Monday, August 8, 2011

Life in Ukraine (Money, Clothes, Family, Dating, and Prostitution)

The following is a round table discussion between my various Ukranian friends and what they have taught me about their country. They are all in their early to mid twenties, and are smart enough and work hard enough to know English quite well in addition to their native language.
Here is a brief description of the players--
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Julia (22) an accountant, and a very cute one.
Anna (20) Tall Russian/Ukranian girl. Her father is ex-KGB. Overly patriotic, has a very dismal view of America.
Kos (22) In America they called him "The Crazy Russian" cause he was willing to work so hard in the summer he spent there. Currently works with one of Ukraine's leading businessman. Bold enough to tap me from behind when he noted I was lost on the subway and offered me help. Future millionaire, guaranteed.
Maria (27) Professional translator. Most beautiful eyes ever.
Dmytro (25), Viktoriia (24) Engaged to one another, casino dealers from Odessa who work now aboard Celebrity Cruise Lines in that capacity.
Me, Dmytro (very red from kite surfing) and Viktoriia
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Me: Below every large street crossing in Kiev, they have a pedestrian underpass, and in every underpass they have a subterranean mall. So I'm looking at the various products for sale, and I pick-up a pair of high heels in case I ever feel like cross dressing, but they were selling for $300, in what is, literally, the underground economy. Now, I don't want to cross dress that bad, but in the Ukraine, where the average monthly salary is $500 a month, every single woman is parading the streets at 10 AM in designer clothes, full make-up, and expensive heels. Wearing a full month's salary ain't cheap walking. I mean, how do they afford anything else?
Viktoriia: Many women have only one or two nice outfits.
Julia: Some have 'boyfriends.' 
Silva: And the others are willing to forgo the essentials, to look good.
Maria and me.
Viktoriia: The competition to look better than the next woman in Ukraine is immense.
Me: Why is that?
Silva: Well, for one there are many more females in our country than males.
Me: Really?
Viktoriia: Between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five the ratio of females to males in the Ukraine is 56% to 44%.
Me: Why such a high disparity?
Dmytro: Smoking leads to a greater number of female births, and there are a lot of smokers in the Ukraine.
Kos: And what's more, of the limited male population, another 5% or so have a drug or alcohol problem which pretty much eliminates them from the dating pool.
Vikktoria: When I first met Dmytro, we were working together in the casino, I had absolutely zero interest in him because he was smoking, and drinking excessively.
Dmytro: I must have asked her out twenty times, and she said 'no' every time. I had to con in her into a first date by inviting her over to watch a soccer game, and telling her that twenty other people would be there, and I only had one other girl show up, and she was instructed to leave before halftime.
Me: Talk about romantic. Question: Do you still smoke and drink?
Dmytro: I stopped, because I really wanted to be with Viktoriia.
Me: Now that's romance. What is it like dating here in Eastern Europe?
DmytroWesterners are too greedy for Ukranian women. 
Viktoriia: Here, the male always pays for the female. 
Silva: It's not "let's go dutch," like it is in Holland and the West.
Me: Is that where the term comes from??
Julia: Most Western men will never surprise women with presents, flowers, and gifts as a Ukranian man will do.
Julia
Dmytro: When Victoria and I first started dating, we were working at the same casino, with the same salary, the same position. I was making $600 a month, double the Ukranian average income in 2007, and I was spending $400 of his salary to take her out.

Me: Wow. You could barely afford to feed yourself.
Dmytro: But I was feeding her.
Me: You know that in the West, Eastern European women have a reputation of being very easy, is there truth to this?
Anna: I am offended! Of my friends maybe one out of thirty is like that. At the age of twenty, I have only had sex with one man.
Russian Anna
Me: Well Anna, you are also in the top 1% of your academic class and got into one of the most prestigious Universities in Russia. It is certainly possible that most of your friends might be more like you. Anybody else?
Julia: I tend to agree with Anna. The most important thing for the average Eastern European woman is to find a good man, not to give away our bodies to every passer-by.
Anna: In Russia, family is far and away the most important thing. Family first, always.
Silva: It's like that throughout the entire former USSR.
Me: Anna, tell me about your family. You were an only child right?
Anna: Yes, Russian families used to be fairly large, but when the turmoil of the 1990's came along, there was too much uncertainty to raise many children, it was a rough time for everybody.
Me: And what are the family dynamics like?
Anna: In Eastern Europe, 'men are the head ,and women the neck.'
Me: And what does that mean exactly?
Julia: Men think they make all the decisions--
Silva: But women, as the neck, change the position the head is looking.
Me: It is funny Anna, during the two days we spent hanging out in Odessa, you were incredibly deferential towards me and all decisions about what we did were mine. Whether that be how long we spent somewhere, where we went, etc. It felt different than in the West where it is much closer to 50/50, though still naturally tilted towards the male. So who actually has the power in a relationship?
Julia: Women. (at same time)   Anna: Men.
Viktoriia: Women just behave that way at the beginning of a relationship to win the man. Once married, the neck controls the head.
Me: With the disparity of females to males, how loyal are men in relationships?
Anna: ALL men cheat. I have never known a man who didn't. As a woman in Eastern Europe, you just accept it and turn your head the other way if he supports the family and is a good father.
Me: Anna, what is your father like?
Anna: Well, my Dad is over ten years older than my Mom. This is common in Eastern Europe, and women actually look for this. Young men are too immature to marry. Also, my Dad is ex-KGB.
Me: I never touched you!
Anna (chuckles): Yeah, guys in high school were too scared to date me.
Me: I can imagine. And since you said many marriages have a ten plus year disparity, at what age do most girls get married?
Julia: It used to be that you were expected to be married at the age of 22. It has moved up a little to 24, but pretty quickly, if you aren't married, most people start to think there is something wrong with you.
Me: What I found interesting is in 2009, before I left to Prague for the first time, someone who had been years before, told me that there would be hookers in the hotel lobby. I didn't find any prostitutes in any of my hotels in the Czech Republic, but in Kiev, there were at least five looking for work at the Hotel Rus. Is it that the economic situation over the years has gotten better in the Czech Republic, while the Ukraine is still mired in the effects post Soviet collapse?
Julia: Well, I think some girls do it, because it is just easy money.
Kos: There are girls that I know, from good families, that might not do it all the time, but if the opportunity arises, they certainly will. Prostitution here, is fairly widespread.
Kos
Dmytro: I worked in the Black Sea Casino in Odessa. The casino would comp the high rollers their women. I spoke with many of the girls, and I can tell you that at least half of them were from the Eastern Ukraine, which is the industrial part of the country, and all the men are working in mines and steel production, and drinking very heavily. These girls have very little opportunity to find a husband, and they just want to make some money for their families, so they come to Odessa and Kiev which is where the foreigners are, and try to make a decent living.
Me: That is a lot like Thailand. Most girls can either work as a maid or waitress for a couple hundred dollars or so a month, or make that in a night of work selling their bodies. Most are from the poor part of the country, and send the majority of their earnings back home to their families, and are the primary breadwinners. The majority of the working girls in Thailand I spoke with have a heavy indwelling sadness associated to their choice of profession ... so is it mostly about economics then?
Dmytro: Yes, economics plays a huge part. It is so hard for Ukranian women to find a good husband, that some take up prostitution to remain financially viable.
Me: Oh my God, I just had a brilliant idea. In China, because of the one child policy, most families who wanted a boy aborted many many females. Young Chinese men are now having difficulties finding a girl. In Ukraine- more women. Have a mixer in say Dubai. Kos, Dmytro, you recruit all the Ukranian women, I'll bring the Chinese. We'll make a fortune!
Dmytro: Sorry to disappoint you, but Chinese men in the casino were scared of Ukranian girls and their long legs. Their model of beauty is the small, diminutive Chinese girl.
Me: Dammit! I thought we were going to get rich! ... (thinking about it, then imitating Homer Simpson) mmmmmm ... long legs.
Long legs- Ukranian model
Up next: the discussion turns to economics with my esteemed panel. Click here for Part II of discussion

3 comments:

  1. Your writing keeps getting more and more stars...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, can you make a follow up about Ukraine? Shit I like to travel myself there, btw have you been in Oslo?

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    Replies
    1. Pato, I have traveled to Oslo, I actually just returned home from a trip, I will be writing about that shortly, I;m finishing up with Finland and Denmark first. Please feel free to subscribe to the blog bro and cheers. :)
      As for Ukraine, I haven't been back lately. So many places to explore.

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