There Is No Such Thing as a ‘Mail Order Bride’

bride in front of laptop

“Mail Order Bride” is a huge misnomer. One of the worst since the naming of the koala bear (which isn’t really a bear) and fireflies (which aren’t flies, at all).

It’s been centuries since the conception of the term, and while we still use the term now, the meaning of it has completely changed.

Most people don’t understand what a mail order bride is and are just repeating what they heard from someone else. And it’s distorted further and further until what you’re left with is an incorrigible jumble of word spaghetti.

So, what’s the big deal with all the misunderstandings? Let’s clear it up.

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Where Did It Even Come From?

The word by itself has quite a lot of history behind it. In the old days, before the advent of the internet, women who came from well-developed areas of the East Coast of the United States would sometimes list themselves in mail order bride catalogs.

These were delivered, via mail, to men living in the American frontier lands. Hence the coinage of the term ‘mail-order bride’.

mail order brides

Today, obviously, hardly anyone in the world uses mail order catalogs anymore, but the term has so much inertia behind it that it would take someone pretty influential to change things up.

As you might then guess, there is a lot of misinformation attached to the whole concept.

Nobody expects to get a woman delivered to them by mail. I can’t even imagine communicating via actual mail, much less ordering something from a mail catalog. There is no Sears Roebuck catalog for women.

We are working on a ‘history of mail order brides’, where we will go into details on where the term ‘mail order bride’ originated from and why they were named the way they have been.

latin mail order brides

Mail Order Bride Myths

Before getting down to the reality of what this pursuit revolves around, it’s pretty helpful to realize how people think it works and dispel the myths that underlie it.

Mainstream media portrayals

If you go by the Daily Mail or any other mainstream news-site that has only done one article on the subject, you have already been misled.

Almost universally, these sites declare ‘mail order brides’ as women looking to scam men into being granted green cards and the men looking to get hitched are old, ugly, creeps unable to find love anywhere. Or even violent psychopaths.

sexy girls

But then again, the Daily Mail has historically been known to be anything but a reliable news source. It’s really more of a gossip tabloid than anything close to reputable.

In fact, it’s the same outlet that is so distrusted that it has been banned from being used as a citation from Wikipedia – one of the most visited (and most relied upon) websites in the world.

Can you really buy a bride?

Gossip rags aside, this industry is often thought of as transactional. I have money; I give someone money; they go fish for a random woman that fits my description somewhere; they bring her to me; I take her home; boom! New wife.

bride for sale

The obvious problem with this is that it just doesn’t work. Among other things, it would imply a sketchy source of unknown women. That would be human trafficking, which is both universally deplored and highly illegal.

Running a business like that in broad daylight would be impossible. Interpol and all manner of international enforcement agencies down your throat in a heartbeat.

In the end, this industry is anything but transactional. Oh, there can be money exchanging hands, of course. But that’s true of any internet dating, out there.

That said, this IS more expensive than using plentyoffish or another free, local dating site. There are costs for agencies, translators, trips, visas, all sorts of things. But those are costs paid for the pursuit of love, not for the actual person.

How It Really Works

Why are women looking for foreign men?

Outside mainstream media, things aren’t as complicated as they would like to make you think.

The dynamics of an international marriage should really be thought of more along the lines of international dating rather than a client-customer relationship.

gorgeous girl and green card

The gist of it is that there are women looking for foreign guys. The reasons vary. Some are in relatively poor countries like Vietnam.

Others are in countries with a sizeable GDP but an incredibly thick line between the rich and poor. Like India.

latin mail order brides

And some foreign women may actually be richer than their partners but from a culture where they feel repressed. Japan and China are the primary countries for this kind of relationship.

This is stereotyping and painting with broad strokes, of course. There are women from every country in the world that want foreign guys for various, individual reasons.

Other common reasons that women seek foreign partners are:

  • A worrying lack of laws against domestic violence (marital rape, for instance, is not recognized as a crime in a number of Asian countries).
  • The kind of economic landscape in their home countries doesn’t allow women the chance to prosper in the same way that men do.
  • Bad experiences with local guys and good experiences with foreigners.
  • An attraction to a specific foreign culture developed from exposure to foreign media or culture.

This contributes to the number of women looking for husbands and partners in less oppressive countries. A lot of it happens off the internet, too. But this often escapes the attention of the news.

The reasons differ quite a bit, but these capture the essence of what makes foreign men in particular so attractive to foreign women.

Why do western men look for foreign brides?

An industry with supply but no demand would be literally impossible to sustain. Which begs the question: what’s up with the popularity of international brides, all of a sudden?

mid aged man wedding

Just like women, a fair number of men have a difficult time finding a suitable partner in their own countries.

This often revolves less around cultural and economic barriers as with women seeking men. But more around men finding the best possible partners.

It is all too often the case that a man from a country like the US, Canada or Australia wants to get married but he’s spent pretty much his whole life trying to become successful, rather than dating.

Having become a success, he may now want to start a family with a younger woman. Or just explore the relationships he missed out on.

Other guys simply find that what they have to offer is more valued in foreign countries. That could be money.

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It could be his country or its culture. It could be that his looks, plain in his home country, are exotic in another (like blond hair and blue eyes in Asia).

Conversely, back at home, western women may be busy trying to become financially successful, themselves.

Nothing wrong with that but the result is that there are fewer women available. Especially young women in their 20s and 30s who might date an older guy.

With current western culture, women are more concentrated on their own lives and careers rather than when they will get married.

Since they don’t have the kind of energy that’s needed to look for and maintain a relationship with a younger girl, getting involved with someone from abroad is often easier. Or at a minimum, offers more choice.

At times, it’s more likely the man just wants to get into a relationship he’s sure is going to keep him settled. Rather than rolling dice and hoping for the best.

What Do the Statistics Say?

Are men looking for foreign brides really that old?

This really depends upon your definition of the word ‘old.’ A report by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (since renamed to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) sheds light on this.

mid age man and pretty girl

Released in 2004, it reports that the average man looking for a foreign bride is above the age of 35 but below the age of 60. Although it isn’t on the live site, it can still be accessed via an archive link here or a condensed version here.

This average male looking for a ‘mail-order bride’ makes $100k a year or more and is fed up with the dating scene in his local country. His main interest in a partner is someone that will take care of him and the home.

The golden age of the ‘mail order bride’ revolution was in the early 2000s. The industry exploded so rapidly that it has immigration officials worried about the potential effects of what it might do to the US economy.

mail order brides

In truth, there were about 4000 successful marriages each year. It was concluded to be insignificant compared to the hundreds of thousands of unsupported immigrants entering the U.S. every year.

international brides

The reason for this explosion was that the internet was suddenly accessible to a lot more people. They could access more than just contact information.

It gave way to dating sites, internet calls and webcams. This caused more women to be interested in foreign men. And vice versa.

But as with all things that there is a demand for, it also increased the opportunities for businesses to succeed. Thus, the rise of the mail order bride agencies.

And yes, despite the archaic term, most of them do still call themselves that. Even here on, we use the term for simplicities’ sake.

The 2012-2013 period is thought to have been the most successful in recent times, with sites receiving as much as 220% growth in the number of visitors per month.

There are estimated to be around 100,000 women seeking marriage to me in the US at any one time. Statistics regarding other countries are harder to come by.

And are scams that common?

Sadly, scams are really common. How to avoid such scams is something you will need to learn.

date at your own risk

And there is often danger on both sides of the equation. Men are often worried about getting scammed. And women are worried about the risks of abandoning their home and going to a foreign culture with a man they haven’t known their whole life.

For that reason, most reputable dating sites usually require men to agree to some form of a background check before they are allowed to meet with the women.

Usually, women are not subjected to the same treatment. This might explain the proliferation of men losing their money to non-existent people online.

However, as good statisticians, we mustn’t let the minority define what really happens. In the end, there is an ever-increasing demand for women looking to marry guys from the West and men from the West looking to get married to international brides. Sort of.

More supply of women than demand for men

It might amuse some, but according to the aforementioned study carried out by the now-defunct INS, one of the main reasons women were looking for foreign husbands, especially Americans, is because ‘they look like movie stars.’

Anyone that’s spent a significant amount of time in Asian countries like Vietnam can tell you just how positively American men are portrayed by the media. They are almost idolized.

sexy girl

That’s great and all – especially for the men, but it creates a really weird dynamic. One that’s almost impossible to come across in real life. There are more women looking for foreign husbands than the other way round. The impacts of this are pretty astounding.

Women take on far greater risk than you’d think to improve their chances of getting married to a foreign husband. Since they don’t have to submit to their local culture’s demand: they don’t have to pay dowry, for example.

All they need is to sign themselves up to a certain website and they are pretty much set. This makes the job a lot easier for the men since they know what they are getting themselves into.

Think of it as going out one night with the sole purpose of finding someone that wants the exact things as you and actually getting it. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

Divorce Rate with Mail Order Brides

Cue the drum rolls…

Mail order bride relationships have lower divorce rates than ‘normal’ marriages, according to a 2013 study published by Cambridge.

broken marriage

This despite the fact that they are more susceptible to domestic violence. On the other hand, such women are freer to separate in case of such occurrences in the US as compared to their home countries.

Reference Sources:

HealthResearchFunding.Org – Mail Order Brides Statistics

INS.Usdoj.Gov – The “mail-order bride” industry