Since dating Russians and Ukrainians has been getting so old, welcome to the Balkan extravaganza. And while actual Balkan girls hate getting mistaken for Russians, I get how it’s confusing for a foreigner. Which is where this article comes in.
I hear the American public school system sucks (but then again, very few countries boast great public education so I can’t judge). From my experience, the readers of Eastern European Travel are a bit more cultured than the average.
Still, here is a quick geography lesson, because as I couldn’t exactly place the 50 states on a map, either.
You have Europe.
Europe is a continent.
The European Union is a political entity within Europe and it includes countries from the West, the East, the South, the North, and the Centre of Europe.
Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are not members of the European Union. Ukraine is trying their damnedest to get in, while Russia and Belarus seem to be much less pro-EU. They are still in Europe (well, a huge part of Russia is in Asia but still) – Eastern Europe to be exact. The Balkan peninsula is also in Eastern Europe. Not all countries in it are member states of the EU. Not all of them are predominantly Slavic.
But ultimately, both Balkan and Slavic girls are from Eastern Europe. Some Balkan girls are also Slavic. We’ll get to that next.
There is a very particular image that’s associated with “Slavic girls”. Fair skin, light-coloured eyes (usually blue because true green eyes are super rare anyway), high cheekbones, slender.
Slavs, as Wikipedia defines them are:
An Indo-European ethno-linguistic group who speak the various Slavic languages of the larger Balto-Slavic linguistic group
A.k.a. they have the same ancestors (you’d have to look way back in time) and they speak similar languages. Most Slavs also share the same religion – Orthodox Christianity, but Roman Catholicism and Islam are also present among them.
We divide Slavs into Eastern, Western, and Southern. The confusing part is that geographically speaking, they all live in the East/Centre of Europe. Here is who’s who:
You see, they are East, West, or South relative to each other.
But, as you might have noticed, “South Slavs” actually live in the Balkans.
The Balkan Peninsula is a geographic term. “The Balkans” refers to the countries within the peninsula. These include:
Some countries in the Balkans are predominantly Slavic. Others are not.
When it comes to Balkan culture, it does have a Slavic influence. The other major influence comes from the Ottoman Empire. It controlled most of the peninsula for nearly five centuries. You’ll notice a lot of Turkish origin food, words, and customs in the Balkans.
Apart from Slavic and Ottoman Turkish influence, you also have national traits. Greeks are not Slavic, and neither are Romanians, or (obviously) Turkish people. Even among Slavic countries on the Balkans, there are cultural differences.
Ultimately, you can’t build a universal image of Balkan girls.
Most countries on the Balkans have had turbulent last five-six centuries. Unlike Russia, which was always a world power (be it under the tsar, or under the Bolsheviks), most of these countries have had to struggle for their independence.
Turkey is the obvious exception here but it was still involved in a lot of conflict in the last century.
As someone who was born and raised in the Balkans (go, Bulgaria!), it’s tough for me to be impartial when talking about Balkan history. If you decide to look into it, you’ll find that us, Bulgarians, have a couple of reasons to dislike Romanians, Serbs, Turks, Greek people…pretty much all of our neighbours.
And Bulgaria is a fairly peaceful country.
You have to remember that not two decades ago there was an actual war on the Balkans – when Yugoslavia was breaking up. This conflict is very recent. In the countries that participated, there is still actual, palpable hatred towards the opposing side.
For instance, “Bosnian”, “Croatian”, and “Serbian” are all the same language. They have some differences but not enough to justify calling them separate. However, Bosniaks do get offended if you say they speak Serbian, and so do Croatians.
National identity and national pride are incredibly important in the Balkans.
Here is your way to cheat the system. I am yet to meet any Balkan girl (or Balkan person for that matter), who isn’t incredibly proud of her respective country. But it’s not just a matter of knowing and loving your own identity. It’s also about being better than others.
In the Balkans, every shopping centre is “the biggest on the Peninsula” or “has the largest cinema/food counter/Forever 21/number of water fountains/ insert any other random characteristic”. You’d think I’m joking. Spend some time on the Balkans and you’ll see that the joke is funny because it’s true.
Hence, one of the most flattering things you can say to Balkan girls is:
I traveled all over the Balkan region and your country is 100% my favourite.
It works wonders. We love to hear that we’re the best. And, once you tell a girl that, she’d try thrice as hard to prove her country’s superiority.
(You can also use the same general tactics to make friends with local guys and build a social circle).
If you’re into psychology, you know that people love proving themselves. If you tell a colleague “I know I can always count on you to get the reports on time!”, they are much more likely to actually follow the deadline.
Well, that’s the same principle applied to Balkan girls. Speaking of being the best:
Women on the Balkans are beautiful, hands down. Some notable examples include Nina Dobrev (Bulgarian!), Milla Jovovich (half-Serbian, half-Russian), even Jennifer Anniston is half-Greek.
But most Balkan girls don’t just rely on natural beauty. They are high maintenance and proud of it. To illustrate that with a story, my grandma told me she’d hide a comb under her pillow. She’d always wake up before my grandfather, comb out her hair, check if her breath is fresh, and then wait for him to awake.
Of course, combing your hair is hardly high-maintenance. It just goes to show how important grooming is to Balkan women – important enough to not even let your husband see you in your natural state.
And I know what you’re thinking:
Yes, Russian women are also big on maintenance. All Slavic girls are.
The difference here is that Balkan girls are perfectionists in other aspects of their lives, too. Maybe I should have called the previous section “Miss Independent” instead of type A.
Both are true.
Balkan girls grew up in a difficult economy.
Some might have been lucky but the large majority started their lives out very modestly. The situation has improved since. Still, both men and women are expected to work full-time. Stay-at-home moms are rare, if not completely non-existent in most Balkan countries. Girls are raised to value education and career, just as much as they value looks and relationships.
Here is the thing: Balkan women are the best of both worlds.
They are feminine, family-orientated, and caring like their Russian and Ukrainian counterparts.
But, they’re also driven, smart, and ambitious like Western ladies.
And here’s yet another illustration of this that comes from my grandma. She was born in a tiny village, orphaned at a young age, and originally went to culinary school. Her ambition, however, was always “to work in an office and do something prestigious”. So she did, she started as a secretary in a transport “company”. That’s back during socialist times, hence the quotes around the word company. She quickly climbed the corporate ladder.
When communism fell, the firm was privatised but my grandma stayed as a manager. Up until she retired (and even a little after that, she stayed extra time), grandma managed a company that ran transportation services throughout Europe. Her team was predominantly male and they all had the utmost respect for her.
But while this is all very admirable, her home, husband, and children had always been a priority.
“A woman should work, why not, but she should first be a wife to her husband and a mother to her children”.
And, while grandma is absolutely awesome, she’s not an exception. Most Balkan girls are raised like this.
PS: To meet Balkan girls, I suggest you start right here.
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