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My Big Fat Greek Wedding: How The American Culture Differs From The Greek Culture

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Living in the country considered “The Melting Pot” of the world, the United States is filled with all different religions, ethnicities, races, and backgrounds. What is so unique about America is that you don’t always know where a person comes from because of the diversity of their ancestors. In the case of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, we see a traditional Greek family mixing and interacting with a traditional “American” family. This movie is a great example of the differences between Greek and American culture, the diverse family values between Ian and Toula, and dissimilar family structures.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding demonstrates specific differences between Toula’s traditional Greek family and Ian’s “Wonder Bread” American family. I believe the most obvious difference is how outgoing and social the Greeks are compared to the quiet and reserved American family. One large factor contributing to this volume is their family sizes. While Ian is an only child and doesn’t have any other relatives besides his parents, Toula has siblings in additions to numerous cousins as well as aunts and uncles. Not only is the Greek family larger, they interact more with each other and try to break Ian’s parents out of their shells by offering them shots of liquor. When Toula visits Ian’s family, they all are sipping on one glass of wine as opposed to at Toula’s house where everyone is taking many hard-liquor shots. This alcohol consumption is another difference between the Greeks and Americans. When Toula’s family invites Ian’s family over or just have him over, they always have copious amounts of food that they offer. Even if they decline the food, they tell them they will cook them up something or make them eat what is on the tray. This is in opposition to Ian’s family where there is just appetizers that Toula isn’t expected to finish eating. In all these instances, both families learn to adapt and accept the situation they are in, in order to not offend each other.

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Whereas Toula has a large overbearing family that is involved in every step of her life, Ian’s family is more relaxed and hands-off. Where Toula’s family is very religious and feel Ian must get baptized and that they must get married in the church, Ian’s parents suggest getting married at the club. When Ian’s parents hear of Toula’s family’s plans of getting married in the church, they accept that Toula’s family is religious and they are not so they don’t mind the church setting for the wedding. A prime example of Toula’s family being very involved in her life is pre-ordering wedding invitations that have a Greek flag on the front and have Ian’s mother’s name spelled as “Harry” instead of “Harriet.” The family also chose the bridesmaids’ dresses as well as the wedding dress for Toula. On the wedding day, all of the cousins did her makeup for her and she didn’t really have a say as to how she or her wedding party looked. Since Ian’s friends were not baptized into the Greek Orthodox Church, Ian’s groomsmen were all Toula’s family members. I saw that Toula’s large family made Ian and his parents overwhelmed and when Toula visited Ian’s parents, it was awkward for her because she wasn’t used to the uncomfortable silences. All of these examples show the prime juxtaposition between Toula and Ian’s family structures.

In terms of Intercultural Communication I think Toula’s family demonstrates vertical collectivism and Ian’s family is more individualistic. At the beginning of the movie, Toula’s father is at the top of the hierarchy in her family. This is demonstrated by Toula’s mom and aunt having to make the father believe it was his idea to have Toula work at the travel agency. The father is also very ethnocentric, exhibited by him saying there are only Greeks and people that wished they were Greek. He also takes every word and finds the Greek root word that gave it the meaning. When the grandmother comes from Greece to live with the family, she takes on the role of the elder and therefore the most respected in the hierarchy. She reminded the family of their strong roots and her sneaking out of the house forced them to interact with their neighbors a lot more. Ian’s family is more individualistic in the sense that they let him change his career path and all share equal roles within the family.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding shows intercultural communication between a Greek family and an American family. Through the interaction between family members, we see individualism and vertical collectivism. The movie depicts prime differences between a Greek and an American family that are quite a juxtaposition. All in all, I believe My Big Fat Greek Wedding was a good example of how diverse our country is and how if we all come together we can share in each other’s cultures to make it a happier and more loving environment.

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