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Author Topic: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?  (Read 5635 times)

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Offline jen

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Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« on: July 23, 2007, 08:21:02 AM »
In the thread on "Reactions from other people in your life," we briefly got onto this topic that was suggested for a new thread:

Some of you, I know, had experience abroad, including in the FSU, before seeking and/or finding a spouse there. For many, though, a trip to the FSU was expressly in search of romance, and you may not have known a lot about what life there was like before you arrived. So: what were some of your preconceptions about the FSU before you went? How did those change once you began to spend some time there?

As appropriate, if you could include a note as to how many times you've been there or for how long, that would be great. Thanks.

Offline jen

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #1 on: July 23, 2007, 10:24:38 AM »
p.s. I just wanted to add that I am going to be visiting family for about a week and the connection they have there is AWFUL. So if I am relatively silent, please know that it is not because I am not interested in your comments!

Have a good week everyone.

Jen

Offline Shadow

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2007, 05:50:07 AM »
My very frist trip behing the Iron Curtain (not FSU) was in 1979. At the time the country (Bulgaria) struck as being a lot more friendly and independent as the media suggested.
A visit to Hungary for business actualy showed the opposite. While Budapest was a wonderful historic city, the rest what I was was dull, gray and looked desolate.

Fast forward to 2003. Kiev was the target. I found the city to be a lot more interesting, alive and well than I expected. It did change my perspective on the FSU and their inhabitants to them being kind and helpful.

Moscow, 2004. A large city, just as you can find in any part of the world when visiting a capital or large metropolitan area. Still impressive with history and strangely familiar in many aspects. Russians are exceptionally friendly and love to enjoy life more than spend it on gathering riches you can not take with you.

No it is not a dog. Its really how I look.  ;)

Offline Kuna

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2007, 06:36:32 AM »
Jen,

I've been to FSU twice...

The first trip was January/February this year... I think I was in Latvia and Ukraine for a total of 4 weeks (maybe a day or two less).   ???

My Second trip was May/June for a bit over 3 weeks...


How did my perceptions change?  My German grandmother was blunt...  argumentative... brutally honest... but very loving and caring.  She blamed all of her "negative characteristics on my Ukrainian grandfather.   ::)

Before I travelled I did a lot of research and I didn't believe the BS you read on the marriage websites.  I found RWD and gained a more realistic view... but I'll be honest in saying I travelled with a slightly negative view of Ukraine.

I'd read (and been told) of the dangers, struggles, crime, scams, poor economy, etc... but when I arrived I felt like Kiev was a spectacular and exciting city... I felt safe all of the time in Kiev and only had one occasion that made me think twice in another smaller city... but there were very reasonable explanations for that.

Of course I had heard about the women and I was surprised that there were "a number" of quite unattractive women in Ukraine...  In my opinion there are more beautiful women there than at home...  and a large part of the female population obviously put more effort into their appearance...  but with all of the salivating over the "hotties" everyone seems to forget (or ignore) those not as fortunate when it comes to genetics. (Is that a nice way of putting it???)

I LOVED the history and culture... but I expected to ...  I LOVED the food... but I knew I would... I was surprised that so many people were friendly and helpful, especially when they discovered I am Australian... and I wasn't expecting that.

I also had a perception that a proportion of the population were desperate to leave Ukraine.  It was one of my concerns because I couldn't have "connected" with someone who was desperate to leave.  Despite thinking that before I traveled I was impressed at the national pride of many people I met (and not just the girls).


Now for Riga, Latvia...

I didn't expect it to be so beautiful but I was quite depressed to see such a lovely city (Old Town) be turned into a series of pubs, strip clubs and nighclubs living off the money generated by bucks parties for Englishmen.

If you could avoid the seedy side of the city there are great cultural attractions including the War Museum which was shocking, fascinating and very moving. Overall I loved Riga but it's such a shame cheap tourism from the UK has turned it into a party town accommodating large groups of drunk and disrespectful men.  i hope travel to Ukraine never becomes so cheap!

Oh, a comment on the people... Proud, defiant, and optimistic would sum it up pretty well!



Dnepr...  Well, my last trip focused on the city where My Girl grew up and now lives (again).  I can honestly say I didn't expect to see so much new development and public space revitalisation (in the city centre mostly).

I didn't expect it to be so blisteringly hot.

I wasn't expecting to see so many men (and young girls) walking around with opened bottles of beer...

I didn't expect to see the constant hum of consumerism on the streets.



Overall I'd say that no matter what someone reads or how much research one does there's nothing that will prepare a man for his own personal experiences "on the ground".

If a man gets out of his apartment and stays away from the inevitable Western influences (Mc Donalds, TGIF, etc) he'll experience something that is different to anywhere else in the world.

I've spent a lot of time working and traveling in many places around the world but when it comes to "uniqueness" FSU and China stand alone...  The difference for me was that I generally expected much of what I saw in China...  FSU was a surprise but in a very positive way.

Kuna


Offline ScottinCrimea

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2007, 06:47:08 AM »
I assumed that there would be some residual dislike or at least distrust of Americans in Ukraine due to our "ememy" status during the cold war.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how friendly everyione was to me without a hint of negative feelings just because I was an American.  Their explanation was that they never disliked the American people because they knew it was the government, not the people who were making the decisions.

I recall back in those days we would have drills in school where we would hide under our desks in case of nuclear attack from the evil Russians.  I was quite surprised and amused to learn from my mother in law that they were doing the exact same thing in Russia.

The more time I live in Ukraine the more difficult it is to remember first impressions.  I do know that I had never before experience people with such pride and soul.

Offline Son of Clyde

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2007, 06:52:25 AM »
Actually the FSU was exactly as I had imagined it. In a state of change but many people still holding onto their old values. The driver I had who had studied law in the US laughed at me, as we were driving near a huge political parade, and told me Ukraine was a democracy. Still, I was warned to stay away from political rallies in the FSU so one night I stayed inside when there was a huge rally with fireworks outside. I still was not surprised to see the people walking around the streets showing little or no emotion. I found out to get to the heart of the FSU you must meet the people on a one to one basis or in small groups. The people are very warm and proud people and I sort of thought it would be the case once I got below the surface.

Offline Bruno

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2007, 09:50:34 AM »
Some of you, I know, had experience abroad, including in the FSU, before seeking and/or finding a spouse there. For many, though, a trip to the FSU was expressly in search of romance, and you may not have known a lot about what life there was like before you arrived. So: what were some of your preconceptions about the FSU before you went? How did those change once you began to spend some time there?

As appropriate, if you could include a note as to how many times you've been there or for how long, that would be great. Thanks.

Hmmm... i am one of the "had experience abroad, including in the FSU, before seeking and/or finding a spouce there"...

First experience was with Moldova... i was not yet adult... a camp in the forest organized by a Belgium ecologist association... Second time was Poland, again some camp...

Once adult, begin my army ( Navy ) time... a lot of country visited... Russia, "Stalingrad" in 1986... during these stay, i have like Russian men and hate Russian women... RM was friendly and use any excuse for make some drink party... my only experience with RW was the obligate translator/guide who was following me everywhere... at the hotel, if i quit my bedroom for the toilet, she follow me to the door... she was huge in both direction ( high and large ), with more beard that myself... let say that if she was not with a robe, you have certainly think that she was a man !!!

After the army, a first trip to Moscow... by bus... from Gent to Moscow university... a little more that 4 days trip... visit poland, belarus and Moscow... great time like tourist... first experience with some charming FSU ladies...

1996... first russian girlfriend... married in 1997... a lot of visit to FSU... divorced in 2004...

2005... start the hunting again... Ukraine Nikolaev... She will find a local man before the marriage proposal... 2006... Odessa... new girlfriend... now, always together but not yet married ( will be soon )...

FSU was like i have think and read before the first visit... so, no real big surprice... but the FSU from 20 year ago, from 10 year ago and from now are different world... you can find a "reflection" of this when you date some RW... a RW from 40 yo is from the Soviet time... a RW from 30 yo is from the difficult transition periode... a RW from 20 yo is not very different that our own teener...

Offline Air Dog

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2007, 09:51:31 PM »
I have been to Kiev thrice, starting in 1999.  Having grown up and joined the military during the Cold War, I was expecting some hostility from the residents.  I did not encounter any hostility, even when people learned that I was in the active duty military.  My future wife's family accepted me, and were very kind. 

Yes, there were a lot of dreary concrete buildings needing maintenance, and most of the people were economically worse off than your typical American, but they managed to live a dignified existense.

My biggest surprise about the FSU, after talking with my future wife, was how little politics entered into the daily life of most people during the Soviet Union.  I was expecting the films of that era to be propaganda pieces.  Instead I discovered musicals, good romantic comedies,and other normal fare.  Life in the Soviet Union for the average person may have had its difficulties, but there were good things too.

Offline I/O

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2007, 01:51:06 AM »
but they managed to live a dignified existense.

I would have to agree with this comment.  Dignified is a good way to describe how a lot of people live/ed in Russia and other FSU areas.  Economically lacking in many cases but quite proud and certainly dignified.

My biggest surprise was the lack of political knowledge both domestically and on the international scene. Geographic knowledge often better than ours, but very often no real understanding of how the world is actually working. 

Further I noticed some "Denial" regarding the break up of the Soviet Union, particularly in the satellite areas such as Moldova which really surprised me. An almost "Clinging" to "Mother Moscow" as it were. Again, I was surprised by this.  I had thought that perhaps many would see the reality of needing to go through a tough period in order to ultimately gain economic improvement, but such was not the case with many people I met and spoke to.  I guess change, when forced upon one, comes hard.

The lingering belief that someone "Further up the tree" needed to organise everything if anything was to improve. Very limited "Have a go for myself" thinking.  Again, I guess a product of history.  An example: With some friends, I visited a beautiful area south from Kishinev and I commented, you guys should get your act together, you could arrange international tours to areas like this. The response was, "Tourism is not organised in this country, so we can do nothing".  I just shook my head and remained silent.  My thoughts were and are, things will never change here markedly.

The unsmiling faces were a little daunting at first and I didn't expect everyone to be laughing their heads off, but I also didn't expect the blanket glum looks on everyones faces.

The beauty of the drive from the airport into central Moscow was quite a surprise and Moscow in and of itself was far more beautiful than I expected. Far more.

Siberia had long been a fascination with me. Siberia in general and Baikal in particular were my original reason for going to Russia. I just fell in love with so many parts of Siberia.  It was so different from what I had imagined.  So different.  The amount of forest, mountains and rivers just took me by complete surprise.  Then as I so loved as a kid in my own country, the sweeping, almost endless black soil plains of some parts just "Got me in".  (Yeah, no city kid at heart tis I)   

I have 9 Russian visas in my passport, 3 Ukrainian, 2 Romanian, 2 Moldavian and a couple of other FSU country stamps FWIW.  I haven't bothered to add all the time up, but it would be close to 9 months or more in the last 5 years.

2 things really shocked me. The coexistence of the very modern and the antiquated side by side at times and the standard of dress in general.  I remember landing in Moldova first and within a few hours ditching my travel cloths and making a mensware store a whole lot more economically stable. ::) ::) I dress fairly well in general, but there was no way I was going to slide under the radar with the standard of travel clothes I had with me. :o :o

The Asian pervasion of the "Consumer" market has also been a surprise to me.  I've noticed this ramp up quite a deal over the last few years, although cities like Irkutsk have a two hundred or more year history of this. 

I/O

Offline jen

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2007, 08:02:18 AM »
Hi all,

Thanks for the responses. However, the thread died down without a whole lot of attention. I asked this question because as you know, I think one assumption many people might make about AM who go to the FSU to find a woman do so without knowing or caring much about the place. Probably this is true of some. Yet, I've seen plenty of evidence here of all the cross-cultural learning that happens through the process of searching (and certainly, through interacting with your spouse if/when you have one). Anyone care to share more stories of what this cultural learning curve was/is like for you?

Thanks, J.

Offline DKMM

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2007, 07:26:28 PM »
Jen,

It seems the guys who have posted have already touched on my own experiences as well.  I'd have to emphasize the following:

1.  How well everyone seemed to be dressed, although its a different sense of style.

2.  The number of high end cars in Moscow and number of well off people in general

3.  How friendly the people are once they "know" you.  Its almost impossible to describe but its something that is lacking in the USA.

Offline wxman

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2007, 08:42:16 PM »
Jen,

I have been to Ukraine 10 times and before I travelled, I read as much as I could about the country. Travelling around many other parts of the world, I knew in advance that cold war dogma was nothing more than garbage. I've learned there are good people throughout the world along with the bad. Simple as that. Cultures may be different, buildings may look different, food may be different, but the soul of the people are not any different. No matter where one travels, leaving your ego and expectations at home, will open your eyes to many beautiful sites, and many wonderful people will open their doors to you. 
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting that vote." Benjamin Franklin -

Offline JayH

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Re: Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2014, 05:20:59 PM »
This is an old thread-some of the posters here are still contributing regularly.
It is an as interesting topic today as it was when it first started as a thread and to hear current impressions and comparisons. :)
SLAVA UKRAYINI  ! HEROYAM SLAVA!!!!
Слава Украине! Слава героям слава!Слава Україні! Слава героям!
 translated as: Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!!!  is a Ukrainian greeting slogan being used now all over Ukraine to signify support for a free independent Ukraine

 

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