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Your preconceptions about the FSU and how they changed?

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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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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