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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Expatriate Games: Looking for Love

Somewhere within the Outer Ring Road, they are meeting each other.


In dollar bars and glossy faux dives all over the city, Moscow's single expatriates are exchanging business cards, doing lunch and dancing until dawn. Some have found romance; some just have a lot of business cards.


But they are all out there. The number of nightclubs in Moscow has climbed to 300, according to Steve Botto, manager of Manhattan Express. Entertainment options from platonic coffee clear through to sunrise breakfast are popping up all over.


Needless to say, most young foreigners did not come here for the nightlife, but to jump-start their careers. "Moscow is not somewhere you go to hang out," pointed out British businessman Simon Bell, 27. "It is not a charming city." Under the circumstances, he added, "I am amazed at how much fun I am having."


Everyone agrees that Moscow's expatriate community is rarefied and self-selecting, with a high quotient of post-Ivy-Leaguers and little genuine bohemianism, but not everyone is pleased with the pickings.


Others said the expatriate singles scene had proven quite fulfilling. "I am only meeting interesting people, educated people, exciting people, glamorous people," said American executive Neil Glick, 24. "I am having a fabulous time." Still, after having a fabulous time for almost two years, Glick's nuggets of social advice were along these lines: "Come with an open mind," he said. "Always have something to read."


For those navigating the singles scene in Moscow, here are some insights, straight from the trenches:


?Supply/Demand. Although proportions vary between different sectors of the expatriate universe, most interviewees said there were more single men than single women here. As a result, heterosexual men complained that they have a far narrower field to choose from.


In other words, said an Englishman who would not give his name, "If your ideal partner is somebody of a similar age and background as yourself, statistics are not on your side."


On the other hand, among expatriates, men are more likely to date Russians -- and some Western women complained about that statistical discrepancy.


"I know very few American men who haven't dated a Russian woman," said Nina Holst, 25, who has lived in Russia for two years. Because of profound cultural differences, "Russian men are not always appealing to Western women, so that leaves you a pretty small selection."


?Where they meet. Four years ago, when American Martina Vandenberg, 25, first lived in Moscow, "the hot place to hang out was the Beriozka" (the Soviet era stores catering to foreigners), and most late-night carousing centered around the kitchen table.


Since then, and especially in the course of the last two years, entertainment options have exploded.


"It's not going to be what you left at home," said Karin Decloux, manager of the Sports Bar. But "if you are the adventurous type, you can do just about anything and everything here."


Indeed. Club 011, a sweaty late-night dance club, is a bad place for serious conversation but a good place to meet members of the armed forces. The Hermitage and Pilot offer bigger dance floors, more personal space and live music most nights. Manhattan Express, with its $30 cover charge, caters to a better-groomed crowd, and woos foreigners with free-entry Expat Night every Thursday.


New night spots appear likely to shake up the dance club circuit -- notably Santa Fe, a complex offering numerous atmospheres that evoke the old American southwest to different degrees. Rosie O'Grady's, an Irish pub, has developed as much customer loyalty as any place in town. And Moscow's hunger for a bohemian coffeehouse has recently been satisfied by the Cafe Capputchino on Suvorovsky Bulvar.


The future of Moscow nightlife is breakfast -- Azteca Restaurant now offers a $2.99 breakfast special, and the American Bar and Grill ("ABAG" to the truly hip) starts serving pancakes at 4 A.M.


A brief survey of the city's most popular pick-up spots revealed this: "From my experience? Patio Pizza," said Julie Stahoviak, 27, president of AIDS Infoshare Russia. "That is so frightening. The salad bar at Patio Pizza."


Still, most young foreigners agreed that their most fulfilling evenings have taken place not in bars, but in kitchens, "groaning Vysotsky," as Vandenberg said. The best experiences happen "when you get up the courage to do something that puts you in and around Russia," said John Clough, 26, a communications manager at Baker & McKenzie.


?Changing of the guard. Like a good summer camp, Moscow features near-constant population turnover, meaning -- among other things -- that most expatriates are not shopping for silver patterns. After two years, Holst said, she still knows very few people who have entered into serious, long-term relationships with other expatriates they have met here.


"A group of people comes in at the same time. Then once somebody starts leaving, the whole group slowly starts fading out," said Stephanie Rapp, 25, who works at Ernst & Young. "You can make an effort, but in the back of everyone's mind there's the idea that, 'Well, I'm leaving soon, this isn't a forever-type thing.'"


?Hope springs eternal. Still, come Saturday night, the Hermitage will fill up by about 1:30 A.M., and the salad bar at Patio Pizza will continue to be patronized by Moscow's most eligible. And if you're thinking of getting a table at the American Bar and Grill, you can expect a lengthy wait.


Besides, expatriates may be stuck with each other. Bell, who says he has lived overseas for most of his life, said that after a certain number of years expats become a race unto themselves. So they may as well mingle.