Advice for matrimonial tourists

A few Sundays ago, we had an American visitor in English language Sunday School. He was starting a three-month trip around Scandinavia and the Baltics. Travelling around for thee months sounds good to me, but he felt the need to tell us the motivation for his journey: ‘I’ve come here to find a wife.’

It would be funny if he were the first one. I can count six such searchers in the last seven years (not including former missionaries who have come back for the summer). Of these six men, one was French and one was Irish: the rest were American. Their ages have ranged from late 20s to late 40s. They all had some reason for choosing Finland as their happy hunting ground. One guy came here on holiday and ‘couldn’t believe how beautiful the women were!’ Another saw pictures from a friend’s mission and ‘just fell in love with Finnish women!’ A third was on Temple Square and met a sister missionary from Finland and said, ‘The Holy Ghost told me I would find my eternal companion in Finland!’ And I have to emphasize this point: the single brothers shared these stories of romantic inspiration in priesthood meetings and Sunday School classes. [1]

So for anyone thinking about going to another country on an active wife hunt, let me give a couple of pieces of advice.

  1. Don’t do it. There are several reasons why this is a bad idea; let me run through a few. First…how can I put this gently? The issues that may have made dating and marriage challenging wherever you’ve come from won’t disappear in another country. Second, while there may possibly be some countries where being American may be a strong draw for a woman, Finland is not one of them — in fact, its more likely to be an impediment. Third, different cultures have different concepts of dating, and ‘the direct approach’ that seemed to work out for your friends at BYU may annoy and alienate everyone who meets you, male and female alike. Fourth, while in your head it may sound really flattering to say that the women of a country are very pretty thus you want to marry one, coming out of your mouth it’s creepy and idiotic.
  2. If you do go abroad looking for a wife, don’t tell everyone you are looking for a wife. If you’re unable to see that for yourself, I don’t really know how to explain why this is a really bad idea. You’ll have to trust me. Instead, tell people that you want to see the world, or you want to learn a language, or you’re doing research for a book, or you’re collecting butterflies for crying out loud, but never ever announce that you are looking for a wife. Even in priesthood meeting. It may seem odd to you, but many of the men in priesthood will talk to women, and word will get around.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have an admission to make: I did come to Finland single, and I did marry a Finnish woman. My wife is beautiful, intelligent, strong and kind, and we have a nearly idyllic family life. If you are looking to me as a success story to emulate, let me make this part perfectly clear: I did not come to Finland to find a wife, and this is important, I never at any time stood up in a church meeting and said, ‘I have come to Finland looking for a wife.’

I hope this is helpful.

[1] What do the first five men have in common? They all left Finland without a wife. I’ll let you know about number six in late July.


  1. StillConfused says:

    You have definitely made my Monday morning!!! Thank you so much for this. Also, don’t come up to a woman and say that God has told you that she are supposed to marry you. Even if you think that is the case… keep that to yourself.

  2. sister blah 2 says:

    Wow, Michael-Scott-level-cluelessness dude(s) on exotic Wife Safari in Finland. Yikes. I wish I could say I’m surprised that something like this would go on. In consideration of my single LDS women friends and family in the states, I have to say this:

    Men, DON’T LISTEN TO NORBERT!! If you are having no luck in LDS singles wards, and you’ve been told repeatedly that you’re clueless and boorish, going to another country will solve ALL your problems! The only reason Norbert’s 6 examples didn’t succeed is that they didn’t stay long enough. Trust me.

  3. I agree do not do it. Marriage relationships in my view need to develop naturally.

  4. Awesome.

  5. MAN! Where were you BEFORE I spent 6 grand of my student-loan money booking that trip to Scandanavia and Southeast Asia?

    I hate non-refundable travel agency policies.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    I really enjoyed this one, Norbert.

    You would think that instead of just flying to some place like Finland for three months, they would first engage in a correspondence with one or more prospects from one of the LDS singles websites, and after having made some friends go for a visit to see whether anything romantic might develop. At least, it seems to me that doing something like that would goose up the odds of success a little bit.

  7. Wow. Just wow.

    and – #2: NICE!

  8. Norbert, Your disclaimer in paragraph #3, is weakened by “The Plan” you outlined in #2! :)

  9. But what if I’m a woman looking for a husband? Then can I come to RS and announce I am looking for a husband?

  10. KB- I think there is a certain exoticness factor in marrying foreigners to men. The internet is only a geekiness factor.

  11. #2, sister blah, that’s just not very nice. Not nice at all.
    I mean, why should we be the ones who have to leave? If we, the creepy old guys, weren’t there (in the singles ward), just think what would happen to the congregation. The females would then feel free to walk around individually since they no longer had to travel in packs for protection from Homo sapien creepicus. The younger males wouldn’t be motivated to date, because the examples of what you become (the creepy old guy in the singles ward) would be removed, and the whole system would then just reinvent itself. The non-dating males would age, becoming creepy, thereby forcing the females back into the pack system. So the only thing that I can really see happening is a temporary dip in the marriage stats, not an actual solution to the problems you presented. Well, not in the long-term at least.

  12. SB2
    The real problem is they picked Finland, a well off country with a high standard of living and satisfied women. Now if they had picked Moldova…

  13. John Mansfield says:

    Of course, planes cross the Atlantic in both directions. A nice young LDS man from Ireland came to work in Maryland last summer, and the end result is that our stake president’s daughter now lives in Ireland as his wife. I’m told he has several brothers who did the same thing and are all married to American LDS women.

  14. Latter-day Guy says:

    Well, that would work, John. Due to the accent alone.

  15. I hear BYU is a popular tour site.

  16. A family member of mine has married two different women from foreign countries because American women are too worldly and self-centered. Actually, the full explaination of his reasoning behind dating internationally could go on for hours. I’ll spare you.

    I became friends with the first wife and was torn to shreds by the family when I was still friendly after the divorce, so I’m staying away from the second wife. I’m sure she’s perfectly nice. I’m also sure she is going to be very unhappy.

    The fact that his wives don’t speak English well enough to be horrified at his selfish, weird thought process has been an essential element in both relationships and has made marriage possible. The first marriage ended fairly shortly after his wife became fluent enough to share her thoughts and understand his. I hope it goes better this time. (Not holding my breath though.)

  17. Peter LLC says:

    You make some good suggestions regarding tactics–don’t make it obvious you are wife hunting.

    Still, by going out into the mission field, prospective husbands can take advantage of the dearth of qualified male members of the church in the gospel’s hinterlands. Clearly these brothers will need to branch out beyond the nordic capitals where single women still maintain hopes of temple marriage without too much cognitive dissonance and go for the really isolated branches where available sisters are waiting for their White Knight, even if he is from Payson and works part time at Nuskin.

  18. Single Sister says:

    Being almost fifty years old, my “criteria” for having a mate has narrowed down incredibly. From a lengthy list of “must haves” I’ve whittled it down to just two:

    They have to be breathing and having a job.

    And I’m flexible about the job.

  19. Single Sister (18)–My unnamed relative has assured me that ALL American women are men-haters and too picky. Are you from Canada?

  20. When we were about to start our missions in Mexico, we heard a talk from a sister from there who begged us not to marry the best sisters in Mexico and take them to the US since they need good strong members there more than we do here.

  21. Single Sister says:

    #19 – Yep, I’m a Canuck. How did you know? Did I throw some Canadian spelling in there somewhere?

  22. StillConfused says:

    #18 — I have the perfect man for you then. As long as you don’t mind supporting him and his children because he is too tired to work. Just give the word and I will send him your way.

  23. #5 – When I went to BYU I heard that if you graduate single you are eligible for a tuition refund. I’m still waiting for my check.

  24. sister blah 2 says:

    Some cheapskate creeps try to skirt the expense of going overseas by seeking out foreign women who have moved to the States. A friend of mine from college, in an ill-advised fit of new convert zeal, transfered to BYU shortly after her baptism. She was endlessly harassed by RMs from Asian missions who would approach her and try to chat her up in their mission tongue. Unfortunately for them, she is like 3rd generation US citizen and doesn’t speak a word. That, and a several other experiences on the continuum from awkward to racist, sent her fleeing back.

  25. You know, dating someone from another area of the world does get around the problem of unknowingly dating relatives. I dated two different girls who turned out to be 3rd cousins (eww). When they’re close enough to meet at family reunions, that’s too close. Maybe I’m just squeamish. Of course, after I got married I found out my wife was my 5th cousin, but I can live with that.

  26. If any of these guys succeed, and want an immigration lawyer to help get the lovely lady into the U.S., I’m standing by ready to help.

    Besides, it’s not really you they want. It’s that green card. So, it pays to do the one thing you can to make them happy.

    And BruceC (Cousin BruceC, anyone?)–you needn’t worry. Most states laws banning consanguinous marriage stop at brother-sister, aunt-uncle, and ancestor-descendant. First cousins are fine, by the law. A friend of mine married his second cousin. And she was pretty fine, too. Still is.

  27. The law is one thing, but that doesn’t change the eww factor (for me at least). I’d ask who else would be sqeamish about this, but I guess that would be the subject of another post.

  28. Jami, maybe you could buy your relative this poster. It might help him quiet down about those darn American women, or it might create a huge chasm in your relationship with him.

  29. SS (21) Yep, I could tell by your accent.

    Regarding marrying close relatives, we finally got the idea through to my daughter (6) who is in love with love that she could not marry her brothers or her father. They are just too closely related. A couple days ago she asked me if she she was allowed to marry the neighbor or if it would make her kids “turn out funny” because he lived so close to us. I resisted the urge to tell her that she needed to choose a husband from at least a few door farther down the street if she wanted her children to turn out normal.

  30. One cannot overestimate the effect of a European man accent on an American woman. It would work.

  31. Mark B. (26): I too agree that matrimonial tourism is clearly a bad idea, but you must realize that your comment is offensive to many Mormons both in the United States and abroad. Foreigners are not always as eager to obtain a green card as you might think. In fact, many of them don’t care much for the U.S. at all…

  32. #28 – Awesome site, Starfoxy. Thanks.

  33. Starfoxy (28),
    Sometimes I wonder if I’m going to hell because I like that site so much. Maybe I’ll give the poster to my relative as a present after wife #2 learns to speak English.

  34. it’s better those type of guys go there than stay here anyway. Serves them right to come back w/o finding their someone.

  35. Jami (29) You should read the book “The Barking Mouse” to your daughter, once she gets the idea that marriage involves smooching, she might not be in such a hurry. All my kindergarten kids think it’s disgusting……

  36. Don’t these guys know you can order brides right out of a catalogue and save the trip to Europe?

  37. Aaron Brown says:

    If you’re going to marry a foreign woman, at least marry one who speaks a language whose grammar isn’t going to kick your *ss.


  38. Just to pick up some points here:


    You would think that instead of just flying to some place like Finland for three months, they would first engage in a correspondence with one or more prospects from one of the LDS singles websites, and after having made some friends go for a visit to see whether anything romantic might develop.

    There’s a lot of that going on, too. Also, lots of Europeans go to other country’s SA events to see what’s happening.


    The real problem is they picked Finland, a well off country with a high standard of living and satisfied women. Now if they had picked Moldova…

    One of the puzzling things is the men seem to not be able to tell the difference between a country like Finland and a country like Moldava. There is an assumption that all women outside of the US have the cynical desires Mark B alludes to in #26. The women we’ve known who have married Americans found potentially or actually moving to the US a negative factor.


    Foreigners are not always as eager to obtain a green card as you might think. In fact, many of them don’t care much for the U.S. at all…

    I think, more to the point, many of them don’t care much about the U.S. I think Americans assume the rest of the world is obsessed with them, casting them as pro- or anti-American. The reality is that lots of people just don’t think about America that much, or are pretty ambivelent.

  39. The reality is that lots of people just don’t think about America that much, or are pretty ambivelent.

    That is, until someone needs a check written or needs the Marines… (j/k)

  40. Norbert, when I read comments, from merely cranky to truly vitriolic, of non-Americans about America and Americans I get the impression that the rest of the world thinks it is my duty to be obsessed with them. That somehow, if I don’t have an intimate knowledge of life in Finland, Albania, Paraguay, Michoacan and Papua New Guinea I have proven myself to be a stereotypical xenophobic, insular, myopic American.

    The reality is that I don’t think about Finland that much and it doesn’t bother me that the Finns return the favor.

  41. Peter LLC says:

    My experience abroad has been that America is regularly invoked at the drop of a hat, even when debating the merits of domestic policy, e.g., “We do not need our hands held like the Americans do, so take your proposal for a smoking ban and put it where the sun don’t shine.”

    To be fair, one should recognize that some US policies do have real effects in countries far, far away.

  42. My MP warned us that Australian women, LDS or not, wanted nothing more than to be knocked up by a missionary so we had to take them home to America with us. I managed to escape my mission without a child or a wife.

    My girlfriend at the time said some guy at Ricks was home from his mission for over a year and was still speaking with an Australian accent. How pathetic is it to rely on an accent that isn’t even your own to meet babes? I wonder how that went for him.

  43. 38. “The reality is that lots of people just don’t think about America that much, or are pretty ambivelent.”

    David Hasselhoff and I chuckled at this sentence.

  44. #36 – Some do know all about mail-order brides. I remember on my mission in SoCal we had to teach a couple D’s to a woman who had just come via mail-truck from Russia. It was really a strange situation all around. We didn’t know any Russian, she barely knew English, and both of those problems obviously paled in comparison to how awkward we felt due to the fact that she was a mail-order bride. I am pretty sure that the spouse had a TR and that they did end up getting married. I presume she got baptized, but I was transferred and didn’t really keep tabs on them, you know? One of the weirder experiences, I think. Now there is a “You Make the Call” post in waiting. What do you do?

  45. Nat Whilk says:

    Socially inept single people. They’re the worst.

  46. JD (#31)

    If you had read my comment 26 carefully (which, I admit, it probably didn’t deserve), you may be able to figure out that I wasn’t suggesting that all foreigners want to immigrate to the U.S. (Although if it was good enough for my great-great-grandparents, why isn’t it good enough for them?)

    I was suggesting to the lovelorn marriage tourists described in the OP that the true loves they find in some far off place may in fact have motives other than true love.

    If that offends you or all non-Americans or all Mormons or makes you think that I think all non-Americans want to come live here, I’d suggest that you and they all take a five minute nap and relax, and then read my comment again to see what it really says.

  47. And I’m really ticked off that nobody paid any attention to my reference to Cousin Brucie. Aren’t there any New Yorkers out there who remember good old CBS-FM?