I see them everywhere here in Lviv. Like hypnotized zombies they shamble around the city, half-drunk on $3 a litre vodka, head on a swivel, eyes darting from painted toenails to perfumed hair, mouth slightly ajar. They’re sex tourists. Here is a look into their world.
Thank you for the letter. I enjoyed the time we spent with you, it was nice and we had fun. I felt myself very cozy. I am flatted you think there is no need to continue your search. It really flatters me a lot.
I have thought a lot about future. I am a serious lady and my intentions are serious and I do not want to fool somebody and waste mine and other people’s time. I didn’t feel chemistry between us and lacking this I do not think something beautiful will grow between us. I am sorry to tell you this but I am sincere with you.
This is the email response from a young women to a man I met while staying in a youth hostel owned by my roommate. I occasionally stop in there to do my laundry, or chat with the friendly staff. As a result I meet my fair share of men passing through his doors on a quest to find the woman of their dreams. I know it’s a bit shameless to publish that email, but I thought it was the best way to illustrate what actually happens here with men looking for “slavic brides.”
The suitor referenced in this email was a 40-something guy from Chicago. He was decent looking I guess, but he had one glaring obstacle to finding a wife.
When I first met him he didn’t say much, he just hunched over his keyboard at the common room table reading The Onion, and answering emails. Every once in a while he would react to something he was reading – loudly — thus startling everyone in the room. At first nobody knew he was hearing impaired and they just thought he was nuts. A few people asked him about himself, but quickly stopped their line of questioning when he answered in a voice loud enough to hear himself. I wouldn’t say he was shouting, but it was surely loud enough to be jarring.
One day, without any prompting he just started shouting out his life story. Due to a work accident he was 80% hearing impaired. He’d taken all of the proceeds from a work injury settlement, sold his house, all of his possessions and was traveling through Ukraine and Russia looking for a wife.
“I TAUGHT ENGLISH IN KOREA. MY BOSS WAS A GODDAMNED FOX. I’M RETIRED NOW. I HAVE NO HOME. I TRAVEL INDEFINITELY. I MADE A LOT OF MONEY BUT I SPENT IT ON SHIT. LIKE FISH TANKS. I HAD A RARE FOSSIL COLLECTION. I JUST SAID FUCK IT. I GAVE IT ALL AWAY. I HAD TWO COBRAS IN A JAR. I’M HERE LOOKING FOR A WIFE. I HAVEN’T HAD ANY LUCK.”
That was pretty much all he said before burying his head back in his laptop. I know he didn’t mind that we were all laughing. I think he found it pretty funny too, he was reading the Onion after all.
I did feel kind of bad though. Can you just picture hims and his date? They’re sitting in a fancy restaurant, the caviar is out, the champagne is chilled and he’s shouting to the translator at the top of his lungs about owning two cobras in a jar. I just don’t think he’s going to have much luck.
I wish I could say I don’t understand why he was making such an effort to find a Ukrainian wife, but I do.
First off the women here are drop dead gorgeous. I fall in love once or twice every time I leave my house. The girls here are stylish, sophisticated, multilingual, funny, intelligent, charismatic and friendly. They take pride in how they look, and beyond everything they radiate a confidence that rarely borders on arrogance. It’s just really hard to believe. They’re like a force of nature you just can’t ignore. They are forces in politics, they call the shots in most houses, they are focused on their careers (generally) and when many of the men are out getting drunk, they are holding the family fort down.
Even gaff-prone , US Vice President Joe Biden couldn’t help but comment on the ladies here.
“I cannot believe that a Frenchman visiting Kiev went back home and told his colleagues he discovered something and didn’t say he discovered the most beautiful women in the world; that’s my observation…. It’s certain you have so many beautiful women.”
Joe said this to a group of Ukrainian politicos who included President Viktor Yushchenko (you probably best know Yushchenko as the candidate who, in 2004, fell victim to the curiously 12th century political tactic of poisoning). The Frenchman he was referring to was Three Musketeer author Alexander Dumas who was a big fan of Ukraine.
The media is labeling these latest comments as yet another gaff, but I really have to disagree. For one, I think someone has to be offended for a comment to be considered a gaff. Secondly, again, it’s absolutely true! If Joe had said this in, say, England, people would have labeled him sleazy and lecherous non? But saying this in Ukraine is like saying, you have lovely churches and you certainly breathe oxygen, nitrogen and assorted gasses. It’s a fact of life. In the few conversations I’ve had with elderly babushkas here, the beauty of the women here is one of the first things they mention.
Where I have a bit of a problem is when guys come here with either, bad intentions, or the belief that women here are subservient, desperate and only interested in money. Admittedly everyone has their own unique agenda, but in the roughest sense I’ve narrowed these sex tourists into three categories. I won’t pretend to understand the mindset of the the women involved because my life experience just can’t compare to theirs. Also, they are women, and no matter where they are from I have a hard time understanding them.
Read on for the three types of sex-tourists I’ve encountered.
1. The No Excuses guy. Of all three categories I probably have the most respect for these guys. They’re usually in their-mid forties, many have already exhausted one marriage and they freely admit they are in search of another bride. Often these guys have been very successful back in their home countries. They are the ones that coordinate meetings with women via agencies like Slavic Brides.
These meetings often involve a dinner, drinks, a translator, maybe a shopping trip and a whole lot of money.
For the most part they speak respectfully about the women, make efforts with the language, and take their frequent rejections in stride. They’ve met enough women, and been in the country enough times to understand that love, or at least a mutual agreement to take care of each other and have a little excitement while their at it, doesn’t come easy. They also understand there is more to the process than just tossing cash and vodka around. However I’ve heard of guys dropping as much as $30,000 a year on their quests. Trust me. It’s damned hard to spend $30,000 in Ukraine.
I probably have the least experience with these guys because they usually stay in hotels in Odessa, Kharkiv in the east and the capital Kyiv. I generally get the feeling they’re past the ‘just getting laid’ phase and genuinely seek companionship. That said, with so much money invested, and time spent, they tend to get the angriest when things don’t work out. Here is a message board full of testimonials from jilted dudes.
Of the Ukrainians I speak to, most just kind of shrug and roll their eyes at these men and the women who offer themselves up for dates. My journalist friend Ihor summed it up best, “he’s trying to fool her, she’s trying to fool him, so really they are all fools aren’t they?”
2. The second group, I’m less of a fan of. They are usually a bit younger than the first group and don’t freely talk about their goals, yet will drone on endlessly about the women here. They usually come from more modest backgrounds back in their home country, and can’t really toss around the cash like the first group. Here in Lviv they are the most visible and are often ex-military. They are on a tight budget and therefore stay at youth hostels in order to extend their stays and improve their odds. They travel with laptops, eat at McDonalds everyday and are young enough to know how to use various social networking sites to their advantage. Facebook, VKontakte, Couch Surfing, Hospitality Club all provide free ways to contact local girls.
Generally, their tactics include approaching every woman they meet, packing their cell phones with as many phone numbers as they can, or passing out their own phone numbers like coupons to the discount clothes warehouse. Most of their day is spent wandering around town with whichever curious gal answered his phone call that hour. These guys usually have ‘ladies’ in many different cities and they hop from town to town trying to seal the deal. They want sex with a beautiful women, and marriage probably isn’t their main goal, but they would be open to it. They are relentless.
Okay, I’ve written a lot. I’ll elaborate on the last group, the guys I despise the most, in my next post.