Trendwatcher: Expat Women in Moscow: When Dating is No Disaster

© RIA NovostiNatalia Antonova
Natalia Antonova - Sputnik International
At The Moscow News, our theme of the week is single expat women in Moscow – and what is hampering them in their pursuit of relationships. While the story itself was certainly interesting to do, the initial responses to it online were no less fascinating.

At The Moscow News, our theme of the week is single expat women in Moscow – and what is hampering them in their pursuit of relationships. While the story itself was certainly interesting to do, the initial responses to it online were no less fascinating.

“Western women are total bitches!” One lovely chap from the Czech Republic wrote to me. “That’s why Russian men don’t go near them!”
When someone else pointed out that the woman he was tweeting at – i.e. me – is married to a Russian, he couldn’t believe it at first. Then he wrote that “clearly, [my] husband must have a problem of some sort.”

Another upstanding individual who follows Guardian (soon-to-be BuzzFeed) journalist Miriam Elder on Twitter decided to stand up for Russian men. “Russians aren’t the only ones [who reject American women]!” he tweeted. “American women are c***s!”
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.

© RIA NovostiNatalia Antonova
Natalia Antonova  - Sputnik International
Natalia Antonova

Every woman, be she Russian or American or whatever, goes through a phase of desperately not wanting to be That Girl. That Girl is the one who calls people out on sexist stereotypes. That Girl is the one who tells it like it is. She is mouthy. She is not particularly good at being manipulative. She is, quite often, a bitch – and people on Twitter will let her know about it.

But then, sometimes, life chooses for you. You become That Girl because you suddenly find yourself angry. Or tired of lying. Or in a bad relationship. Or worse.

Even though I married a Russian, I am That Girl. It’s why I’m interested in articles about thorny relationship issues. And from everything I’ve seen, Western women don’t need to pretend to be someone else to find love in Moscow – however impermanent or strange love may ultimately turn out to be.

In fact, the hate-filled responses to our article prove something I have long-suspected but never quite articulated: Western women getting together with Russian men is a scary concept for a lot of the sexist men who come to Russia to get laid.

Such relationships mess with their neat little worldview wherein all Russian men are boorish and uninteresting, and all Western women are evil hags.

In my experience, the Russian men who fall for Western women tend to be different. There is no specific “type” of Russian man who does it – though I suppose that anyone who dates a foreigner has to be somewhat open-minded in one way or another. Some are rich, and some are poor, some are in the arts, while others are hard-nosed businessmen, and so on.

The one interesting thing these men tend to have in common is their confidence.

You don’t need to be a pick-up artist to know that confidence is the only “trick” there is – and that it is the same for women. My anecdotal evidence suggests that expat women who date in Moscow don’t exactly lack it either.

When I told an American friend – let’s call her Jane – about our upcoming article, and the negative experiences of other Western women we describe, she was philosophical about it.

“Love is about luck – and there is no real formula for success,” Jane said. “But it’s also true that when I first came to Moscow, I was very intimidated by the whole dating scene. I kept thinking, ‘Well, I’m obviously not as feminine as the local women, so I’ll probably stay single.’ And for over a year, it was true.”

Then Jane made a new friend – an older Russian man who told her that she needs to stop worrying and start living. “He reminded me that I’m still young, that I need to get out more,” she said. “Expat social circles can be stifling, it’s true, and so I began to hang out with groups of new people. And suddenly, I was dating again.”

When I later messaged Jane, copying and pasting some of the more ridiculous responses to our article, she had a good laugh.

“Bitches and c***s, sure, whatever!” she said. “When people talk like that, they’re ultimately saying more about themselves than anyone else.”

Trendwatching in Russia is an extreme sport: if you’re not dodging champagne corks at weddings, you’re busy avoiding getting trampled by spike heels on public transportation. Thankfully, due to an amazing combination of masochism and bravado, I will do it for you while you read all about it from the safety of your living room.

Natalia Antonova is the acting editor-in-chief of The Moscow News. She also works as a playwright – her work has been featured at the Lyubimovka Festival in Moscow and Gogolfest in Kiev, Ukraine. She was born in Ukraine, but spent most of her life in the United States. She graduated from Duke University, where she majored in English and Slavic Literature. Before coming to Moscow, she worked in Dubai, UAE and Amman, Jordan. Her writing has been featured in The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Russia Profile, AlterNet, et al.

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