You probably can't do these things. She is behaving true to her culture and upbringing. She is hoping to change you into a gentleman like she witnessed in her homeland, while you are trying to change her into a career woman like you see in your homeland. I recognize these two cultures because I have personally lived both of them.
While I grew up in North America, it was a horse and buggy religious culture that is similar to East European culture in many ways, especially with regards to polite manners. Gentlemen took care of their ladies; they did the driving, earned the money to put food on the table, did the "heavy lifting" around the home. Twenty years ago, I left my religious community and moved to the city, got a university education and mingled with career women. It felt good to be independent and successful but that's just me.
Also living in this city are people from Eastern Europe, some of whom moved here shortly after World War II. Whenever I meet these immigrants from Eastern Europe, there is an automatic feeling of instant kinship. I'll never totally shed my native culture and somehow this is communicated more by nonverbal means than by anything either of us say out loud. In fact, I am hard-pressed to say exactly what it is that draws us because often there is a language barrier; they speak Romanian or Polish and I speak English and a dialect of German different from theirs. Yet one feels it very distinctly.
Independent Career Women
I also feel the same kind of kinship with career women even though I have never actually achieved a career in the city. It's like we speak the same language, hold the same values, have the same life goals. We don't want men holding doors, saying "Ladies first," and "taking care" of us. We are independent, capable of taking care of ourselves, and quite willing to do so. Possibly this is because I had independently built up a market garden business and a publishing business in my old community.
I suppose that makes me a cosmopolitan woman. I share all this so you know I know where you're coming from. I remember what it's like knowing only one culture, like you do, and feeling that it is the only correct way of being. At the same time, like your girlfriend, I still long deep down for the old ways. I know this because after twenty years I still dream at night of being back with my people who still "live the way people should live."
And you want to redesign her to "live the way people should live."
CULTURE: MORAL VALUES & ETHICS
See what I'm saying? Both of you are trying to remake the other to be "the way people should be." Something's got to give. This is really deep stuff. It was instilled into each of you separately with mother's milk.
Culturally Defined Values
Her being "reliable, responsible, empathetic, and caring" are just her being a polite woman. It's part of her culture, her upbringing. Yet you have clearly stated that you don't really like her culture, not the parts that require something of you as a gentleman. In fact, I don't think you want to be a gentleman--you are and wish to remain an American equal opportunities man.
Nothing at all wrong with that so long as your woman wants the same thing. But those values do not mesh at all with the values of this particular woman. What the two of you can do, if both of you agree on this, is sit down and discuss it from the perspective of culture. Just so long as both of you realize how deep this is and that it won't go away any time soon, maybe never; it will impact your homelife and how your children are raised.
Together, you may be able to make the conscious decision on some compromises that both of you are comfortable with. But this needs to come from both sides with deep understanding of where the other side is coming from. Neither is better or worse than the other.
If this violates your personal values or sense of right and wrong, it will be better to find a woman with whom you share values. Be honest with yourself and with her.
Your Three Questions
I will go over your three questions to be sure I didn't miss anything:
1. How do I encourage her to be more independent in her social life - pursuing hobbies, continuing to see her friends etc.
My parents, whose parents and grandparents were raised in the same community I was, would have considered it wrong for one to do anything socially or go anywhere socially without the other. That's part of the cultural moral code.
2. How can I help her understand that my behaviors are NOT rude but rather respectful and expected? Furthermore, how do I ask her to cut down on her excessive favors?
I think I covered this one. Both of you are trying to impose your own cultural values of ethics on the other. Neither is right and neither is wrong. It is a matter of deciding what works for the two of you as a couple, in your home and in your life.
3. How can I help her to become of an equal economic partner - E.g. To be more comfortable contributing to expenses on dates?
I don't know. It looks as though both of you want expensive dinners but no one wants to pay for them. Where I come from, people cooked at home and considered it too high a lifestyle to eat out. In addition, women had barely any money whereas men had far more earning power. You indicate the same with regards to your girlfriend.
I was taught to "live within my means." I know a lot of people, even Americans, who would consider this question to be very selfish of you. In other words, it looks for all the world like you are trying to get out of buying a meal for the woman you claim to love. This definitely needs to be discussed.
I am not saying it is wrong to want to split expenses equally. I am only saying that, since this is causing a problem in the relationship, it needs to be discussed. I am also saying that this concept of splitting expenses is very Western and very modern; it is not acceptable to some older Americans and possibly not acceptable to an East European mentality. It needs to be discussed in order for this relationship to be successful. Discuss it in the context of both cultures having equal value.
I understand that more couples in committed long term relationships break up over money than anything else. Get this on the table now. As with the other items, if your values differ too much, it's better to split up and to find a partner who shares your own values.
The point of discussion needs to be "What do you/I value? Can we compromise comfortably? If so, how?"
It cannot be "How can I change you to see life my way?" This approach is destructive to any relationship.