Intercultural Communication in the Film "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"

Intercultural communication is a form of communication that aims to share information across different cultures and social groups. The best characteristic feature for every nation is its culture. Every day we meet different people from different countries and cultures, get acquainted with them and learn something from their culture in the same time sharing ours with them. Intercultural communication allows us to broaden our mind and learn new things even if those new things may be shocking for us.

The same can be said about one of the American movies called “My big fat Greek wedding” directed by Joel Zwick. The main members of the cast are Nia Vardalos and John Corbett who played Toula and Ian in the movie. This is a romantic comedy that includes both entertainment and sociological problems in it. The whole film was set in the United States. It tells us a story of a highly traditional Greek family that has an unmarried girl named Toula, and according to their restricted customs she had to get married to a guy who is also from a Greek family. The very first scene makes everything clear to us about what the movie is going to be about. It starts at a restaurant owned by Toula’s dad. As all other Greek families this one was not an exception and it has lots of relatives, cousins, nephews, etc. The dad of the family was very traditional and was the top head of the family, also by every single given chance he was showing off his knowledge of Greek originated words, he mocked the food names that had Greek origin. They were a very proud Greek family. The main goal of the whole family members was to have Toula married which shows us both the desire of the family for her to be happy and for them to ‘solve’ one problem away. But unlike her family’s desire, Toula had a passion towards studying, she wanted to continue her studies and here her mom helped her a lot.

Surprisingly, mom’s and dad’s opinions were very different from each other. Dad wanted to have her married but at the same time he was afraid that Toula could leave him, but mom wanted to do everything her daughter wanted.

After this the movie shows us Toula’s transformation. She started to get some classes about tourism, computer and so on. Meanwhile, she was still somehow wary about relationships. Here we see how the girl was brought up in her family. Things turned out the way that she met Ian in their restaurant and after she got a job in her aunt’s travel agency - they met again. They started to know more about each other. The progress was noticeable, though her dad still thought that there were two types of people in the world: The Greeks and the others, which was making things harder for his daughter even more.

Toula was a type of a girl that had very low self-confidence, she never thought that she was beautiful or that having such a big family was an advantage for her. Ian managed to make those things clear to her. She understood that not everyone is blessed with a big family, for example Ian himself. He was the only child and was very impressed by her family and their attitudes. On the other hand, Toula’s family was extremely traditional which is not a bad thing for sure. Maybe it is a bit rude to call them ‘narrow-mined people’ but once we compare them to 21st century – they really are. They put their traditions at first and ahead from their child’s happiness. Only this fact was shocking for Ian as well, he was from another nation but that fact was not making him a ‘bad’ person.

If we are to talk about Ian’s parents’ reaction to Toula and her origins, then we can surely say that they were so much different from Toula’s parents. They were actually not so surprised and even showed some interest to the meanings of her name and surname.

When Ian’s family comes to Toula’s house to for a dinner it comes out that the dinner was not what they expected to be - a quiet dinner, instead find a loud, wild party. But they did not show any dislike and as for Ian he quietly tried to be integrated to their family traditions and customs. Toula’s father then complains about Ian’s family being too dry. Even making a reference to being looked at as if they were in a zoo. At the dinner when Ian’s parents brought a Bundt cake, Toula’s family assumed it had a hole in the middle and filled it. Here again we face cultural differences as cupcakes are inseparable part of American reality but in the Greek one it was shocking to see a hole in the middle of a cake. Another issue is they were shocked at the fact that Ian is a vegetarian. For them a real man must eat meat. As the party continues things start to shake up, Toula’s aunt served Ian’s parents hard liquor causing them to get drunk and have good time.

As we managed to notice lots of cultural differences made Ian and his family live culture shock several times. And that is something natural when two representatives of two separate nations met each other. Minor customs existing in Toula’s family were extremely absent in Ian’s. But here a question arises: why did such a traditional Greek family come to live in the USA? The answer of this question was given by Toula’s mom character and she said that they did that for their children to have a normal and common life. But here she contrasts with their current way of living. It was not different from what they could have in the Greece.

Before the wedding Toula’s family tries to convince Toula to get him baptized at a Greek Orthodox Church. That was something her dad desired and wanted Ian to do before marrying her daughter. Slowly getting to know him, and accepting him. This was a cultural peculiarity as Greek people are known to be very religious people, not like Americans or other nations.

Another situation happens during the weeding when the bride comes down the aisle and her relatives start to spit on her or after her. This was the part of the culture shock for Ian’s family. In the Greek culture as well as in the Armenian one it is believed that spitting will cast the devil out from their way. And eventually, with all the obstacles they got married.

This is very important to mention that the movie shows the key sociological concepts of accommodation because the film portrays the need to overcome cultural differences while not diminishing the beauty of cultural traditions. Ian shows acculturation since the priest baptized Ian to bring him into the church and allow for Ian and Toula to be married in the Church. Therefore, it can be concluded that Ian’s decision to be baptized can lead to showing key sociological concepts of assimilation because he will be with his wife every day and will see how to be in a Greek Orthodox family and may do traditions or actions of his wife’s family. He even got baptized for her. And not the process was the culture shock but the shown attitude towards it. It had such a great significance for Toula’s family, but not for Toula. She was ready to get married even without those customs fulfilled.

The movie was filled with cultural and social peculiarities which showed how different can two young people be but at the same time how similar. This film is actually an invaluable and unequalled masterpiece due to its profound meaning. The best thing that reigns in this movie is love, the fact that even if two different people from two different cultures and societies fall in love with each other, nothing will be able to divide them neither culture nor family.

So, from the mentioned analysis we clearly see and know that the second generation of Greek immigrants, particularly Toula processed Greek traditions as well as American culture. She could do it better, integrate into American society better. And Ian Also compromised to some extent so as to marry Toula. Anyway, the reality can’t be changed just because of family’s orientation to this or that culture. Although two cultures have various differences, even a lot of conflicts, these two cultures can still coexist with each other, integrate into each other. What we should do is to adopt a correct attitude towards intercultural communication and deal with it properly.

16 December 2021
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