The Biggest Differences Between Dating In The U.S. And Russia

For years in western media, there was a predominant stereotype of the Russian mail-order bride — a woman who was so anxious to get out of her country that she would be willing to marry any American man who was able to pony up for a plane ticket. As with most stereotypes, that one was greatly exaggerated. Yes, in the immediate post-Soviet era, as Russia was going through some hard times the likes of which most of us haven't seen in our lifetimes, many Russian women were understandably eager to date men from other countries (European ones as well as Americans) who might just possibly be seen as a way of achieving a better life. As to why men were so anxious to land themselves Russian brides, apart from the appeal of the exotic, there was a perception that Russian women would be less demanding and easier to deal with than their American counterparts.

Things have changed quite a bit over the past three decades, needless to say, to the point where The Moscow Times reports that most younger Russian women would prefer to date closer to home. There are still, however, some significant differences that have shaped the way we act, how we communicate, and what we expect, and these seem to be a more deeply-ingrained part of our respective nations' dating cultures.

Americans are more into hookup culture

Here in the U.S. we're all quite used to the concepts of hooking up and having friends with benefits, and we even have a tendency to find ourselves in the slightly harder to figure out "situationships." This has been pretty much an accepted part of dating for the past 50 years, ever since the whole "swinging 60s" sexual revolution that followed the invention of the birth control pill.

In Russia, as well as with more traditionally-minded Russian immigrants, things don't really work that way. Either you are dating or you're not dating, there's no such status as "it's complicated." Thrillist indicates that this more serious attitude dates back to the Soviet era — and presumably before that time, as well, since Czarist Russia didn't exactly have a reputation as the Sodom and Gomorrah of Eastern Europe — but personal essays in both Forward and Salon note that it is still the prevailing attitude among Russians even today. Russians may practice serial monogamy, but while they are dating, they are far more committed to that monogamy than are their American counterparts. This is not to say that cheating doesn't exist, it's just that there's more of a divide between "Official Girlfriend" and "Side Chick" in Russian culture, with the latter kept very much on the down-low – open relationships really aren't a thing.

Russian women won't make the first move

In the U.S. it's not a given that women will always make the first move and be the ones asking the men out, but it's considered perfectly acceptable for them to do so. Russians, however, have never been ones to embrace the whole Sadie Hawkins concept. Romance Compass indicates that Russian women prefer that men take the lead, and by taking the lead, they need to do a lot more than just issue a vague invite to come hang out some time. A man is expected to plan that first date carefully, make a good first impression, even provide thoughtfully selected gifts. Should he successfully woo and win the lady of his choice, however, he may immediately become quite possessive — the Salon writer notes that there isn't a word in the Russian language for girlfriend — only for wife and bride — so men sometimes have a tendency to act as if you're already married after only a few dates.

Russian men show their interest differently

Most American men under the age of about 60 were raised with the idea that both genders are equal, which is a fine idea in and of itself. When it comes to dating, however, there's no denying that trying too hard to maintain an egalitarian ideal can come across a bit like... well, not like caring too much at all. Admit it, ladies, there are times when you've been out with your sensitive new age guy and some creep starts hitting on you and your BF just smiles like he doesn't want to interfere with anything — you know, even if you did want this random dude's attention (which you very much don't!), it's not too flattering having your guy act all "oh well, easy come, easy go."

If you were dating a Russian man, he'd be more likely to beat the other guy to a pulp, which could be awkward (and dangerous). It would at least be a clear demonstration of his interest in you, though! Not that this is really an issue with Russian men. While American men are encouraged to hold back their emotions and never seem too attached, Russian men seem to feel that if you love somebody, you let it show. The problem is, they don't always take into account whether or not their love is reciprocated, and might feel they can win you over with sheer persistence no matter how many times you say you're not interested.

In the US, we're free to date persons of the same gender

Gay marriage has been legal in the United States since the Supreme Court ruled it so in June (Pride Month!) of 2015. Many American celebrities are in same-sex relationships, and Americans are becoming more tolerant of transgender people. While our society is not without prejudice, for the most part, it is both legal and acceptable for consenting adults to date whomever they wish to date.

This is sadly not the case in Russia, however. While there are, of course, LGBTQ people in Russia, they are often forced to hide who they really are for their own safety. There are actually laws in place against sharing information related to any non-hetero lifestyle, and these laws have been used (and misused) to persecute anyone who dares set foot outside the closet. And far from permitting same-sex marriage, The Hill reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed amending the Russian constitution to explicitly ban such marriages and to protect the nation against, in the words of Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy, any international human rights organizations "forc[ing] Russia into any giving sort of special rights for the LGBT community." Somehow, we feel great-grandpappy Leo (via Russia Beyond) wouldn't be too proud of his prejudice-pushing demagogue descendant.