As previously said, I am excited about East Europe. In the twenty years since the break-up of the Soviet Union, many wonderful things have happened in the East and I compared the countries to Germany. In the two weeks that I spent in Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary, as well as in Germany and Belgium, I met many people from East Europe. Most of them were young simply because English has only been required in schools for 15 to 20 years. Russian was their universal language. I found that most young people were very friendly and helpful and if the did not speak English, they would find someone who does.
In the hostels and on the trains I was able to engage in conversations with many people from all over Europe. I tried to talk with as many people as possible, especially folks from the East. Some of the older people did speak English, and I met a couple of octogenarians who still remembered their English from former times. I learned a lot.
In my conversations I found that West Europeans are angry at the East Europeans for stealing jobs from their countries. That attitude seemed to be found mostly in Germany and France, but I didn't meet many Italians or Greeks and they have also lost jobs. It was funny in listening to people blame the situation on the people from the Eastern countries rather than the corporations that moved. A number of West Germans told me that reunification had been bad for Germany. They also blamed Hungary because they "enticed" the corporations to build in that country.
On the other hand, surprisingly, the East countries had much different attitudes. While I expected them to be grateful for the jobs that had relocated to their countries, I found a lot of cynicism. People from the tourist cities were better off because the rate of employment was better. Service jobs are available, even though the wages are poor in comparison to the West countries and most of the people I met felt that they should be paid equally with their western neighbors.
In the East countries, I also found very cynical attitudes toward their governments. In all of the countries that I visited, everyone that I met said that the governments were corrupt, which is certainly probable. That will work itself out as the older generation who worked in the very corrupt communist system is replaced by the younger generation, and I said this to quite a few people. They all said that it would be nice, but they'll believe it when it happens. The cynicism was greatest in Poland and I suspect that this is an ingrained belief. Poland has been a football for Germany and Russia for centuries. The country has known little but conflict in their history back beyond Medieval times. One corrupt government after another has ruled the country and throughout their history it seems that the Polish people were ruled by others who took everything out of the country and kept the population poor. Or at least that's the belief. Their attitude is to watch and wait and not to expect too much. I hope that my vision is better.