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  • Writer's pictureMagdalena Gołębiewska

Inclusion in Europe - why do we still have a 2 Europes?

Everyone repeats that diversity in Europe seems to be not as problematic as in US. In Europe we have so many different countries next to each other that a neighbour in the next town might speak a different dialect, or the nearest big city might be over the border in a different country. Living in a patchwork of cultural values and standards, Europeans have an intimate understanding of difference − linguistic, social, political and legislative. Is it true?

The motto of the EU is “Unity in Diversity”, however the more than 500 million EU citizens do not consider themselves ‘Europeans’ – as the Americans do – but they first consider themselves citizens of their region or their Nation State. And, I can see even more - Europe is divided into Western and Eastern part. There is no ONE Europe, we have TWO Europes: better and worse one, Western and Eastern one.

Let's start from the beginning: Western Europe refers to the western part of Europe. Some of the countries that fall under this category are United Kingdom, Norway, Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Malta, Italy, Iceland, Germany, Greece, Finland, etc. The Western European region is very much advanced in its economy. Along with the inventions of the industrial revolution, countries have been able to gain a high economic development rate.

Eastern Europe refers to the eastern part of Europe. Some of the countries that belong to Eastern Europe are Albania, Bosnia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine, Serbia, Slovakia, Moldova, Lithuania, etc. During the cold war period, this region was referred to as the Eastern bloc or else the Soviet bloc.

As it was 20 years ago, we still can't overcome the perception that Western Europe is "better" than Eastern! It is not - it is different. Since now everyone can travel and big companies launch offices in Eastern region (cost effective), people move to work in Western countries (higher salary) we started to interact much more. And this is why diversity and inclusion became so important.

There is a tendency among business leaders in Europe (and elsewhere) when talking about ‘diversity’ to read it as ‘gender diversity" (read "women") only. We have to look much deeper - on different races and ethnicities, religions, immigration statuses, ages, abilities, cultural backgrounds, sexualities, and history as well. We have to overcome stereotypes and biases. Also, we have to accept the differences.

Still in people's mind (you would be surprised how often) we have stereotypes like:

  1. Eastern Europe = Russia

  2. Migrants from Eastern Europe = blue collars

  3. Education in Eastern Europe = low quality, most people with a primary school

  4. Salaries in Eastern Europe = close to nothing, high poverty

  5. Business in Eastern Europe = no local companies, only foreign investments

  6. Investments in Eastern Europe = not worthy, people have no money

  7. Law in Eastern Europe = no one follow, high corruption

  8. Innovations in Eastern Europe = only imported from Western region

Maybe 20 years ago, when communism existed to some extend it was true. But.. in 20 years the world changed. Educate yourself, take a plane and visit that region, talk to people from there and look beyond the strong accent. You will be surprised and I assure you - you will learn a lot!

We are all ONE, we are all PEOPLE! If you were born in UK, you are not smarter or better. People who were born in Ukraine are not "silly" or "behind", people form Poland will not "steal your wallet", girls from Romania are not "easy", guys from Russia don't "work for mafia".

If you think like that it tells story ONLY ABOUT WHO YOU ARE, not about anyone else.

We have to forget about negative (and positive as well, since they build unfair advantages) stereotypes - we have to learn to judge only based on our own experiences and person by person. Don't be biased, go out, travel, meet people, talk to them, do not think you are any better than anyone else - you are not!

To finish on a positive note - while living in couple of countries I've experienced also a lot of amazing situations. Not only from friends, but also at work. It is amazing that nowadays, new generation of European companies is emerging that takes diversity as a fact of life rather than an imposition. I have a pleasure to work in PayPal now where my thick accent, a bit weird sense of humour and sometimes blunt statements are cherished. Thank you to everyone for all the support during my way.

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