Interview by Charlie Morton
Elenasmodels.com is one of the oldest and most respected sites international dating sites. We have worked closely with Elean’s Models since 2009 and we are happy to be able to publish this interview with Elena Petrova, the founder of Elena’s Models.
Elena Petrova Founder of Elena's Models
In this interview she does a great job of explaining her background, how Elena’s agency came into being, and how her company is different from other dating agencies. We tried to ask her the sort of questions you would want to ask her if you had the chance. To see what sort of person she is and what makes her company special.
This interview was conducted by email. The comments in italics are my commentary on her answers. I believe that they help reinforce Elena’s points and will make the interview more useful for most of our readers here at Internationallovescout.com.
You have often discussed your own experience as a so-called “mail order bride,” but I believe our readers would really like to understand your experience better. So, please, tell us a little about where you are from and what your own experience as an international bride was like? Why did you decide to seek a man from overseas? What surprised you about your experience?
Well, I actually didn't know I was a "mail order bride" until I got married to my husband and started reading online sources in English. It was only then that I discovered there was such a phrase.
I am from Yekaterinburg, Russia, which is a city of about 1.5 million people about 1000 miles from Moscow.
Wow! That is way out in Siberia.
I decided to look for a partner abroad after I had been hearing about opportunities to meet foreign men for marriage for many years. Probably, about 5-6 years. At first, I thought it was a total scam, just to take your money.
Yes! Women are just as concerned about being scammed as men, and with good reason. It takes courage for a young woman to decide she is going to sign up with an international dating agency and to decide to move to the far side of the world to find a man. It is a gigantic decision and I believe this is something men should really keep in mind from their first contact with a lady. If you keep this forefront in your mind it will really help you understand what the ladies you meet are really thinking.
I saw ads in local newspapers placed by foreign dating sites inviting women to join, and also ads from foreign men seeking women in Russia, but I was too skeptical to try it myself.
Then some of my girlfriends tried it, and they were rather plainly looking and mostly unsuccessful in love with local guys, and they got lots of interest from foreigners, who were quite good looking, had good jobs, and really wanted to get married and have families. But I thought my English was too bad, so I didn't even try.
Even with all of the new technology, like Google Translate, the language gap is still very real. I try to encourage men to learn at least a little Russian or Ukrainian before they visit. I know it is something women still worry about a lot.
Then I talked to one guy who graduated from the department of foreign languages of University, and he said lots of his former female classmates married Americans and Europeans, and he was so surprised, because, as he said, "they [the girls] were really not that good looking". I also considered myself to be pretty average-looking, so that made me think, maybe...
But even then I didn't try, although my results in dating local men were overwhelmingly disappointing. For example, I met once a really nice guy through a personal ad, at the end of the first date he said I was exactly what he was looking for... Him and his mates needed to "save" a friend from the hands of some "horrible bitch", who was just getting presents and gifts from him, and he said they would tell me what to do and how to get this guy, so that he would dump that girl they didn't like. True story.
Then there were men who were married, who came to a date, guys in their thirties living with their moms...
One of my girlfriends kept pestering me to make photos to put on dating sites to meet foreign men, for months. By that time one of our mutual friends met a guy from France and even went to visit him in Paris.
So, I knew it was possible. I agreed to make photos with my girlfriend, and then sent the photos to a few dating sites that advertised in Russia. I also wrote to a few men, whose ads I found in newspapers. And after about 18 months since I started my search for a partner, I got married to one of these guys that I contacted myself.
From my discussions with women this is a very common sort of story for Eastern European women. They usually do not start off envisioning a western man as their romantic match until they have been disappointed with local guys. Then friends or family encourage them to consider the option of international dating.
When I started my search, I was 27, and when I got married I was 29. In Russia, women over 25 were considered "too old" for marriage at that time. In fact, over 22 girls were already viewed as "too old" for marriage and family.
So, I was getting lots of questions from my family and relatives about getting married and having kids, and there was a lot of pressure to find a husband. I actually thought I would never get married. I was thinking about adopting a child, if I hadn't found a partner by 33.
This is another issue that men often do not consider, but it is often the primary concern for Slavic women above about 25.
I was seen as an "old maid", pretty useless, even though I had a good job and earned good money as a regional manager of a marketing company. It was a pretty desperate move on my part, to try the search for a partner abroad. I just didn't know what else could I do to find a partner.
I was surprised by the amount of responses I got from foreign men. And the men were so nice! I could not believe there were so many nice men wanting to have a family and settle down.
It was a great boost to my self-esteem. So, dating and communicating with foreign men was a very pleasant experience for me. And when I got married and I was so happy, this inspired me to start a dating site for women from Eastern Europe to meet western men.
Do you believe women today still have more or less the same experience that you had or have things changed? Are women still signing up with your site for the same reasons that you’re signed up with an agency?
Things changed a lot in the countries of the former Soviet Union since then. Now every girl has a smart phone and uses Internet, and when I was dating, I was writing letters by mail to guys, I didn't even have a computer.
So, it's much easier to meet and connect with foreign men now. And the ability to meet a partner from a foreign country is well known, most women know someone who got married to a foreigner and moved overseas, it's quite a regular occurrence. People are much more mobile today than 20 years ago. Russian and Ukrainian girls travel overseas a lot. So, I would say, it's 10 times simpler to date internationally today than it was 20 years ago.
But the motives why women join Elenasmodels.com today are still basically the same. The age limit for being "too old" for marriage have risen a bit: Now it's 27 instead of 22-25. But after 27 women are viewed as "too old".
And if you are 30, then everyone assumes that "your train has left". So, there are a lot of challenges for Slavic women to find a long-term partner and a serious relationship, once they pass that 27-year-old mark. And ladies who are 35+ complain that they are not viewed as women anymore in their home countries, but some kind of non-gender person.
In recent years, since 2014, the economics of Russia and Ukraine also experienced a type of "economic crisis" as they call it, so people earn about 50% less than before and it's even harder to find a single guy who has a good, stable job and can provide for a family. There are both financial and demographical pressures, with more women than men.
These financial and demographic issues are certainly part of the story why more Russian and Ukrainian women are considering international dating again.
So, your experience inspired you to start Elena’s Models, but what did you try to focus on to differentiate your company from other competitors in the market? Another way to say that is, what makes Elena’s Models special?
Right now Elena's Models is one of only a few dating sites that still do not charge for communication. In other words, there is no "pay per letter" or PPL, as most other Eastern European dating sites charge.
There are a lot of problems with PPL, mostly the fact that such sites use local agents who find it easier to earn money by hiring impersonators to correspond with men. Because of payments per letter, it's possible to hire people to pose as "brides".
This is the classic “letter bride” scam that was common at one time and is still a concern. Other companies take a different approach to the issue, but Elena’s solution completely removes the incentive for the letter scam.
Elenasmodels.com charges a one-time flat membership fee, so there is no pay per letter. We have absolutely no agents, women register directly. We don't pay any commissions to agents, don't pay anyone for profiles.
This also makes it easier to budget what you want to spend. It is an important consideration and a nice feature.
At the same time, we check and interview personally women who register, either by phone or via Skype. We also check women's documentation during Skype interviews. It takes about 45 minutes for our personnel to approve one woman's profile.
So, we do a lot of work to ensure women are really interested to meet someone, and do it for the right reasons, and they are not just profiles uploaded by some agents. Also, we do not allow on our site women who have active profiles on PPL sites. Only the ladies who want to meet a partner directly, without any agents.
This is the primary reason we give Elena’s such high ratings. Elena and her staff make an extraordinary effort to weed out scammers and protect men from unscrupulous women.
Now, virtually all of our readers are men, so what do you think they should now about Eastern European women, the little detail that get overlooked in all of the information out there?
I think most information will be already covered on your site, so guys would do well if they read as much as they can.
Yes! I could not have said it better myself.
But the simplest thing to know about Eastern European women, they are brought up since they were little girls that they will be happy when they get married and have kids.
It is what every young woman believes she needs for happiness, a husband and her own family. And if she doesn't have her own family and a husband, she feels sad and unfulfilled.
This is why, if women could not get married at home, some of them come to the idea of trying to find a partner abroad. And they do it not just to have fun or correspond online, but to build a real relationship with a man and get married eventually, create a family.
What are the biggest mistakes men make when they introduce themselves to a woman online?
For men dating Eastern European women, they need to realize that women who list profiles on international dating sites like Elena's Models, these ladies are not simply there to chat or for fun, but they really want to find a man for a serious relationship and eventually get married to him, preferably within 6-18 months.
Yes, they are prepared to make it happen rather quickly. So, if you start chatting to them as you got used to on local dating sites, they see you as "not serious". And then it may not work at all. That's probably the biggest mistake.
The second big mistake, men don't sound serious. Women actually need to hear that you want to get married and you are ready to meet in person quite soon, and you understand what needs to happen, to make it possible.
Some guys still think women are desperate to immigrate, which is not true. If they wanted to immigrate, they would go to the Embassy and applied for an immigration visa, it's quite straightforward. All countries have skilled migration programs and many women on our site would have qualified for an immigrant visa.
But that's not what they seek. They seek a partner for life, a husband, someone to create a family with, which is actually a much more complex task than simply to immigrate to another country.
So, they really dream to fall in love with a man. And if a man thinks differently, like he thinks women just want to immigrate, it's hard for him to connect with women on the level they expect.
I agree the Russian women I have met are on dating sites for the most romantic of reasons. Most of them are not doing badly at home, but they dream of something amazing. They want a special romantic relationship and if a man is too cynical and suspicious it will never work out. As you mentioned above, the financial and demographic reasons are important, but ultimately Slavic women want romance and they will generally not settle for a relationship without romance. I believe Elena would agree with that statement.
What are the biggest mistakes men make when they actually meet a woman they first contacted on your site? What sort of feedback do you get from women about positive and negative surprises they have when the real meetings?
The first thing, which men don't realize, is that they have to give flowers to a woman on the first date. For Eastern European women, no flowers on the first date means the man doesn't respect her.
Other things are courting a woman, which means opening doors for her, offering your hand when exiting transport, carrying her luggage, bags (except the handbag). If you don't do it, the woman again thinks you do not value her and do not respect her, or she thinks you are rude and have bad manners.
Good feedback from women is when a guy is really caring and attentive towards her, trying to make it comfortable for her. These things are pretty straightforward, but in western countries men are scared to court a woman, like they are scared to open doors for her or move a chair, because they think the woman may get offended, as if she was viewed as incapable. Truth is, Eastern European women are offended if you don't court them, not if you do.
This is very good advice. You need to show the lady that you are serious about her. Treat her like she is important to her. In the United States and many other western nations dating has become less and less formal over time, but that is most certainly not the case in Eastern Europe. You have to court the woman – woo her – if you want to win her heart.
So, do you have any idea of how many weddings have occurred because of people who have met on your site? And are they generally successful?
We have 1-3 couples sending us their wedding photos every month. You can read our success stories; we publish them all the time. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
Most people quickly delete or hide their profiles, usually within a few weeks, because they have met someone they want to pursue a relationship with. If we were counting all people who deleted or hidden their profiles every week because they have met someone, it's dozens of potential couples, and then they take their relationships off the site, and talk through Skype or personal email, or apps.
Well, maintaining a relationship always takes work, but do you think there are any special pitfalls for international couples, things you have noticed over the years?
Meeting someone internationally for a serious relationships, surprisingly, can be simpler and faster than local dating. Because when people join an international dating site, they do it with serious intentions, they have tried local dating and didn't succeed, but they really want a partner, and they are ready to make it happen.
It is probably easier to meet someone suitable for a lifetime partnership internationally, because women are prepared to move for a relationship, and there are thousands of good candidates. Locally, you only have so many people, and most women don't want to move, even to another suburb.
What about pitfalls, people usually think about the language barrier, but this is normally the least of worries. Couples who are attracted to each other can communicate surprisingly well.
Cultural adjustments are also not such a problem, as inventions and conveniences are quickly available everywhere, at least in Eastern European countries these things are available. Keeping in touch with the family back home is not a problem with Skype and apps.
I would say the biggest problem for new couples are expectations. The standard of life to expect in a new country; women often may think it should be way higher, but as I said, conveniences and inventions spread quickly, and a woman from a large city like Kiev or Moscow could have higher life standards than somewhere in Midwestern America.
It's worth for a man to describe his life in details, what he does, where here lives, how he entertains, so that there are no failed expectations. If a woman knows what to expect, she is prepared mentally. Otherwise, many girls think that Hollywood movies show reality. If you tell the woman about your routines and what you expect your life as a couple to become, she can create a more realistic image.
Now, do you cover most of these issues for men in your VIP Coaching Program? I am very curious about that program because I believe most men need some help. What are the highlights of that program?
Yes, my VIP Coaching Program covers all these things — and more. There are conflict resolution skills that every new couple needs, and also information on adaptation in a new country, ways how a woman can stop feeling like a stranger and able to quickly find friends and get engaged in her new life.
Plus it covers all the steps of courtship in detail, and the way to easily build a relationship with an Eastern European woman is structured courtship, this makes a woman feel safe and comfortable. If you follow the steps, simply do the things one by one, it works.
One client of the VIP program said he didn't 100% understand why he needed to do certain things, but he did them anyway, and it worked out great for him. You may not understand why you need to do it, but for a woman, it's like a tick box — she needs to tick this box to move to the next stage. This is what the VIP Coaching Program does for men, it gives them all the steps and makes it easy to succeed.
I endorse Elena’s coaching program, because I know she is a real expert. Romance is a hard and complicated problem. It is at least as complicated as many of the other issues that we would not think of tackling without professional help. We regularly hire doctors, lawyers, mechanics, and plumbers, but for some reason we all believe we should just naturally be good at romance. Well, if you realize that you need a little help finding the love of your life I highly recommend Elena’s VIP Coaching Program.
Finally, what would you like to tell men who are considering pursuing an Eastern European woman today?
You are definitely able to meet an amazing woman in Eastern Europe, who dreams of being a good wife for a loving man. If you wish to get married and have a family, you can meet a quality woman and build a great relationship.
It may seem like a big task, but in reality it's simple and lots of men have done it, and now they are happily married with kids. So, if you begin with the view that it's possible and probable, and you are able to do it, then you will succeed.