The origins of American “mail order brides” date back 400 years to the time when the Virginia Company was having trouble keeping its colony at Jamestown populated. As the settlers were primarily male, many would return to England to find wives, while others absconded with Native American women (think Pocahontas).
So the company started to recruit eligible bachelorettes from England and ship them across the Atlantic, where they had their pick of the men. The settlers paid a hefty fee for the arrangement.
Nowadays mail order marriages are almost always cross-cultural, but the expectation that the grooms should be relatively wealthy still persists.
Take the recent “international dating club” established by Mei Aisi, a Chinese man with a Ukrainian wife.
Mei earned fame in China in 2014 when he began posting pictures of his modelesque wife, Daria, on social media. “Chinese people couldn’t believe a guy as ugly and academically unsuccessful as me could have a gorgeous wife like that,” he said. Soon men were asking him how they could find a ‘Belt and Road’ bride too, so Mei launched the Ulove Club to introduce them to Ukrainian women. Much like the old colonists, they pay a hefty fee: Rmb96,000 ($14,520) for annual membership, or Rmb300,000 for VIP status, and an additional Rmb69,000 for each matchmaking event.
The club provides some basic lessons in Chinese for its female members, as well as some coaching on potential culture clashes.
Mei has dismissed jibes that he is running a mail order bride service or worse, that he is a pimp for an “international prostitute ring”. He also claims that his dating club is less materialistic than the matchmaking scene in China, where parents gather in local parks to promote their children as potential spouses. “They talk about how many cars or houses the men have and advertise a man’s wealth and use material things as bargaining chips for a relationship… they’re the ones engaging in a business transaction,” he told Jiemian News.
The Daily Mail spoke to two former members, who are now dating, and got some perspective on why Ukrainian women would want a Chinese husband. One woman said that Chinese men are more caring and respectful than Ukrainian men. “In their culture, family comes first. Their temperament is gentle and they are willing to spend more time with their girlfriend”.
Meanwhile a Chinese member put the fees in perspective. “If we use the soaring property prices in China’s first-tier cities as a benchmark, the membership fee at Ulove is only the cost of a kitchen. It’s definitely worth spending that to find the love of my life.”
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