Men from US are heading towards Ukraine to look for a European bride. This seems like a scene out of some out-of-date world, but Mail Order Brides are gaining in popularity once again.
Every year, thousands of men consult a Marriage Broker to help them land a bride from Ukraine. These men are taken to meet a bunch of eligible single beautiful foreign bride wannabes where these young ladies vie for their attention. For most young 26 yr olds this is a dream come true. A 61 yr old man told me that it feels like being a kid in the candy store.
I am going to recount some bits of my experience as well as few observations I made. While on a flight I met quite a few people who had done this earlier, which is flown to an exotic destination in search for something more exciting than homegrown fun! One of my friends who has this unique way of evaluating women, and it is a very lecherous way, says that it felt just awesome to do something like going out all the way to Ukraine to be at the centre of attention of few of the world’s most beautiful ladies.Now one of these ladies will tell you upfront, in their very attractive accents, that the jeans and the t-shirts were “no good” and you will learn the potential of a suit. Trust me, when there is a room full of women, all looking for a bit of your attention, you tend to be put on the spot a bit.
The thought foremost on my mind would be “it’s a scam. I’m being conned.” However, it is not a scam. It is simply a very profitable business. These women are indeed real. Most of these young ladies can’t even speak in English but that doesn’t deter the rising demand for them. In fact, in the recent years there has been a spurt in the Mail Order Bride business in Ukraine. This industry is either getting more public acceptance, or a better PR. I am a bit skeptical about this whole thing (understandably so).
“Businessweek” claimed in one of its issues that this particular business was doing really well and placed a little bit of the onus on the shoulders of ‘crap economy’ but this is highly debatable. It is not an aftereffect of people’s disillusionment with economy; rather it is the result of globalization and people coming more in contact with international cultural diversities. Of course there aren’t any statistics available but rationality begs that no sane man goes all the way to Ukraine to ‘mail order’ a bride just to get away from some economic crisis.
The fact that internet, being more interactive, gives the ladies a personality and not just a two dimensional face on some paper, might have a lot to with turning the online dating industry into a two billion dollar industry; mail order bride business is just one of its parts. At heart, the Mail Order Bride Business is all about exercising the freedom of choice and free decision making, although it does pack in a bit of racial stereotyping and gender discriminations. This modern cocktail of bride finding business is a heady mix of shopping and banking and even porn.
A research from OkCupid claimed that people who tweeted regularly masturbated more than people who didn’t. Today internet is all about saving us from being lonely, our sole ‘connect’ whereas in reality it is just one of those things that has ended up isolating us even more.
This is not only a road less taken, but it is also a road littered with divorces and financial troubles. Most men who opt for a mail order bride are already jaded by the conventional lives or methods of finding a bride. It makes me recall an acquaintance Mickey, who was eager to find a bride in Ukraine. Even though all his friends warned him that he might cheated and that perhaps it was all a scam he still persisted in doing this because to paraphrase Mickey, his American bride did that and a little more, so there was nothing for him to lose here.
A lawyer I met on the flight told me that he took such trips countless number to times. Only he went to Rio where he met with many sex workers. He even made special time out for them in his daily schedule. A sixty year old man, Andy Adventure who I met on the flight to Ukraine was also here for the same reasons. He believed that his would be Ukrainian bride would be simple, unspoiled by feminism, smart, beautiful, sophisticated and wouldn’t care how old a man she married! Of course, this particular man had suffered some brain damages when trapped in a burning building, but you get the general drift of perception on Ukrainian women.
Of course, this is one of those subjects in which everyone is a little bit judgmental. Let’s call it conditioning reflex. When I learned that I would be part of the romantic dating tour with Anastasia’s Date (AD) an online mail order bride business in Ukraine, I thought that I would be a witness to human trafficking and what not. Although not quite so bleak, yet the picture formed isn’t all that different either; the girls will probably be transferred to someone from a strange country and might end up spending their lives in something akin to slavery. Hundreds of brokers who help arrange a mail order Ukrainian bride are active in the US; as sponsoring a fiancée visa takes around 7months, trafficking women through these agencies isn’t really feasible.
The agencies take stringent measures to ensure that the women don’t land up in the hands of a wrong person. A client is required to divulge all the correct information about how many states he has lived in, all of his past marriages and cases of criminal law charged upon him. In the wake of some very high-profile murders of some of the fiancées ‘imported’ to US on a K-7 visa, the government decided to take stringent measures to ensure the safety of these ladies.
According to the guidelines in IMBRA (International Marriage Broker Regulation Act) for better safety to women and as a measure to protect women from entering into any kind of a ‘slavery’ or potentially abusive marriage, the couple must stay together for at least two years or the marriage will be not considered legal. The irony is all the laws on women safety and to repress the action of brokers actually works in the favor the brokers. The law requires that all the personal information be exchanged through a broker (and not openly shared over the website). All this sets the broker up to make some serious money through the clients. The law can’t do a thing about it because it is in a bind; government wants to tell its people to be cautious at the same time but the safety measures undertaken only codify the alleged romance scam.
However, online dating websites aren’t the only place where a US can connect with a girl from Ukraine, or somewhere else. The communication can happen through the net, the email, chat, facebook, twitter and so many other sites available. Whenever you log in and start a conversation, the ladies give this ‘come hither’ signal that is hard to miss and these activities are hard to track. The Mail Order Bride Business means some serious money. Anastasia Dating is a total play for money business with credits costing from somewhere in the vicinity of $0.40 to $0.80. Sending one email will set a person back by a minimum of $8! Now Anastasia’s Dating claims that it gets over 500,000 to 1.7 million emails every day. The numbers are mindboggling but it does list over 25000 ladies.
These ladies, one the other hand, don’t need to pay for anything at all. They get to use the service for absolutely free; in fact their photographs are also taken for free. There is huge network of women around and whenever you establish a connection, the general drift of the conversation would be something like, “hi I am so-and-so. Would you like to know my story?” and so the conversation carries on… getting more progressive.
Now it is dubious. Who knows how many of these ladies that a bloke spent some time talking to will be the one he gets to meet when he reaches Ukraine. The ladies get their photographs taken for free, and they make use of the translator and computer, but as the emails and chats are the strongest USP, so most of the women adept at chatting keep chatting for the dating services, while you might have to meet someone else and establish a connect all over again. I speak from a very personal experience. I spent around 500 credits to meet the girl, to go meet this gorgeous woman in Kiev. I thought of foregoing the planning stage, but that is a rookie mistake. SO, then I met the ladies, in three separate occasions, one was bent on kissing me as much as she could in about a minute. The second was a beauty pageant organized for my benefit (complete with bikini shows) involving some hundred girls.
“Romance Tours” are a PR proposition and of course, a way to break even. They are undertaken so the clients will know for sure that the girls are for real. They are a good way to help find the girls a suitable match and make some money along with. The Romantic Tours people focus on keeping the girls happy. In a nation where per capita GDP is less than $7000, a Romantic Tours costs around $4000 (including stay, travel and air fare) still it is an activity that brings in money for the country. Almost 500 men visit Ukraine each year, thanks to Anastasia Date. These men end up spending thousands, for meals, transportation, gifts and what not! This contribution to the total GDP is laudable. Of course we can look at this elaborate distraction in another perspective as well. The whole process short-circuits your brain, giving you so many options (without any by lines) that you just don’t know which one to choose. I know some guys that went to look for their very own mail order Ukrainian bride at Odessa in February and then returned in April because they were not confident enough: in other words all that gold kind of turned their head!
Ron Redburn the owner of an AFA (A Foreign Affair) says that it could all be part of an industry approach. There are plenty of agencies out there who might do something like this. However, he reiterated that he didn’t practice any shady methods. But for many other similar businesses, this could be part of the standard approach. As the saying goes, the perfect bride is the one who never marries. He recounted many incidences where guys blew up around $5000-$10000 with other agencies, didn’t get what they were looking for, and then ended up with AFA which is more proactive than Anastasia Date. AFA also offer weekly conference call service with a day with someone well known in the industry. Monday the call involves a session with Bud Patterson, while Thursday is the day for Philippines. They also offer an “executive plan” that helps increase your chances of finding the right wife. A person is given the responsibility of studying your personality type and finding you the perfect match. They also conduct a full search on your behalf. Discrete personal ads are placed at the strategically right places that can also be handed out at socials.
All this for a cost of $15,000, excluding the cost of travel. AFA website is also an encyclopedia of bizarre information. If you have the patience to go through all that is there, you will come up with something interesting on how to woo a woman through email correspondence. Send a picture of yourself as a Toddler. That is one of the nuggets of wisdom the AFA site offers.
Well, there isn’t any one website or connection of finding the right mail order wife. Redburn who is from Kansas and was married to a girl from Russia (now divorce, as per LoveMe.com) said that all he wanted to do was to help guys find a wife so they could move on with their lives. This service must continue or it will sink before anyone can press enter. The matchmaking industry is not a very highly looked upon industry and if it is to gain in prestige, then it will have to be quick about helping people find the right match.
The agencies don’t screen women based on what is their “ulterior motive” (like looking for a good time etc). Anastasia Date picks women from their recruiting agencies; in US alone it has around 90 subsidiaries. Similarly Match.com doesn’t care if all a lady wants is a free lunch! Anastasia Date has just two offices in the world, one in Kiev and another in Maine, however it operates in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and wherever else there is a possibility for it to be. It even launched AfricaBeauties.com for ladies in Africa but no romance tour has been planned yet. And well, the numbers say that it helps in having women who don’t really know what they want.
Meet Elena. Elena had been interpreting for Anastasia Date since the time she was 16 or 17 and she realized that the best ladies a dating agency could have were the undecided ones. She had followed along on numerous trips and realized that although the Online Agencies tried their very best to keep out the scammers, yet it was impossible to fully keep them at bay. Also, there is a small catch 22 situation, because the business would not exist if there were no scamming ladies with some ulterior motive. Few of them are truly serious about finding a soul mate but for many this could mean something as much (or as little as) as a ticket to US. Some of these women would like to meet someone younger. For some, it could all about the free meal, the gifts and maybe a trip abroad.
The one point of concern is that there isn’t any proof of a lasting marriage. No matter where you get your wife from, keeping her is always up to the two of you. So, besides being an elaborate play acting, and a beautiful exercise in PR or with a nobler mission of ‘bringing the world together’ online dating is actually more about control than many things else. In an unpredictable world, to have the luxury of sitting at a computer and getting an ideal soul mate is truly something, right!