Eastern vs Western Europe – The Equality Inequality

You might believe the entire European space is pretty much similar, and all countries are equal in rights and obligations, but this is just not true. Spending a longer period of time in both the Eastern and the Western part of Europe, the differences become more and more obvious. Even if the imaginary borders are dimmed by the existence of the EU, it’s interesting to see how distinct the two geographical areas are.

Cultural variety is always welcomed in any community, but when the differences make it all the way into every detail of the life of an individual, I can’t help but wonder why there’s such a huge gap in the quality of life, in two countries separated by only a few thousands of km.

Communism, which was strongly present in Eastern Europe pushed the development of the countries from the former communist block further back, with quite a high number of years, but the differences aren’t limited only to development, but they go much further than this.

Food Quality 

I know it’s said that Romanian dishes are absolutely amazing, tasty and people come back from all over the world, just to taste more, but what I mean by quality, is the quality of the products which make it in the supermarkets and are available to a large number of the country’s population. This aspect you don’t really notice on a short trip to the other corner of the continent, but only after you live there for a while, and you are faced with a few serious shopping and cooking sessions.

In the west, with the presence of so many food safety associations which actually do a good job at monitoring the market, every fruit and vegetable has a very beautiful smell, the colors and alive, and the taste is right as it should be. The supermarkets can’t allow bad looking or expired products to make it on the shelves, and every such product, in case it makes a person sick, can turn into a serious lawsuit, and a drop into reputation, which is not that easy to recover from. The salami is made out of actual meat, the meat in the stores looks healthy and colored, and the cheese goodies smell delicious, and look like they are made in accordance with the right procedures. Besides, the butter won’t go bad in a few days, even if kept outside, like I was used to and the chocolate with milk, does taste like milk, and no extra sugar is added on top of what’s needed, in order to distract from the real taste.

In the east, most of the time, the fruits and vegetables and not ripe enough, or are well passed their best by date, but are still kept on the shelves (after the date is illegally changed), and you can see flies having a party in the middle of the supermarket, especially during very warm summers. The color is faded, the taste is not present, and the smell is nowhere to be found. Sometimes you can’t even tell the difference between cucumbers, tomatoes and pears. Also, buying fruits and vegetable with fungi is quite common, but because the food safety associations are not present or way too corrupt, such products stay legally on the shelves.The salami is 3/4 fat and other animal remains, and only 1/4 meat, and the meat looks quite suspicious and sick. Even if you want to pay more for a good product, you can’t find any type of cheese which isn’t processed and processed again, and processed again, until you are left with a white ‘sort of cheesy’ block.

Bad quality products combined with low wages means access to a limited amount of vitamins and minerals, and a very poor, heavy diet, which leads to medical issues. And you wonder why you still get sick, even if you have a balanced diet, exercise, and you do all the right things. What you buy simply doesn’t have the right properties, in order to keep your body healthy. And when you get sick, you face an even bigger issue.

Medical Treatments – Inefficient Medication

It happened to me quite a few times so far, to get sick during my travels, and I must say this is quite a serious issue, if it happens in the wrong location. Buying medication which doesn’t work, is quite common for the east. You go to the doctor/pharmacy, they prescribe a bunch of pills, you take them for days/weeks on end, and you barely recover, slowly. Every now and then a new very powerful medicine comes on the market, which gets you well in a few days, and causes cancer, if used long term. Eh?! But, yet again, if you did this all your life, then it seems quite normal.

Getting sick in the west, means buying the medicine, taking 3-4 pills, and you feel like a new person. Wow, they actually work!? The same medication looks different in the west, than it does in the east, even if it’s the same brand, and the ones you buy in the west actually do what they are intended to do.

If you get really sick, there’s no worse place to be than in the East, as besides not getting access to the right medication, you might not get access to any treatment at all, as the hospitals don’t have pills or basic hygiene supplies (they often send the patients to go buy them themselves – quite useful when you can’t get out of the hospital bed), and the best doctors already left for the west, looking for better paid jobs.

Infrastructure 

For a traveler, this is quite an obvious deciding factor when it comes to the level of development of a country. Better roads (highways) and public transportation means better access to all locations of the country, better people flow, which leads to the workflow moving where the jobs are. The better the access, the better the development, as even the less developed areas improve gradually.

Driving around Europe, I must say, you can travel everywhere from everywhere in about 1 day, up to the border with the east, where only one country, from one end to the other, takes you just as much as the rest of the continent took you.

Poor road quality and the absence of highways dictates the access of the population to a better paid job, or to a job at all. As in Romania, even a 30 km distance from the towns around the capital, is too much to do, by public transportation (which sometimes works, and sometimes it doesn’t, because of personal reasons of the company’s owner, or legal issues, when they get caught by the police, operating the cars without licences) development outside the big cities is slow, if present at all.

Poor roads means less tourists, and less investments from abroad. Less contact with the outside, means the mentality stays the same, the education level doesn’t improve, the financial situation doesn’t get any better. And this reflects into everything, especially traffic. Compared to the west, in the east the traffic changes dramatically, and frustration, selfishness and carelessness takes over, turning the roads into a constant circus performance. For a driver, going from west to east, it can become very confusing, and your civilized driving style changes, when you’re constantly bombarded with stressful and absurd situations on the road.

Financial Situation – The Deciding Factor?

And, it all comes down to money. Again. You are poor, you can’t compete with the west, so you can’t expect better from the food you eat or the treatment you take. So you get the remainders from the richest countries in the EU.

Worse part is that living in the same location for too long, you begin to feel that’s normal, and you can’t understand that there’s actually something very wrong with the picture described above. Even if local smaller producers sell better quality products, not everyone has access or the financial power to actually buy those products. So they settle for what’s available in the supermarkets… In the end, if you can’t afford better, you can’t sue them either, right?

Companies, legally, are under no obligation to market an identical product under the same brand, in the European space, which means that the newcomers into the EU, receive the lower quality products.

You might believe this is all, but no. Bad financial situation means less access to education and medical care, less education and treatment means no chance at improving the current condition. Not improving the condition, means the mentality of the people won’t change, the stress level won’t reduce, and the society won’t evolve. And it only gets worse, for countries which are already behind in terms of medical care, education, infrastructure.

Being poor is a state of mind, and is constantly fed by the environment and the society. Not fighting for better, not making the right investments, not caring for own health, not being united as a community, brings down the quality of life, and the hope of it ever improving.


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41 thoughts on “Eastern vs Western Europe – The Equality Inequality

  1. I didn’t know how severe was the situation in the East, I thought there was a difference with the West but not so extreme.
    The last part is one that not everybody notice when politicians use the poverty as a weapon: the mentality. It’s easy to blame other countries or the history and avoid to make a qualitative change ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t agree more, Francis! Unfortunately it’s all a circle. The poorer you are, the worse the attitude towards the situation and society, the easier to be manipulated, the harder to change anything. And yes, politicians love such situations…
      The situation is pretty bad, and it only got registered with me now, after spending more time abroad. I just had to share a few thoughts with everyone, and see what feedback I get. I’m curious if others noticed the same things.
      Thank you for reading. I always appreciate your thoughts. Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry to hear how bad it is there for you. I had no idea either. There are many poor people in SA, but the food in the supermarkets is quality controlled and edible, and we are trying to improve education and living standards for all.
    How do you see a way forward in your country?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for reading! Here they’re also trying, but as long as corruption has a say in everything, is quite hard to maintain some standards. The most common ones are using rotten products to cook the food they sell in supermarkets, or changing the best before dates…kind of hard to keep that under control. I think it’s more of a mentality issue, so it’s very hard to say how it could improve. It reflects into every aspect of life over here, and it seems like everyone wants to steal from someone else, when we’re in fact stealing and lying to ourselves…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I really don’t know what to say, Sue. It’s very hard to tell. Corruption and selfishness doesn’t help. We, as a society, don’t work together, but against each other, which harms us all. Not sure what will work, but a change in mentality is definitely needed. Unfortunately, as infrastructure and economy are not doing good at all, I’m afraid it won’t happen very soon…Thank you so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I heard the same thing. Usually, the potatoes which get rejected in Germany, because of the horrific size, get sent to the east. And I’m sure it’s more to it than this. EU basically experiments on the people from the poorest countries… sad but a reality 😐
      Thanks for reading, Gin! Very much appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It is shocking to see there is still such a difference in East en West Europe. Unfortunately, I find that the difference between poor and rich has become bigger in many more countries as England, The Netherlands and the USA. A well written and thought provoking piece Lucy! xo Johanna

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, Johanna! I always appreciate your feedback on my posts. It’s hard to understand why such differences occur in first place, but as always, finances run the world. What’s even more surprising to me is that in the east, you can’ even choose better. Those are the products and you have to leave with it. I worked in a supermarket for a month, when I was younger, and what I saw happening back then, made me rethink my shopping completely. Changing the best before dates, using expired products for food they sell in supermarkets, picking up the sliced meat left behind my customers all over the store, and resell it as ‘sliced meat – just for the customer’s comfort’…really scary. And also not getting the proper treatment….I wonder what type of pills they actually sell here. 😦
      Have a lovely day, and thank you again for your feedback! xo

      Like

  4. Brilliant analysis, Lucy. I’ve lived former communist countries (Poland, Hungary, and now Slovakia) for 8 years. I try not to buy any clothes here, because you pay the same price as in the West, but the quality is lower. How can major clothing retailers be allowed to ship their garbage here and keep the prices the same? The supermarkets in Hungary and, to a much lesser extent, Slovakia are absolutely depressing. Most of the “fresh” bread you find is inedible. I’ve adapted to it, more or less. One good thing is that whenever I go to France or another Western country, the food tastes absolutely divine. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I’m happy to see others noticed this as well. Some of my friends and family don’t even see this, and don’t believe me when I say we just adapted to it, but it’s not normal.
      I can’t agree more about the clothes! I do the same. Whenever I was running shoes, I need to head to the west and buy some, as the ones in Ro are totally not appropriate and twice as expensive…
      I’m in Ro on and off, and I always have a hard time (sometimes even getting sick with my stomach) because of the food. I miss NL food a lot, when I’m over here. Such a pity money run this world….it’s just too obvious same happens in EU 😦

      Like

      • It’s very noticeable to expats. We just try to laugh about it and bring as much stuff back with us as possible from trips to the West. There are also difference between countries in the East. Romania, Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkans have it worse than Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. My husband and I contemplated move to Bulgaria, but after a visit there we changed our minds immediately. It’s a beautiful place, but we can’t deal with a food situation even worse than what we have now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been pretty much all over Europe by now, so I can’t agree more with your observation. It seems like EU makes the poorer countries stay the same, instead of helping them evolve. They send the remainders here, and keep the best things for the west.
        I do the same thing as you do. I come to Ro with packs of cheese (can’t stay without Dutch cheese), chocolate, and anything else I can fit in. Survival pack until return I guess haha. I wish it wouldn’t have to be this way. As you also mentioned, such wonderful places, and you must limit your time there, because of such situations. 😐

        Like

  5. This is a very insightful and though provoking post. For an outsider it all appears the same beauty and richness spread across the length and breadth of the European territory. Only insiders and who have experienced both sides of the boundary can narrate the right perspective and which you have done so brilliantly.
    You have touched on so many areas…food to medicines to infrastructure to finance, all matters and yes it depends how developed the place and how strong the government is but many factors right from the historical significance to social order along with the political maturity matters. Cultural variety is good but not at the cost of basic living.
    It is indeed an irony of life and living…equality in inequality. Love this title.
    😀

    Like

    • Thank you for reading and for your amazing feedback! As usual, I very much appreciate reading your feedback on any subject I write on.
      Indeed, for a foreigner, and also for the people who never leave their own country, such differences are not visible. It happened to me a lot of times to be misunderstood by family and friends, who can possibly believe the differences are so big!
      Unfortunately, I feel like the EU wants to keep the poor countries in the state they are in, so they find a use even for the poor quality products. And local politicians look forward to manipulating the population. And like no people are easier to manipulate as poor people, it’s convenient to not improve the situation.
      Infrastructure is a huge issue, as many tourists avoid the country because of the lack of decent roads. I believe every interaction with a foreigner helps improve the mentality of a person, and it sure helps in terms of becoming more inspired and motivated. As the roads are bad, so is the evolution of the society.
      Quite sad to be back here, and not be able to find any edible food in supermarkets. I just had to let it out there, and see what others think on this matter. It’s quite annoying to me.
      Many thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter! I knew you will love the title 🙂 Have a relaxing evening!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I fully align with your such wonderful analysis. In fact in India it is no difference there are parts of country which have been perennially remained poor not that the place is lacking any resources or that people of that region are not hard working…when you analyze why such disparity in two different region of the same country, we don’t find a right answer, but things that we can attribute to is the political quest to power that the political community keeps the common people poor to exploit their vote and we call here vote bank politics and innocent people and helpless people have been the subjugation to prowess of political brute force. They just don’t care about the huge disparity, they are crazy for power and they can go to any extent to get their seats…doing politics through exploitation of poor is worst form of governance. There has been increasing awareness and also better options in terms of whom they would like to run their government and good number of good people are joining the political forces in India and we are seeing a perceptible change in the governance.

        This is concerning to hear that EU wants to keep the poor countries in that state for a market for their poor quality product, is definitely a very bad form of governance. Here in my country infrastructure was big issue and the reason was rampant corruption and that too by the politicians in the helm of the affairs….we have see a sea change in the infrastructure development under a new and good governance and it has set new trajectory for social development and all around growth of community and society at large.

        Sometime such oppression and exploitation needs a voice to break the silence and the subjugation…it cannot go for long. People’s power is the ultimate power and once the voice gains momentum, it can wreck havoc for the exploiters.

        I am sure the change is imminent and you will see good times ahead.
        It is indeed a subject of concern and it needs serious contemplation and actioning to initiate a change for good.

        My pleasure always to have such critical discussion with you…
        😀

        Like

      • My analysis has quite a sad result, Nihar. I was hoping is all in my mind, but the world we live in, isn’t fair at all.
        Thank you so much for the insight on India. I heard the same, about the situation there. However, when we think about EU, we think about equality, but it’s all anything else but that. And in poorer countries in Europe, especially Ro, where people mostly turn against each other instead or working together, it’s even harder for people to realize we actually hold the power!
        It’s quite sad and concerning, and I’m not sure what type of action would do the trick in this case.
        Thank you for this wonderful talk! Looking forward to reading more of your wonderful comments 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed, this is not a fair world. That is very unfortunate. We feel so bad about this extreme inequality but many times we are just helpless to do anything about it. The worst part of the feeling is being a helpless onlooker. But many things in life are just not in our control and we have to live with it, this very thought is what disturbs and wrecks our soul from slumber and our conscious keep questioning us and we don’t have aright answer yet…
        One thing I have see is that if the people unite they can change their state of living but many places these politicians play the trick and engineer the divide…
        Yeah this topic is so close to our heart, we would always try to do something for it…equity and equality is what I love to see in this world.
        😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • I totally agree with you. If people decide to stick together, then they can change so much more than anyone alone ever will. However, depending on the country, people don’t always act like a community. When frustration sets in, some decide to become selfish, think only about their own good, and give up on everything around them. This is when inequality replaces a normal and functional society. And once you reach that stage, some don’t evolve at all, are stuck with the same mentality, and tend to be easy to manipulate. Also, the economical situation never helps. Poorer people tend to be easier to manipulate and blinded/distracted from the real problems.
        Quite close to our hearts, but very heavy to deal with. Not sure what would be a solution out of this.
        Have a lovely new week! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed people get selfish, at the same time we cannot blame them, in such difficult and demanding situations they have to first see for themselves before they can help and be a support others. This is a human tendency and this has been for ages and knowing this weak link in our community, there are vested interest groups who take advantage of the situation. These are the turning points in the evolution of a society where the community has to come together to bring a change in the society, and we may call this social revolution…
        Every such upheaval becomes the harbinger of a new order of living in society.
        An idea can change our life.
        😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are right, but this also stands in the way of things ever improving. Still, I can see why it’s difficult to care about community as well as yourself, when your situation is pretty bad.
        I very much hope for that idea, which will change a lot of lives 🙂 You are very wise, my friend!

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are right Lucy. When people don’t have basic amenities for themselves they find it very difficult to care for the community. There is a role to be played by the state for the common benefit of the people which is generally very bad in most part…people fight to get their basic things in life…quite challenging to live and life is not easy.
        Yes, things will change and good will prevail over the bad. Hope is the biggest force of life.
        😀

        Liked by 1 person

  6. It is your best written and most passionate post here Lucy, I appreciate it much! You are my Eastern European Sister! I send you Love from the Eastern Neighborhood:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww thank you my dear new found sister! It’s been a while since I wrote such an article. I have similar ones in the Inspirational category.
      I just came back to Ro, and I had troubles finding something edible to eat. I can’t believe what a difference in quality it is between here and west. I ate a few tomatoes and cucumbers, and besides color, I had no idea what I’m chewing 😦
      Many love and hugs! Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I feel sadly unqualified to comment, Lucy, as I have not been to many of the Eastern Bloc countries. However, I have to say I saw better quality in the Czech Republic than I have seen in some Italian supermarkets!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and for your comment! Very much appreciated. After talking with other bloggers as well, I can say it’s less a matter of geographical position, as it is of financial power, and order of joining the EU. The newest and poorest members tend to have such problems.
      I admit I’ve never been into a supermarket in Czech Republic, but I’ve been in many others around Europe, and the picture can be quite depressing. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading! You are definitely right. It’s a very complex circle of influence. Any factor which changes, affects the entire balance. Have a lovely day!

      Like

  8. Thanks for sharing this interesting post Lucy. I have not spend much time in the eastern part of Europe, but being from the western part of it I had some idea of how thing were. But still I was surprised by your post. It was for example surprising to me that you are not able to find quality food, even if you are willing to pay higher prices for it. Articles I have read earlier indicate several of the eastern countries struggle with corruption and labor emigration. My understanding is things have become worse after the financial crisis. Is this something you have noticed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading! I’m not sure exactly at what point things got worse, but it worse worse every year. When I was a kid, we used to buy good quality vegetables from farmers, in the farmer’s market. Now you rarely see farmers selling their products, and we import pretty much everything. As most veggies come from Turkey, the quality is really bad. They rot before they ripe, and when you buy them, they are not edible.
      The procedure for a farmer is complicated, expensive, and time consuming. As most farmers are simple people, they decide not to do it. So corruption says it all. The ones who sell, are the ones who pay…. Not sure if this got worse after EU or the financial crisis, but it used to be so much better 15 years ago or so… 😦

      Like

  9. Hello, I am from Czech Republic (until WW2 10th strongest economy in world).

    The biggest problem I see every day is not, that we are not as rich as in west. But fact, that we pay same (many times even bigger) price for food, clothing… from brands like Coca Cola which is absolute trash. Ie instead of sugar, there is some fructose substitute. In meat products there is actually no meat at all, just bones, intestines, fat, skin … . So you work as hard as in Germany, get 4 times lower vages and then for same money get vastly inferior products. And then EU official say its only your (our) fault, because you are “untermensch” and have different tastes and needs than peoples in west – they actually said that.

    Now this may seem inconsequential, but only to the point when there is competition and you can buy product from China for example, then company in west like Tesco goes bankrupt and you in west are kicked out of job… and your economy goes to toilet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey John! Thank you so much for your comment. I can’t agree more with what you said. It’s the same problem in Romania as well.
      I don’t even want to think about the quality of the meat products. Compared to Germany, they are just not edible… I was in Romania again. for 2 weeks, and it was terrible to go to the supermarket and choose something to eat. I just lose my appetite. And also, as you mentioned, the prices are insane, sometimes even bigger than in the West!
      I don’t believe we have different taste as the people in the West, but the good stuff goes to the powerful countries, and the remainder to the less powerful ones. We’re unfortunate enough to be part of the last…A very sad situation…
      Thank you for sharing a few thoughts on the situation of your country. I’m happy to know others see this happen as well. I talked to some people in my country, who just can’t see anything wrong, and this is where the problem is. 😐
      All the best!

      Like

      • Thank you for reply, and for this article as well.

        Sad is people in west countries think its not their problem – “so they eat bad, their problem”. But they dont understand that many multinational companyes earn in eastern nations more money than in entire west!!!

        And in moment when competition appear (yes China again – food, clothing is more frequent year by year) they lose half or more earnings and start kicking peoples out of jobs or start selling same trash to western consummers whether they like it or not – and politicians will do nothing, because its “edible” and better than colapsed economy.

        And you can tell its going to happen from massive investments of rich in China.
        All what would fix situation would be same product for same money, nothing more, nothing less. Or in few decades China will be richer than west and starts to send there overpriced trash… .

        And worst part are animals .-/ all for few more private planes

        Small farmers cant compete because strict regulations which ofcourse dont aply for multinational companyes… .

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your interest in my writings.
        Actually, most people in the west have no idea about the situation in the west. The only ones who do, are the ones who travel. However, Governments do know, and the most powerful ones do their best to keep the best resources for their population. The remainders go to the others countries in EU.
        As you also said, farmers and small producers can’t compete with the companies with a lot of capital. Most small producers in Romania are very old and can’t spend the time, neither have the education(or money), to deal with papers and complicated procedures. So they stop… Good quality products are disappearing, and China takes over. I also believe China is on its way to become a super global power. Pity is that products from China put out of business a lot of serious and good quality companies worldwide, due to cheap labor… Even if you want to buy a good product, you have problems finding one even in the west…

        Like

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