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Ever thought how difficult it must be to travel from one land to another and find yourself in a completely different world as far as culture goes?
My time in Belize and Mexico, later in Saudi Arabia, Poland and Bosnia has shown me how different cultures can be even when different lands are geographically neighbours. A prime example, of course, is Germany, Poland and Turkey; three different worlds right next to one another.
Germany is highly industrialised and enjoys a very good and high standard of living. Poland was very much an agricultural country but, with the passage of time, this has deteriorated and been neglected. Turkey is a western oriented country with a majority Muslim population and high levels of poverty.
The three countries, in the near future, are going to share a common horizon. Poland has already joined the European Community, and Turkey is applying to. Poland sends workers to Germany regularly for agricultural training, and as seasonal workers for - amongst other things - the asparagus harvest. There is a growing sub-culture of Turkish immigrants in Germany which began with the rebuilding of the country following the second world war, when inexpensive labour was needed to assist in bringing the country back onto its feet.
All three countries have massive cultural differences, not least Turkey which still operates, in some areas, as a fundamentalist country following religious laws; some parts of Poland and Germany are also highly religious, but more towards the Roman Catholic Church.
But the differences within these three countries, especially for those who move from one to another, can be amazing. Many of the Turkish families living in Germany for up to three generations still call Turkey their home; still send their daughters back 'home' to have a husband chosen for them; still follow the basic rules of separation within the family of male and female.
Will membership of the EU manage to bring these cultures together into some form of harmony? For Poland the way is clear; they will have few problems integrating with the western ideals. For the Turkish people it is going to be much harder. Firstly their laws and Human Rights record must be brought up to date and bettered, and that is already bringing problems with it. For the Polish the problems are going to be more industrial; bringing their antiquated, partially neglected agricultural power back to a level it enjoyed several decades ago.
But there are many other differences within the EU which seem to be overlooked. If you stand confused in front of the public toilets in Ireland, for example, and wonder where you should be going, it should come as no surprise. The toilet doors are clearly marked with an F and an M. The thing is, they are in Gaelic, and that means that men go in the door marked F ...