Love, Marriage & Partnership

The Russian dating scene: finding love as an expat

Before jumping into the Russian dating scene, here is everything you need to know about understanding local men and women in this unique country.

Russian dating

Updated 20-5-2024

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Believe it or not, not every Russian spends their free time swilling vodka and eating caviar. As amusing as cultural stereotypes are, it’s always wise to take them with a pinch of salt. That said, there are certain traits that you are likely to come across when dating in Russia.

Understanding these traits and the mindset of Russian men and women is key to having a successful love life. Not only that, but it will also help you avoid any awkward misunderstandings during your quest for love. With this in mind, this guide is here to help by providing the following information:

An overview of dating in Russia

When you first move to Russia, you might be under the impression that being from a far-off land will increase your chances of dating success. However, unfortunately, the reality is somewhat different. Indeed, fewer than one in five marriages in Moscow are between people from different countries. And while English-speaking countries do appear on the list of most common nationalities for marriages, they lag well behind Ukraine, Türkiye, and Moldova.

Couple kissing on a date in Saint Petersburg

A lack of romantic interest in foreigners isn’t necessarily a recent phenomenon, either. In fact, one poll of under-25s found that fewer than 10% of Russian women would consider marrying a foreigner. While this might be partly down to old stereotypes, politics might also be a contributing factor. With Russia currently having increased tensions with the west, for instance, marrying a fellow countryman can seem like the safer option for some nationals. Needless to say, Russian men and women like to stick together. Of course, this could pose a challenge for expats looking for love. And that’s not the only obstacle you might face.

Language barriers can also be an issue when navigating the dating scene in Russia. While many people in big cities in Russia such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg, speak English, it’s certainly not common everywhere. So unless you intend to learn Russian, or at least master the basics, you should be prepared for the fact that many people you meet might not be able to communicate with you.

How to meet people in Russia

Just like in other countries, it is common in Russia to meet people through your social or work network, or in public places such as bars and clubs. There are other ways to meet potential partners, however.

Dating apps and websites

If you are struggling to meet people in Russia, online dating is a great option. In fact, according to data from Sensor Tower, Russia is the world leader in downloads of dating apps. Furthermore, the growing demand for online dating services means that competition is heating up in the market. As a result, expats living in Russia have an array of platforms to explore, depending on what they are seeking.

dating apps

Badoo, Tinder, and Mamba are currently the leading dating apps in Russia, according to AppAnnie data. However, Russia’s largest social media platform VKontakte is going head-to-head with these competitors by launching its own dating app, Lovina. The video-centric dating app offers a video chat option to people who like each other. It also features a carousel of short videos so users can have a quick chat while browsing the app.

Meanwhile, traditional dating websites such as Russiancupid, Mamba, and LovePlanet continue to be popular among singles. That said, you will need to be able to speak Russian to use Mamba, as the majority of members don’t speak English. Profiles tend to be more detailed on these platforms, making it easier to find more suitable matches. There are also opportunities to tailor your search depending on the seriousness of the relationship you are seeking. Furthermore, while most features on LovePlanet are free to use, you usually need to upgrade to a premium account if you want to message other members. However, paying for a subscription means that you stand less of a chance of stumbling upon fake profiles. It also reduces the risk of falling victim to catfishers who pose as ‘hot Russian girls’ to scam people out of money.

Attend Meetup events

Joining local Meetup groups and attending events is a popular way to meet like-minded individuals. You will find plenty of groups in most countries around the world, and Russia is no exception. However, you will likely find that most of these groups are based in the more popular cities for expats, such as Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Because some of these groups are specifically designed for those interested in dating and relationships, you are likely to meet other singles with the same intention, too.

Join a local club

Another great way to meet new people is to search online and through Facebook for local sports clubs and associations in Russia. From hiking to football, and everything in between, you are bound to find plenty of options in Russia’s larger cities. And while these clubs aren’t designed for singles, per se, you never know who you might meet. Your hiking buddy may end up becoming your spouse!

Dating etiquette in Russia

When it comes to dating etiquette, people in Russia, particularly men, can be quite traditional in how they approach their love lives. Here are some things you might observe as an expat when dating in Russia.

Making the first move

Women generally expect men to be chivalrous in Russia. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that the task of asking someone out on a date tends to fall to the men.

A couple on a date in Saint Petersburg

In fact, search any dating forums online, and you will likely find a plethora of advice on how to meet women, written by women themselves. Furthermore, many of these encourage men to persist with their efforts; even if the woman first rejects them. In this respect, it might be fair to say that Russian women like to play hard to get.

A typical dating scenario

Just like in many other countries, first dates in Russia usually involve going for a nice meal at a restaurant or drinks at a fancy bar. And because first impressions matter a lot to women in Russia, the venue is likely to be classy. As you get to know each other, however, your dates are likely to become more adventurous. After all, there are plenty of fun things to do in Moscow (or any Russian city, for that matter). You may end up going to see the ballet, checking out museums and other attractions, strolling through parks and gardens, or even spending an afternoon in a banya (a traditional Russian sauna).

Dating behavior in Russia

When you go out on a date in Russia, you will find that customs are generally quite traditional. Here are some useful pointers for expats.

Presentation and appearance

Good presentation goes a long way in Russia. And while designer labels and expensive fashion aren’t necessarily popular with Russian men and women, they take a great deal of pride in their appearance. In fact, women rarely step out of the house without wearing makeup and are usually seen in high heels.

Woman applying mascara

People will usually dress more formally to go out on dates. For instance, men tend to wear a jacket and trousers, while women might opt for their favorite dress.

Body language

When you first meet someone in Russia, you will usually shake hands with them and have good eye contact. During a first date, however, a man will usually wait for a woman to offer her hand first. Personal space is not highly valued in Russia, however. As a result, you will often see people standing quite close to each other and talking animatedly but not loudly. There is also a good deal of physical contact during conversations. Depending on where you come from, you may find this slightly uncomfortable in the early stages of a relationship. If you choose not to say anything, however, just try to keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily an indication that a man is interested in you, it’s just their culture.

General conversation

If you are a woman, you may find that Russian men can be rather intense and emotional during conversations. However, try not to take this personally, as it’s simply part of their Russian etiquette. Men in Russia can also be fairly opinionated. Therefore, if they disagree with you, don’t assume that they are out to attack your values and beliefs. This just means that they like to put their point across strongly.

Chivalry and paying the check

Russian men are highly courteous towards women. They will always turn up on time, often hold doors open for their date, help them with their coats, and so on. It is also common for men to bring flowers for their date, but always an odd number. After all, Russians are a very superstitious group and believe that an even number of flowers will bring about misfortune.

Giving flowers on a date

Essentially, men will go to great lengths to impress a woman with their chivalrous behavior and impeccable manners. On the flip side, a man will also expect ladylike behavior from his date. Therefore, he won’t be impressed by outwardly ‘unfeminine’ antics, such as cursing profusely or smoking. A Russian man will always insist on paying the bill at the end of the evening, too. This shouldn’t be interpreted as a threat to your independence, though, but rather as a form of respect towards you.

Moving into a relationship

If you prefer to be fairly distant in relationships, then dating in Russia might not be for you. This is because couples generally act as partners in most pursuits. As a result, they tend to have less independence than in some other countries.

Meeting the family

The family unit is extremely important to people in Russia and women, in particular, value their parents’ opinions. As a result, they are usually eager to introduce their partner to their parents. This means that you may receive an invitation to meet the family sooner than you would normally expect. Russian women not only seek parental approval regarding their choice of partner, but they are also keen for them to spend time together. In fact, they often say that in Russia, you marry her family first! With this in mind, it’s incredibly important to make a good impression and try and understand that her family will now be yours. Furthermore, be prepared for the possibility that her family tree might sprawl across three or four generations. After all, Russia has a unique culture of intertwined families.

Getting married

Like in many European countries, Russian women are choosing to get married later in life. In fact, according to Rosstat data, the average woman in Russia gets married eight years later than she did a decade ago. Nowadays, the majority get married between the ages of 25 and 34. However, eight years ago, the most common age bracket was 18 to 24. This data also indicates a steady growth of Russian women who get married after the age of 35. Some of the reasons for this growing trend are thought to include education, career-building, unemployment, and a lack of people owning their own homes. Furthermore, more couples among the younger generation are choosing not to register their marriage.

The role of the family in dating

When it comes to starting a family in Russia, you will likely find that age-old traditions are extremely hard to shake. This is particularly true when it comes to the roles of men and women in the home.

Having children in Russia

Despite the trend towards marrying later in life, if at all, the older generation in Russia still sees family as the most important part of life. Therefore, it is important to understand that while your girlfriend might be happy to date for a prolonged period of time, her parents and grandparents will be asking her about marriage and children constantly. Indeed, Russian culture puts incredible pressure on women to tie the knot and have children at a young age.

A family in Moscow, Russia

That said, the age of first-time mothers is gradually increasing. For instance, statistics from the Federal State Statistics Service (Федеральная служба государственной статистики) show that in 2020, the average age of mothers at childbirth in Russia was 28.8 years; an increase of four years since 1995. Despite this change, though, you will struggle with most Russian women to maintain a serious long-term relationship without getting married and discussing children. Ultimately, there really isn’t a way around this cultural difference.

Gender roles in the family home

When it comes to domestic life, Russia has extremely old-fashioned and more clearly defined gender roles than most western countries. Essentially, men are supposed to be the breadwinners and provide for the family; meanwhile, women care for the children and the home. Women are generally known to be highly loyal and considerate towards their partners. They are also fiercely devoted to their families and more willing to settle into family life rather than pursuing their own careers.

Russian stay-at-home mom

As a result of this, they are also highly houseproud. In fact, the stereotype of the female being a great housekeeper is one of the primary reasons why maids aren’t as common in Russia as they are elsewhere. In this respect, Russia is far less advanced than its neighbors when it comes to gender equality. This may be hard to swallow as an expat; particularly if you are a woman moving to Russia from a more progressive country.

Although traditional gender roles for women might seem a little outdated and unfair, there is certainly an expectation for men to make up for it by being generous and chivalrous towards their partners. Generally speaking, you are likely to find that men fund their partner’s lifestyle. They will also adopt a highly chivalrous manner to sweep women off their feet. They also tend to be very ambitious and will strive for success in both their work and personal lives. Unfortunately, as a result of this, men are generally known to enjoy socializing and heavy drinking as a stress reliever; which often leads to serious health issues and is one of the main catalysts for divorce in Russia.