What (Russian) Women Want

I had a girls’ night in a few days ago. There were seven of us. We all have Russian passports that we use extensively to travel and sometimes to study abroad. Three of us currently attend colleges abroad, the other four are at school in Russia. Together, we have two foreign and three Russian boyfriends; two of us just got out of relationships.  Between us, we speak eleven languages and one dialect. All in all, we were just your average group friends catching up with it each other.

And, as always happens, we talked about what we want in life. One of us wanted more Versace in her closet; another just got addicted to thrift stores. One felt like she needed a more caring boyfriend, while another wanted a more romantic one; a third had just decided to be single for a while.  One was excited about starting her Master’s, the other one was tired of doing her bachelor’s, another one just discovered she wanted to be in the academia.  One wanted to travel more, and two of us wanted to stop traveling obsessively and to spend more time at home instead.

Out of seven friends, all of us aimed for different things. Sometimes our targets overlapped, but most of the time they contradicted each other.  So what is it that women really want?

I asked myself that question because someone recently found my blog by searching for “what Russian women want.” To investigate, I typed in that same exact phrase on an internet search engine. And something curious came up.

According to Google, all Russian women strive for one thing: a marriage with a foreigner. The first link that came up stated “All Russian Women Want to Escape from Russia” —  with an only intention of finding a foreign partner, of course. All other top nine search results are clearly about what men want: most are dating agencies, including the one that promises to regale foreign men with “Russian Girls of Model Quality.” Once a man finds that model-quality Russian Woman, getting her full attention is easy. Two guides aid one in doing that: a “Russian Brides Cyber Guide” and “Russian Brides or How To Marry a Russian Woman” (correct punctuation is clearly not a way to go).  If your Russian woman is stubborn and is not willing to give in to your cyber charming skills, there is an ultimate weapon — Russian cuisine  recipes. Because we all know a way to a Russian woman’s heart is through her stomach.

The ‘Russian woman’ as been turned into a brand by the internet.  I am surprised no one has registered the Russian Woman trademark yet. (Or has someone?)

Clearly, we have no other desires but to popularize ourselves with handsome foreign strangers who will whip out their cyber guides, make us borsch, and will then whisk us away from our homeland. Do women in other cultures have a better digital reputation?

I googled my other ethnicity — Ukrainians. A quick Google search — and the terrible truth is revealed. Ukrainian women have the same interests as the Russian ones. They are clearly desperate to leave Ukraine by means of being with a foreign man. The second top search result proclaimed “A Million Young Ukrainian Women Want to Leave Their Country.”  All the other ones in top ten had to do with dating. But sadly, instead of advertising hot foreigners to the Ukrainian users, they promote hot nubile Eastern Europeans.

The unexpected outcome of my experiment can be to some extent explained by the Beautiful Docile Eastern European Woman Stereotype. But what about other nationalities? I explored two other ethnic backgrounds of mine: the Finnish and the (Outer) Mongolians.

Mongolian women seem to be less obsessed with finding a foreign husband than the Russians and the Ukrainians. Despite three in four top results advertising photos that show off the looks and the beauty of “Mongolian Women, Mongolian Girls, Mongolian Singles,” women in Mongolia clearly have other interests. Apart from dancing, (as YouTube video illustrates) they unfortunately have a variety of issues, including cross-border sex work in China. Fortunately, some ngo’s like the Mongolian Women Fund help those who need help.

It turns out Finnish women have needs and interests drastically different from their ex-Communist counterparts.  Top two results claim Finnish women “want from a relationship same things other women want: loyalty, company, love.” At the same time, they also “appreciate sexual affairs which are safe and yet exciting.” The other interests were spread from from women in parliament to home visits of public health nurses to hysterectomy to infertility treatment and to the original Mel Gibson movie with Finnish subtitles.

I subjected American women to the same search that the other aforementioned nationalities underwent. (I assumed Google would treat “American” as a synonym to “US-American.”) The US is supposedly a melting pot of all cultures, so the women there should have have interests representative of all the women worldwide. My logic was rather faulty.

American women appear to be more health- and politics-conscious than anyone else. Four out of ten top links deal with health and wellness. Four links discuss what American women want in politics and society. One link is about women traveling. The top search result comes as a bit of a shock.

“The fact is that control-top granny pants are simply not a substitute for regular exercise, thoughtful grooming and a healthy diet. Certainly not if you’re single and interested in men.” Here is what single American women want — to look good.

Surprisingly for such a politically correct and litigious country, the article, originally published in The Times, compares nothing else but how well-groomed American and  British girls are. Those American women who naively believe that men should like women for their personality, not their looks, will have to find consolation in the fact that American girls are said to be better groomed overall.

It’s highly debatable if a google search in English is an accurate reflection of needs and values of societal group, whether in an English-speaking country or worldwide. It is remarkable that men, not women, wrote and designed most of the search results that came up. I am not writing this post under the aegis of feminism. But I would like to know if all those men actually bothered to ask women what they want. I bet if they did, the search results would look drastically different.

23 Responses to “What (Russian) Women Want”

  1. Gravatar Icon 1 Michelle Aug 21st, 2008 at 4:14 am


  2. Gravatar Icon 2 San Sep 3rd, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Take a look at this crazy site about russian woman.


  3. Gravatar Icon 3 Ida Sep 12th, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Well, this Finnish woman wants a better sports bra for exercising.

    Amusingly enough, I found your blog by googling “what do Finnish women want”.

  4. Gravatar Icon 4 Bonya Sep 16th, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Wow! This is a fascinating way to analyze the stereotypical/mass cultural views of women in different places. I wonder what the men of these nationalities want, according to the internet?

  5. Gravatar Icon 5 Victoria in HK Sep 24th, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Hi Anna,

    Just found your blog. Quite interesting and humorous. re: the websites for marriage, Nicole Constable (who also did an interesting book on domestic helpers in Hong Kong) published a book on “mail order marriage” in 2003, Romance on a global stage : pen pals, virtual ethnography, and “mail-order” marriages. You can get it st Sterling (Call no. HQ1032 .C65X 2003) or view it online through Orbis.

    She also edited a book, Cross-border marriages : gender and mobility in transnational Asia that’s at the Bass Library (new name of CCL?) – call no.HQ1032 .C67X 2005.

    The whole question of “what women want” (I don’t know the German of how Freud so famously put the question) can be seen as sexist in its very nature, since it pre-supposes a universal essential “woman”. Is it asked so often “what do men want?” or “What do [you supply nationality] men want?”.

    Of course, some have asked “What do humans want?” and there is the famous Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

    Fun point for discussion.

    Anyway, good to visit your blog. I found it after I googled you when I saw that you were quoted in this Sept./Oct. Yale Alumni magazine about DHS (or whatever they call the clinic now). re: “First they test for pregnancy, then mono” http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/2008_09/lv_uhs.html – likely because early pregnancy symptoms are sometimes hard to distinguish from ‘flu; second, because various medicines can damage a fetus if a woman is pregnant and then wants to carry to term.

    Gosh, I hope the html coding works.


  6. Gravatar Icon 6 J Nov 13th, 2008 at 3:56 am

    Interesting Blog!

    The Google Link about women wanting to ‘look good’ might be what they ‘Say’ they want, but as an American Male living in America, I can tell you that a lot of American Women just want a career and a man to Marry them “So they can finally get fat.”

    When Women speak I try to listen to learn as much as possible, so much so that apparently sometimes they forget I am there. I have had MULTIPLE American Women say that to their friends in front of me, and each time they *WHIPPED* around to look at me with guilt in their eyes like they forgot I was there and they had admitted something secret. (Secretly disgusting)

    A buddy of mine is a body-builder and his wife is a COW. He tells me he doesn’t know what to do, because he’s at the gym 2 hours a day and she sits in front of the TV as soon as she gets home. He’s brought her to the gym with him and tried to encourage her, but she would have none of it.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re divorced within a year…

    Do you know who ‘Ricki Lake’ is? If not, she was a Talk-Show host who for some reason went from a Size 1 to a Size 15 (maybe bigger?) in a year. No one could figure out her deal, but she got married, had a successful career and just ‘let herself go’.

    How to lose a guy in 10 days? More like “How to Destroy a Marriage in 2 year.”

  7. Gravatar Icon 7 Ethan Feb 4th, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Sorry I’m a bit late, I found your post on the new Patriarch and clicked on the link…anyway, I enjoyed your article. I think what you are forgetting is that you’re admittedly unscientific research was not performed in the native language, thus showing you only what English marketers have written on the subject. After all, why would a Mongolian woman search in English for questions about Mongolia? I’ve lived in Russia and only visit Russian sites when a) searching for Russian things/products, and b) want to see the anti-American view of US public affairs/current events/politics/foreign policy. Searching in Russian for an honest appraisal of US politics isn’t worth the time. It takes time to sift through the garbage before anything of value is found, time which is much better served searching in English-and vice-versa regarding Russia. Just a thought.

  8. Gravatar Icon 8 Anna Ershova Feb 7th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Ethan, thanks for the comment — it’s quite spot-on. Of course, it was not a scientific research, but rather an amusing exercise. Unfortunately, I do not speak Finnish or Mongolian, so I couldn’t google anything in those languages. If you know anyone who could do it for me, let me know 🙂

  9. Gravatar Icon 9 Anna Ershova Feb 7th, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Ida, I apologize for never replying to comments on time. I can assure you that not only the Finnish women want a better sports one, it is a universal problem. (Although I don’t know if Finland has any particular issues with that 🙂 )

  10. Gravatar Icon 10 JP Jul 7th, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Well can i rather ask what do ukrainian women want? cause i find them rather stubborn even when they are wrong and proved wrong they still stubborn? did god create these beautifull eastern european women like that or is it just normal with forreign men?

  11. Gravatar Icon 11 guest Aug 9th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    what a bunch of bla-bla-bla. first of all – mongolian women are not “present” on internet because there is only have of million of them , including infants and 100 years olds.
    In post soviet countries the men / women ratio is disproportional – lot of women ( not girls – like you and your friends ) who are not so lucky to live in metropolitan areas in Russia and Ukraine simply want the better life for themselves and father for their children. you need to do more research on the subject before you start writing – gee, this kind of writing/ analytical sills you can get for 50 grant a year ?

  12. Gravatar Icon 12 Anna Ershova Aug 16th, 2009 at 2:13 am

    Dear Guest —

    I am not sure I should even bother responding, since you did not leave an email address, which means you will not be informed when I respond. So unless you are obsessively checking this blog, which I hope is not the case, you won’t get to read this.

    But still, there is no reason to cite my education and lack of writing/analytical skills. At least I know how to spell “grand,” and I never said that spending 50 of them a year on education is entirely worth it. Still, that’s my choice to make.

    Furthermore, I am very well aware of what the population size of Mongolia is. And that would make for around 1.5 million females, by the way, not 1 million. Not that it matters; either way, there are not that many of them compared to, say, Russia. I agree with that — but I was looking at the top ten search results, for which the number of bloggers/authors doesn’t matter much. The problem with their small presence online is probably due to lack of English skills, which I have been happy to admit before.

    And I am well aware of the gender imbalance issue in the post-Soviet countries. I have talked about it in depth in my other posts, which you probably never bothered to read.

    I have also indicated that was just a fun exercise rather than an actual research, and I would never base an academic essay on this.

    And thanks for criticism.

  13. Gravatar Icon 13 cory Sep 2nd, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Ok…this whole post cracks me up. Very well written, as always, Anna. I absolutely adore your biting almost sarcastic whit and very relevant subject matter. Everything from politics to dating to travel to education to furry boots (I love that one!) But always with a very “tongue in cheek” bent while still getting your point across.

    Yes, I found your site again by searching for information on Russia and Ukraine…and particularly, what Ukrainian women want. I guess I should have put “in a man” at the end of my search string! But still, I am glad to be back here again and my time spent was fruitful and I actually “thought” instead of just gazing blankly at the screen.

    What did I get out of what you wrote? People are people or “women are women” and people indeed. What do they want or to answer my question that led me here, what do Ukrainian and Russian women want? The answer is as unique as the asker, I belive…it depends and I should probably ask them instead of relying upon google to answer all of life’s questions for me. The answers on a whole probably aren’t on the internet but instead in the hearts and minds of the individual that spurned one to ask the question…so I will ask her and spend the time and get to know her instead of hoping to find some sort of holy grail or key to the heart of every Ukrainian woman out there. The answer lies within the heart of the one that has stolen my own heart and if I am to be a man I should BE a man and show her that I respect her enough to look within. Additionally, EVERYBODY knows that Russian and Ukrainian women are very, very smart and not to be trifled with, right? 😉 You’re one hell of a woman and I am glad to have found you again!



  14. Gravatar Icon 14 Anna Ershova Sep 19th, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Cory — thanks for the kind words, and, once again, sorry for the late reply. China is keeping me busy, and it leaves me with little time for blog-writing.

    If you want to find out what women want, you should go out there and talk to them 🙂

    May I ask what has led you to become interested in Eastern European women? Being one myself, I never know why we are supposedly so popular in the world 🙂

  15. Gravatar Icon 15 Cory Jean Oct 11th, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Hi Anna! Privet! I had started to respond to your question a couple of times and my reply became almost a novel but…

    I initially was drawn to Russian and Ukrainian women the way that most men in the US are…through pictures on an International Dating website. I know…shallow of me to be attracted by a pretty face but there it is. The more I read about how Ukrainian and Russian women are family oriented and loyal (I’ve been divorced a couple of times..no fun) the more open I was to considering the option of pursuing a relationship with Russian and Ukrainian women.

    I corresponded with a few women. Relationships faded and incompatibilities were found or that initial “spark” never really burst to flame. I was looking for a relationship with someone that was as interested in me as I was in them. Even the most beautiful woman becomes familiar in time and the real beauty of their soul and personality is what remains to win my heart. As a matter of fact, I have dated and been married to some very attractive American women and now when I look at them they are the most ugly women I have ever known.

    Yes, I am interested in one particular woman and she has hung with me from 5000 miles away through some pretty tough stuff. It is her kindness, support, trust and her sense of humor that has won my heart. She considers herself “nothing special” yet I think she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and even if things don’t work out between us I will always love her with all my heart. She has stuck with me and believed in me and let me know that she cares about me even when it might be easier for her to simply say “next!” and just forget about me…even when I would stop writing and calling…she would still reach out to me. Perhaps I am foolish but my gut and my mind tell me that she is sincere. Yes, it is a gamble on my part since I know that she corresponds with other guys, even though she hasn’t told me. Perhaps I will get my heart broken but it can’t be worse than what I have already been through in my life already…believe me!

    So I guess you could say that what started out as the pursuit of a Russian or Ukrainian “Mail Order Bride” wound up becoming something completely different. I found someone that makes me laugh and smile and with whom I am falling in love. It just so happens that she is Ukrainian and 5000 miles away instead of American and 500 miles away.

    So that’s it in a nutshell. I’ll let you know how things play out. And if she breaks my heart perhaps you could visit her and tell her what a catch she passed on! LOL!

    Take care and don’t work too hard, Anna!

  16. Gravatar Icon 16 Anna Ershova Oct 20th, 2009 at 7:06 am

    Hi, Cory:

    It is heartwarming to read your story. And it’s great to know that you have found something meaningful in something that started so pragmatically.

    As a side note, I am starting to wonder who was a mastermind behind this great Russian Women Marketing Campaign.

    Not to undermine my countrywomen, but I don’t think that Russian or Eastern European women for that matter are much different from any other women in terms of their personalities. Fundamentally, all people I meet in my travels are very similar. And I also don’t think we are that much “hotter” than any representatives of any other nation.

    I met men from many countries who told me they have very clear stereotypes of Russian women: blonde, hot, all the works. I am not a good judge of women’s looks, but whenever I see Russian women abroad, I can usually tell from afar, since they never smile, wear lots of bling, usually have bleached blonde hair, and wear mini skirts with heels. That does not make me think “attractive”. Even my American boyfriend who is by no means accustomed to hanging out with Russians, can tell a Russian woman on campus without ever hearing them talk — I think that’s pretty illustratory.

    Anyway, maybe all Russian women have Anna Kournikova to thank.

    I also read somewhere that odds for meeting your soulmate online are not much different from meeting one online — I am sure you are going in the right direction. Good luck!

    PS:I thought of something after I finished writing this comment. It seems that Russian women I meet while living abroad are often different from the ones I know back in Russia/Ukraine. Maybe that’s the same phenomenon that you mentioned in that comment about counterfeit goods in China. People act differently when they are away from their home. Maybe they put on a shorter miniskirt and higher heels as some sort of protective gear…

  17. Gravatar Icon 17 Guest UK Nov 22nd, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Hi Anna,

    It is not what Russian women want but what British, American etc men wish for. The fact is that in the UK for instance many women want to take the job that the man has (or would have but for her) have a nany for the children and then will complain that the man doesn’t earn enough money.. this is extreme but women from Russia are more “women” take more care of their appearance and do not always want to have a big career. That is why the brand “Russian women” has been invented. Also sometimes there can be a trade that Westerm man can give financial security in return for emotional security. As Russia becomes richer Russian women will become less desirable and will also start behaving more like men. It’s sad but true…

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