Comparison and contrast of evident similarities and bright contrasts between United States of America and one of the European country – Poland. Both of the countries have similar environment, geographic shapes: mountains, seas, lakes and forests, but different climates. There also differences between politic, religion, nation, history, and culture.
At first glance, USA and Poland may seem to be worlds apart. Looking closer, we may see may similarities as well as differences. The similarities are innumerable, yet this holds true with the differences as well.
Poland, which is about the size of Texas, in comparison to United States, is a small country located in central Europe. It borders on Germany in the west, on the Baltic Sea and the Kaliningrad region of Russia in the north, on Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine in the east, and on the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the south. . The United States, which is located in the Western Hemisphere, is bordered by Mexico and Canada and between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Poland and the United States separated not only by the Atlantic Ocean, are also separated by the differences in economies, populations, culture, religions, governments. These two countries that are quite opposite in size have some similarities.
Poland and the United States are both constitutional democracies in the sense that they show a high level of respect for individual rights but they reflect this commitment in different ways. Both: the United States and Poland have a constitution--a kind of "higher law"--that treats the government as the major view to protect individual freedom and provides significant limits on what it may do. The United States has a democratic government, meaning that it is "elected by the people and for the people." The supreme law of the land is the Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1879. Every adult over the age of 18 can vote. Power is distributed between federal and state governments. The United States has an executive, legislative, and judicial branch. The chief of state and head of government is also the president, who is elected to a 4-year term. The president is also the leader of his or her political party. The two major political parties that exist in the US are the Democratic and Republican parties.
Poland is governed under the 1997 constitution (ratified on the First Polish Constitution from 1793). In Poland, as in the United States every adult over the age of 18 can vote, in the same way as in United States, the polish government is also "elected by the people and for the people." However, in Poland the power lies completely within the federal government and not distributed between federal and state governments like in United States. The bicameral parliament consists of a 460-seat Sejm (lower house) and a 100-seat Senate (upper house). Members of both bodies are elected for four-year terms. The president in Poland, same as in United States is popularly elected, however, in Poland, different then in United States for a five-year term and has the power to nominate a member of parliament as prime minister. The president, on the advice of the prime minister, appoints the cabinet. The main political parties are the Democratic Left Alliance, Civic Platform, Polish Peasants' party, and Self-Defense party.
The population in the United States is ever growing and vastly diverse. Ethnic groups from all over the world can be found in the US. The major ethnic groups are Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians but many Americans also have mixed ancestries .The primary language of the United States is English. Protestant and Roman Catholic are the major religions. Other religions include Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and some tribal religions.
Poland, in contrast to the United States, is one of the countries in the world with the least diversity among the people. Ninety nine percent of the population is Caucasians, the other (one percent) is mostly Asian: Turkish people who arrived on Polish territory in sixteenth century, to help Poland in the war with Russia.
Poland also has much less diversity in religion than the US, ninety-five percent of Polish people are Catholics, the rest are different sectors of Catholicism, including Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches Education for children is mandatory in both countries, up to a certain age. However, there are some differences. In the United States public primary and secondary schools are locally government funded. In Poland primary, secondary, and college level schools are locally funded. In simple words, in the United States education is offered from pre-kindergarten to graduate school with public and private institutions. In Poland education is also offered with public and private institutions, but at all levels from pre-kindergarten to college or university.
As we can see, Poland and the United States are two countries with major differences and several similarities.
After living in the USA for the past four years, I have noticed the differences and similarities between United States and Poland, and how the lifestyles differ from each other; the differences are: Poland is less crowded than USA, the houses are a lot larger, and Poles live a much more relaxed life than most people in America. In Poland, there are narrow streets, fewer highways, fewer cars, fewer industries, while here, in the United States are busy streets with horns, fast highways, high developed industries; all of this make United States crowded.
In Poland I was used to living in a big house, where everybody has plenty of space, and behind the house was the yard with the huge garden with rows of fruit trees.
Here, in United States is a huge difference between the housing situation; the living style is quit different; living in a small apartment for almost to much money, but close to anything you can imagine.
Here, if I want a fruit I have to drive down to the market place and buy some, where in Poland I would go in the garden and get if of the tree. In America I have given up the freshness of the food for the convenience of the super market.
Similarly, people in Poland differ from the people in United States. Poles are less busy than people in the United States also Poles have a more relaxing lifestyle because they do not work as much. People in Poland are not motivated to work any harder because they would not gain anymore from it.
Americans on the other hand, are constantly trying to get a better job or a more expansive car, and they gain these things through working harder and longer hours. In addition, Poles tend to have more time to socialize with neighbors and family, whereas in America, people tend to be too busy for these types of activities.
In Poland, I knew a lot of my neighbors and their children, whereas in America I do not even know my next –door neighbor, because there are to busy with their work.
In Poland, unlike to United States government own most of the natural sources. This practically means, that you can stop your car in any forest and make a picnic near every lake. Here, in United States most of the territories belong to the private persons, which usually make them not accessible.
There are also differences in the commercials; in Poland are fewer commercials, and they are less visible on the streets, then in United States. Because most of the Poles are Catholics (95%)the traditional forms of Polish life have grown out of the spirit of Christian Faith. Their high points, in all their wealth and diversity, are marked out by the Church calendar in its yearly cycle. The Catholics’ doctrines have very strong influence on Polish people, their all moral and ethic question are answered by religion, in the circle of Decalogue. In America people generally are more self-creative and more free, to make their own decisions. I think the reason is, because here, in United
States is a distinct and clear border between government and church, unlike in Poland, where church has a significant influence on the government. Life in the United States is not a piece of cake, but living conditions here far exceed those in Poland. In some areas of the US life is tough for some people. But unlike in Poland success is rewarded to all those who strive to work hard and get far in the country of opportunity. If someone works hard and tries to improve their living conditions they can achieve their goals and live a better life, to compare with, in Poland in spite of hard work people don’t have chance to improve their living conditions; for the same job, Poles have about four times less money and almost the same cost of living as in United States.
While I love going to Poland as much as ever, the convenience of the United States keeps me here, leaving the temptations of Poland only as memories from my childhood and a place to visit.
Visiting Poland is like going to the best vacation, where I can eat my favorite foods and drink natural flavored drinks. On the other hand living in the United States is quite different in look, shape and color.
I know that life in America offers more opportunity that in Poland, and you can be more successful if you work hard, although I had to give up the relaxed lifestyle that I was used to. At the moment I do not have a large home and huge garden, but I’m able to go to school and work toward a career so one day I can succeed in living a more comfortable lifestyle in America. I will always miss the place where I grew up, but I will try to make America my new home.
All in all, despite many differences, few similarities and distance between United states and Poland there are one main, common thing: sun is rising in the same side everyday, and people have the same hopes and desires to feel secure and hope for better tomorrow.
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A Life in Two Cities
In the summer of 2008, I finally decided that I had had enough of living in Los Angeles. The time had come for me to return to my native New England. However, instead of longing for the banks of the Merrimack River and the sandy beaches of my childhood in Massachusetts, I longed for the lure of the rocky, rugged coast of Maine. When the opportunity arose to move to that rugged Maine coast in Eastport, I was ready to make that leap with my nineteen-year-old daughter.
The irony did not escape me that we would be moving from one coastal corner of America to another. From the southwest to the northeast, or should I say, Down East, as Eastport, Maine is the easternmost city in Maine’s Down East region and the United States. This move from one city to another was not a mere cross-country relocation from one expansive city to another. Oh no, every aspect of Eastport was polar opposite from Los Angeles and I could not have chosen a more perfect place to detox our spirits after living in L.A. for nearly twenty years.
What can I say about Los Angeles that is redeeming? I look back on that time in my life, when I first moved there, against my will, with my daughter and her father, and I recognize that I was set up from the beginning not to like it there. As I played out the stacked deck of cards that the universe had dealt me during my early years in Los Angeles, including the suicide of my daughter’s father, I began to settle in and make a home there for the two of us. Indeed, as the initial culture shock wore off after the move from small town Massachusetts to the big California city, I found that Los Angeles did have plenty to be desired.
Los Angeles is an extended city with many smaller cities within. It is a sprawling landscape of intersecting streets and freeways, and buildings varied in heights from one-story to skyscrapers that ascend up on the city blocks like copses of trees, from the ocean to the mountains and throughout the flat expanse of the San Fernando Valley. Palm trees swayed in the breeze and the scent of citrus blossom often lingered in the air. One could not help but marvel at the nighttime panorama from the top of the Sepulveda Pass with its vast array of city lights on both sides of the pass.
A mecca of cultures and lifestyles spilled across the city as though from a harvest basket, Los Angeles brimmed with bounty in so many aspects. Rich with amenities such as shopping, theaters, and restaurants L.A. provided the opportunity to run errands and find entertainment any time of the day or night that you sought it, seven days a week. With TV, film and music the mainstay of the Los Angeles economy, there was always a wealth of entertainment, from nightclubs, to concerts, to movies to be enjoyed. Ethnic food abounded in Los Angeles; there was no lack of great restaurants to choose from or to simply be inspired by, when cooking at home. Shopping was everywhere around us, with multiple choices of grocers, pharmacies and department stores. Produce was bountiful in Los Angeles, with year round Farmer’s Markets to be found each day somewhere in the city if you were willing to take a quick twenty-minute drive. It is said in Los Angeles that you can get anywhere you need or want to go in the city or the valley within twenty minutes.
Every day, every moment there was sound and music everywhere in Los Angeles. Music was in the streets, from street performers to loud radio’s blaring from the cars rushing by, mingling and merging with the sounds of voices, busy streets, freeways, sirens, helicopters, airplanes, all constantly creating a cacophony of sound effects that played 24/7. The sounds of a busy city teeming with a diverse population.
Los Angeles is a creative nucleus that is bursting with film, music and creative arts power players and thousands of hungry, aspiring artists longing to be discovered in the City of Angels. People watching abounded from the rich and famous, to the homeless that camped on the sides of freeway bridges, in parks, or wherever they could find. In fact, people come from all over the country and world to live in L.A.; everyone in Los Angeles comes from somewhere else. So vast was the city of Los Angeles that you could rarely walk down the street and meet someone who you knew. Los Angeles was a cold place in that regard, strangers who passed by were always in a hurry to get somewhere, because there was so much to do. There was also a harshness to the city that caused its millions of inhabitants to keep their doors locked 24/7 and be mindful of crime all the time. So many people, so much crime, it was a given of the societal make up of a large city like Los Angeles.
As the years living there wore on, I found myself longing to return to small town life. I missed the quiet of the night. I missed living near the ocean. I longed to live amongst nature in a location where I could see land and sea and not a concrete skyline of high-rise buildings. My longing came to fruition when my niece in Eastport told me that she and her husband had recently bought the duplex across the street. That duplex became our ticket to a new, quieter life where nature abounded and the sun rose over the ocean each morning.
My daughter and I packed what we could fit into a 6’ by 12’ U-Haul trailer and we embarked on what became affectionately known as my “Grand Mid Life Crisis Adventure.” That adventure would lead us across the United States to the “end of the middle of freaking nowhere,” as my daughter would come to say. Seven days on the road, with a lot of hard driving, we finally arrived in Eastport via the most convoluted directions for driving through Down East Maine, comprehending that there truly are areas of Maine that do exemplify that “you can’t there from here” saying that Maine is famous for.
Eastport is a cropping of five small islands connected to the mainland of coastal Maine by a seven-mile causeway through the tidal waters of rock, mud, sand, pines and birch trees. My first trip across the causeway breathed new life into my city-wearied soul. The perfection of the late October day shimmered on the landscape in a photographic exhibit of color, texture and light. “Oh, I could lose myself here” I said as we drove along the causeway. Gone were the skyscrapers, they had been replaced with towering pine trees that provided a year round, lush verdant contrast to the constantly changing skies and seasonal landscapes of the region. Gone were the city lights at night, they were traded for more stars in the night sky than we had seen in two decades.
Everything that was abundant in Los Angeles in terms of shopping, entertainment, restaurants, Eastport lacked. With a year round population of 1500 residents, 3,000 in the summer, Eastport blossomed in the summer months and went to bed in the winter. Arriving in mid-fall, we watched the small shops and art galleries in downtown Eastport close up for winter. Social gatherings with aged hippies and artists were like a throwback to 1970’s parties and those get-togethers were the main source of entertainment with the lack of theaters and live entertainment in town. We grew accustomed to getting everything we needed at the small IGA, which woefully lacked in offerings of fresh produce and our favorite ethnic varieties of foods. Whatever we could not get at the little grocer in town, off we would drive for thirty to forty minutes to Calais, Maine on the Canadian border. Calais had the closest pharmacy, a supermarket and the nearest department store of sorts, Wal-Mart. Eastport had little to offer in the way of restaurants or entertainment, a meager handful of restaurants and a community theater, as opposed to the lavish choices of Los Angeles. We heard there had been a Mexican restaurant in town once, but that was gone. The convenient, open 24/7 existence we were familiar with in Los Angeles was nowhere to be found.
By contrast, to the constant 24/7, commotion of the extensive, accessible city of Los Angeles there was no constant din of reverberations in the sparsely populated, isolated city of Eastport. There were no freeways, no sirens, and no helicopters or airplanes inhabiting the auditory airwaves of the sleepy little seaport. There was perfect peace and quiet, away from the noise of teeming life. The cacophonous music of the metropolis was gone and in its place, there was bird song every day.
Like Los Angeles, Eastport too had a creative core that attracted artists, sculptors and painters, a few worn out power players, and occasionally a celebrity or two summered there. Indeed, the city of Eastport boasted that it had the highest percentage of artists living among its populace. Those artists arrived in Eastport from various parts of the country, exactly as people arrive in Los Angeles. Less tolerant and open minded than Angelenos, lifelong residents of Eastport always conveyed that those who had transplanted there from somewhere else were all from “away.” Yet, regardless of the local’s delineation of those who were from “there” and those who were from “away,” you could never walk or drive down the street without getting a wave from everyone who was passing by. Eastport’s form of people watching included just acknowledging everyone they came in contact with. Eastport was the epitome of Down Maine in that way, warm and friendly. Thankfully, as Los Angeles was teeming with daily crime, we found the sleepy little city of Eastport to be virtually crime free.
Life changed and got less complicated when there was nowhere to rush off too. The daily trip to IGA was the way to catch up on the news about town and run into new friends. Walking downtown each morning to the breakwater, where the fishing boats docked year-round, was a way of life, no matter what the season. In addition, nature was ever present daily, from bald eagles soaring overhead to fox and a large herd of deer that roamed the islands. We had been thrust into a pure sense of societal and environmental upset, so different was the context of life in Eastport from Los Angeles.
In time, we let the discordant music of the city of Los Angeles leave our souls, and we let the inaudible sound of inner peace that resonated in Eastport in to permeate our spirits with the timeless atmosphere of dwelling there. The toxicity of the 24/7 world left our city weary souls for the subtle, unhurried lifestyle of the Eastern Most City in the United States. We found quiet communion there in Eastport.
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