by Rob Losker
As little as 15 short years ago the prospects of a western man seeking and marrying a foreign bride were challenging at best. Normally, a man's only option to even explore the possibility was to get his hands on a local singles publication and look for the adds offering foreign romance - which were usually limited to certain Asian and Latin countries. Having found a source of exploration, he cuts out the coupon and mails it in to receive his "catalog" of "available" female prospects - which would often be grossly outdated and even possibly full of bogus but titillating profiles. Even worse, he is faced with a social stigma that no one will have him at home so, in desperation, he is seeking a young, naïve and underprivileged woman from another country that will be his sex slave and generally abused from day to day. This naïve female, herself desperate to escape her culture, would be better known at the time as a "Mail Order Bride".
No matter how sincere and honorable a man's intentions were for mutual happiness, he clearly would have to sport a thick skin to the social consequences if he were to be successful in his international search for a life mate. Rarely would a man even discuss the matter until he was forced to once the "goods" had arrived.
Now, well into the 21st century, things are profoundly different. It started with the fall of the iron curtain in the early 1990,s exposing dozens of eastern European countries to the western world. Shortly following this we saw the rapid explosion of the Internet that began in the mid 1990's. Telephone calls from the United States to Russia can now be made for as little as $.04 cents a minute. The landscape of International commerce, communication and travel has changed radically over the last decade. Consequently, so have the social values and mores of the singles atmosphere. It has become acceptable and commonplace for men and women to plant the seeds of romance on the Internet and other singles services. Borders and oceans have become minor obstacles. They are considered more of a challenging nuisance than a deterrent - even adding to the romantic excitement some men have indicated.
John Adams is one of the original founders of "A Foreign Affair" (yes, you may have seen the feature movie of the same name in 2004 modeled around their services - LoveMe.Com). A Foreign Affair was established in 1995 as an international introduction company with three founders and two part time employees. Since that time AFA has grown to a firm of more than 100 employees and 20 international satellite offices spanning from St. Petersburg, Russia to Cartagena, Colombia. The array of optional services they offer their customers is impressive but the gem appears to be the international "Romance Tours" for individuals and groups of single men.
I call these the gem of their services because of the list of what seems like endless text and video testimonials of AFA clients that have participated in their tours. "All the guys were picking lint out of their mouths. Their tongues were dragging on the carpet and drooling all over their clothes. American women of this caliber would not even look at these guys!" a man named Todd Cuson said. Another man named Christopher Snare writes "Comparing Club Med to AFA is like comparing Joey Buttofuco to James Bond. At Club Med you're like a squirrel looking for a nut on Gilligan's Island. At AFA (tours) It's like you're on a premier wine tasting tour in the south of France with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders." And this goes on and on. And, for the record, I have been to some of these socials and I have seen this so I know this has some validity.
Adams, himself married for six years to a woman from Russia, told me that he has seen a "marked change" in the attitudes of both men and women towards the international dating scene over the last six to seven years. "Matchmaking services of any nature just aren't the embarrassing taboo that society once tagged them with. The condescending attitude that you must be desperate has almost vanished. These days people consider you to be serious, diligent and patient in your search for the right person to spend your life with".
But the question remains - why are men exploring foreign options when, indeed, there are so many local options available that would, on the surface, seem to be much more sensible? "Most of the men that use our services have either explored their hometown options or are still exploring those options. They haven't found what they are looking for and they're looking for something different. Some men are attracted to the different culture - the different attitudes about life and family that women have in many of these countries" Adams adds. One tour client named Robert writes "I was surrounded by attractive, good women, and all I had to do was act naturally", which is a common statement. Honestly, the reasons and motivations of both the men and the women appear to be as varied as the personalities themselves and warrant a completely different discussion. The common thread is that they are seeking something that they haven't yet found.
The cost of pursuing foreign romance doesn't seem to be a major issue. A Foreign Affair offers all inclusive romance tours to dozens of destinations starting at $995 for 7 days and up to $11,700 for a tour that spans 44 days in six different cities through Eastern Europe. During the tour AFA says that you will be personally introduced to hundreds of marriage minded women of your choice either directly by their staff or through arranged parties they refer to as "socials". Twenty minutes on the Internet will demonstrate that there is no shortage of companies offering similar matchmaking services to that of AFA. No doubt, many are reputable and many are not. But they are clearly in abundance.
Like several others, AFA also offers K-1 Fiancée Visa assistance (which gets your potential bride to the U.S. for 90 days to marry or return) starting at $900. And, if you were to marry, Adams says that your new brides adjustment of status filing (green card) can range from $1,000 to $2,000.
But are the men finding success and are these relationships really working? Adams tells us "It's really no different than any serious relationship you might consider. You have to use some common sense and have a little patience". He claims that AFA is now averaging 7 engagements PER DAY of men and women who use their services. How you measure the ultimate success of these relationships is dependant upon how you define success but Adams is certain that the durability of the marriages fostered through his services is no worse than the national average for domestic marriages and he hints that the ultimate success rate might be noticeably better - even though he has no real data to substantiate that. "Like anything, there are going to be successes and failures. It really depends upon the people and the choices they make which we can't control."
Interestingly, Adams cited a Congressional study into the "Mail Order Bride" industry a few years ago (yes, your tax dollars) that concluded that the rate of domestic abuse in these international marriages was actually lower than that of domestic marriages in the United States (unverified). We all know that data from these studies can be manipulated to pretty much read the way you want it to. But the point is, there really doesn't seem to be a lot of hard evidence to indicate that, in fact, these international romances and marriages are anything different than what Adams says they are: "Like any other relationship". It is two people who are seeking companionship. They were simply raised in different cultures and each of these cultures may offer something the other is attracted to.
Most single men who would prefer to be involved in a serious and loving relationship would tell you they are "keeping all of my options open". It seems that international love is a very real option even for men of modest means. In fact, it seems to become more real almost on a daily basis as we move through the first decade of this century. If I were a single man searching for a special woman, I think it would be one option among many that I would have to keep open. To do otherwise simply doesn't make sense anymore. The keyword is "option".