“A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” is how Winston Churchill described Russia in 1939. While this statement was political, it’s also an apt description of Russian romance. After all, the Russian dating culture is quite different from what the west has grown accustomed to.
The TrulyRussian team loves a good challenge, so we decided to take on the arduous task of deciphering the enigma, unraveling the mystery, and solving the riddle of contemporary Russian dating etiquette. Here are some passionate confessions straight from the Russian soul:
Silence is not indifference
We feel that it’s better if Russian Poet Fyodor Tyutchev broke the silence on this matter so here is an excerpt from his poem, Silentium!:
“Speak not, lie hidden, and conceal
the way you dream, the things you feel.
Deep in your spirits let them rise
akin to stars in crystal skies
that set before the night is blurred:
delight in them and speak no word.”
Despite being published in 1830, this poem accurately portrays the silence of the Russian heart and the reason for its existence. Silence in a relationship is a pretty big issue for most westerners since we interpret it as indifference or anger.
But in Russian dating culture, you’ll find that their silence is an invitation and a challenge for you to explore and uncover the wonders of their personality. To borrow the words of Fyodor Tyutchev once more, can you discern what quickens her?
If you can, then that’s one more reason why you should be together. Being able to understand each other despite the lack of words is something of a couple superpower. So the Russians are probably onto something with this silence thing.
Say it with your body
A society cannot function without communication. So despite their inclination to remain silent, Russians communicate a lot. And they do this through body language. You’ll find that gestures come out often when a conversation heats up in one way or another. So it’s beneficial for you to learn a Russian gesture or two.
Quite a few of these Russian gestures originate from their pagan roots. For example, something as simple as scratching the back of their head can hold a lot of meaning. In this case, they could be worried about something and need advice. Initially, they scratched the back of their heads to summon the help of their ancestors. Of course, these days, it could merely mean that their head is itchy. So context is always essential.
Perhaps the most important Russian dating culture in gestures you can learn is flicking a finger on your neck. This gesture means, “let’s get drunk together.” As impressive as this gesture is, the history behind it is even more fantastic.
Legend has it, Emperor Peter the Great offered a Russian craftsman a reward for the valuable engineering advice he gave regarding the Peter and Paul Fortress. In true Russian fashion, the craftsman asked for a brand that would allow him to get free drinks anywhere in the country. Every time he was in a bar, he would flick the brand on his neck to inform the barman that he wants free drinks.
Chivalry is alive and is expected
Russian dating norms contain a lot of expectations from both genders. For men, they’re expected to help and protect women. This culture could be as simple as carrying their shopping bags or getting the car door for them.
But it could also mean helping them get down the bus when the sidewalk is buried in snow (strangers included!). Or worst-case scenario, getting into fisticuffs with the thug that disrespected them.
Family Matters. A LOT!
Expect to meet their family sooner rather than later. This goes double if you’re dating a Russian woman. This is because in a Russian dating culture traditional gender roles are still alive and kicking. Hence, chivalry is still a thing.
Women need the approval of their parents when it comes to relationships, regardless of their age. This tradition is why they want their partners to spend as much time with their families as possible. This is so commonplace that there is a saying in Russia that you have to “marry her family first.”
The significance of familial bonds in a relationship means that you have to cautiously navigate your way around the dinner table. For one thing, you should avoid any political discussion. There’s just very little chance of it ending well.
Another essential thing to remember is that you should never make a joke about a family member. It doesn’t matter if it’s the funniest joke the world has ever heard; if it’s about family, keep it to yourself.
Men should be assertive
Remember when you drove around for an hour because you couldn’t decide where to eat? That kind of thing won’t fly with a Russian woman. In a Russian dating culture, if you aren’t assertive and decisive, then you’ll lose her interest in no time.
It’s also essential to understand the difference between being assertive and being aggressive. No still means no, unless you want a beatdown from the army of valiant men around you.
You can showcase your assertiveness by taking the lead. When you ask a woman out on a date, you should have everything prepared beforehand. You should know which activity you’ll be engaging in, and reservations should be made before you leave the house.
Dating always leads to marriage
There are no casual relationships in Russia. In fact, they have no term for it. The concept of hooking up doesn’t exist there. If you ask someone out, then you’re officially dating (presuming they said yes). You should also know that there is no specific word for boyfriend or girlfriend in Russian. There is only husband and wife. That’s right! The date you just asked for? That was a binding agreement (not legally, of course).
Now, this isn’t done with malicious intent. It’s not like they intend to trap people in relationships. Romance in Russia just retained its passionate intensity, that’s all. Let’s drop some Leo Tolstoy in here to drive in our point:
“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”
The woman you choose should be your sun, blinding and yet she’s all you see. So if you’re just looking for a hookup, then you’re probably in the wrong place. Because if you’re dating a Russian, then you’re in it for the long haul.
In fact, since Russian dating traditions indicate that women should get married early, don’t be shocked if the prospect of marriage is brought up mere months into a relationship.
A man’s wallet is shared, a woman’s is hers alone
Traditional gender roles are in play here once more. You can’t go Dutch with a Russian. The man always pays the bill, because in Russia, the man provides and protects. But that doesn’t mean that the women are free from responsibility.
If you’ve been to Russia, then the Tolstoy quote above should have resonated with you. The women there might as well be heavenly bodies with how immaculately presented they are. Unfortunately, no matter what they say, they DID NOT wake up that way.
It takes a lot of effort to look that beautiful. Not to mention how exceedingly expensive it can get. And here’s the kicker, their society requires them to be blindingly beautiful. Every time you look at your wallet and think, “this is unfair,” you should remember that both sides have their troubles.
Flowers are a weekly thing
If you’re the type to forget flowers on anniversaries, you have a lot of work to do before entering a relationship with a Russian woman. Women in Russia put a lot of effort into maintaining their looks, so they expect their partners to bring flowers once a week.
There is another thing to keep in mind when bringing your partner flowers, however. You can’t give them an even number of flowers. That’s because even-numbered flowers are for funerals. So keep the numbers odd unless you want a funeral for your deceased relationship.
Each soul is unique so listen to your partner
While you’ve learned a lot about the Russian dating scene thanks to our investigative efforts, what you’ve gained is but a general overview. You need to figure out what works for you and your partner.
You need to be able to discern what quickens them, listen to their thoughts, and connect with the soul that you’ve partnered with. But for the inevitable times when you can’t understand the inner workings of your partner’s mind, Tyutchev wrote something for that as well:
You cannot grasp Russia with your mind
Or judge her by any common measure,
Russia is one of a special kind –
You can only believe in her.