 20 years of experience learning languages on my own — and 95% of that was without teachers and classes. I can hold a meaningful conversation in 9 languages and organized a popular language exchange club. I work as a simultaneous interpreter and write articles in English and Russian. If you've really got the motivation to learn Russian or Ukrainian well, then my Frictionless Mastery Method may be for you. It makes learning a language well as easy as it realistically can be.
Ukrainian matchmaking agencies
There are numerous matchmaking agencies promoting Ukrainian women for foreign men. Some have sophisticated websites with galleries of women and all sorts of useful functions, while others (at least as of 2003) have paper databases and target walk-in visitors.
Agencies' home pages often feature hot models with cleavage wearing swimsuits or lingerie. They are probably not typical of the entire data base and might not even be Ukrainian! Next, the databases may include women who are currently in a relationship. Even women who are interested in marrying a foreigner don't typically put all their eggs in one basket and wait passively for their prince to come. They are out meeting people and sometimes getting into relationships with local men as well as foreigners. Just because they're on the website doesn't necessarily mean they're 100% available, right now. Finally, girls' contact info can be obsolete or their profiles kept on site long after the girls are gone or married. One of the ways matchmaking websites generate business is by presenting enough attractive women to get people to sign up for the paid services. Therefore, it is good to take the pretty faces with a grain of salt and not become too attached to any particular one (easier said than done!).
Many matchmaking agencies provide genuinely good services and have scores of satisfied clients who are happily married. Just keep in mind that it is easy to end up throwing away thousands of dollars searching for a Ukrainian wife at a distance, after paying for sign-up fees, correspondence rights, letter translation, and costly dating tours.
In-person matchmaking events
One generally legitimate form of commercial matchmaking is to participate in large get-to-know-you events on location in Ukraine, where an agency invites a large number of women who are curious about meeting foreigners and you get the chance to chat with many different women over the course of the evening. Such events have been known to take place in the Kiev Rus Hotel and similar venues. Usually there are translaters there (interpreters, actually) to help you talk to women who don't speak English. Usually there are many more women present than men, so there is "enough for everybody." This format has many advantages:
you don't waste your time on preliminary correspondence with women who might not be real
you immediately get to see what people are really like; the environment is natural rather than virtual
you can immediately exchange contact information with women, avoiding any "middlemen"
you can pursue dating and relationships immediately
you can meet and make friends with other foreign guys who are in the same boat as you
POST-EUROMAIDAN UPDATE: APRIL 2014
It appears that more Ukrainian women are becoming interested in foreign men and emigration in the aftermath of recent events, since there is an increasing risk of economic recession, widescale impoverishment, default, and even war in the country. The author has read of a surge of women in Crimea who have registered on international matchmaking sites. This trend will probably spread to other regions affected by instability and the threat of military invasion.
Avoiding scammers who use you for money and gifts
The purpose of any scam is the same — to trick you into giving away your money. Intelligent people can be tricked into spending thousands of dollars for various matchmaking services, only to realize later that they were being tricked. Don't let your dream of finding a beautiful Ukrainian/Russian bride cloud your judgment.
So, never send money to a girl you have never met. If she asks for money, she is probably either insincere in her intentions or not the person on the photographs but instead a cold-hearted scammer who is simultaneously phishing multiple men for money. Even more than with normal online dating, obey this cardinal rule: don't allow yourself to get too attached to someone until you've confirmed their identity, preferably met in person. The infatuation mechanism is well understood and exploited by scammers. They know that an infatuated man will see and believe what he wishes to be true, and that he is likely to send money when given a sob story and asked repeatedly. If you are corresponding with someone, get their direct contact info as early on as possible so that you can communicate via videochat. It is far easier to scam someone if there is no such direct contact.
If you do choose to register with a matchmaking agency, definitely read up on other foreigners' experience before getting in too deep. Read the forum ruadventures.com. These people have a lot of valuable experience to share.
Even after you meet people in person you will have to be aware of manipulators. I have heard second-hand that there are women who work foreigners for money and gifts and disappear. Some are married or have boyfriends and don't tell their partners about their "side business." With the language barrier these women have an even easier time of it; if there is doubt or misunderstanding the man will tend to think it's a language or cultural issue. So many men men are not attuned to "odd signals" and will close a blind eye if the woman is cute.
Expect these women to be in places where they can most easily meet foreigners who are in the mood for romance. Don't be gullible and don't be eager to give gifts or to help pay for "my last semester of tuition," "my mother's urgent operation," a "bribe to get my innocent brother out of jail," etc. But obviously, don't be so blindly paranoid that you would fail to recognize genuine feelings and a potentially great relationship.
Despite these sobering dangers, many foreign men (and a few foreign women who marry Ukrainian men) successfully find Ukrainian spouses and are satisfied with their choice, contributing to the largely positive image that Ukrainian women enjoy worldwide.