Lack of resources is not necessarily an obstacle to gearheadedness. Yes, I think generally in Europe there is a greater appreciation for art and a higher level of discourse about aesthetic questions than in the U.S. On the other hand when I've spent extended periods of time in Poland, I've seen that the search for the technical fix just gets shifted to things that are affordable: every darkroom worker has his own "mikstury" ("formulas"), and "majstrowanie" ("tinkering") is something of a national pastime. Of course during the Communist years, this was a necessity, because equipment and chemicals were not readily available. Part of the remarkable creativity of these East European artists comes out of this need to be involved in the whole process on a technical level, and that's not a bad thing.
While I was there in 1989, I bought a Pentacon 6 system for street photography. Since it was big and clunky and East European, I could easily pass for a Polish student walking around. My F-1, even with black tape over the Canon logo, might as well have been a 4x6 foot American flag hanging around my neck. Here is one of my favorite shots from those days (on Agfachrome 100, purchased on the black market from a guy who smuggled it from Berlin):
The beer in Prague is unquestionably superior.