My father’s parents were born in a small village in the Peloponnese. They were kind and humble people that eventually made their way to Athens. My mother’s parents were born in Kafkaso, a town in Minor Asia, which at that time belonged to Greece. With the war of 1921, the Turks forced my mother’s parents to flee to Athens. They were wealthy and proud, as were many Pontian Greeks at that time. Both of my parents were born in Athens in the fifties. My mother left Athens in 1969, America bound and my father followed soon after.
Born to immigrant parents in the United States has had its challenges. I was raised in a Greek household with Greek morals and ideals, which at often times clash with those of American culture. The outside world is perceived inversely when your inside world is conducted in a completely different manner. However, having been born to immigrant parents I have the ability to empathize with other cultures. This is a gift, which in this field I have often times used.
One of the traditions that have been passed down in my family, thanks to our culture, is attending church every Sunday. Church, for Greek-Americans, is more than just a place of worship; it is also a communal gathering. Through church attendance we maintain our religious traditions, language, Sunday school, even meet our future mates. Even though some Greeks marry outside of the culture most choose partners with the same ethnic background. Many may argue that this is a form of brainwash from our parents but those of us that have married outside our culture tend to think our parents were correct.
In addition to attending church nearly every Sunday and attempting to stick to our own, Greeks are very affectionate people. As a race, we publicly and obviously like to show our love for one another. At times, I have found my non-Greek friends taken aback by my affectionate demeanor. We kiss friends upon meeting, touch them often during conversation, brush a bit of food off of their face, if need be, and ask a lot of personal questions. We do all this and expect the same in return. If this affection is not reciprocated we feel as if we are not loved in the same way. This is a perfect example of a culture clash. Greeks lay out their dirty laundry for friends to help find solutions or to simply console them while Americans see discussing personal matters as taboo (Cabral & Smith, 2011). Being an American woman raised by Greek parents, this can become confusing at times.
Regardless of the differences between Greek and American culture, I consider myself extremely lucky to be a part of both ethnicities. I am proud to be an American because this land is beautiful in more ways than one. America has given me opportunities to do things with my life of which citizens in other countries have only dreamt. However, my pride to be Greek does, at times, run a little deeper. I suppose I could thank my parents for this intense love of Greece, but the truth is that I really am proud of my heritage and its 2,500-year-old history. As a family, we are proud of my parents’ accomplishments more than my or my brother’s. Although immigrants that to this day barely speak English, my parents managed to raise one doctor and a soon to be clinical mental health therapist in pursuit of her PhD.
Greeks are not easily ashamed of many things. As long as they attend church and educate their children everything else is just a bump in the road. A common misconception amongst many is that the Greek Orthodox Church is strict. Our church has changed with the times. Situations like divorce, abortion, and homosexual partnerships are not celebrated but they are accepted. Since the Church in understanding and caring Greeks often times confess whatever it is they may be ashamed of and then move on with their lives. It may sound strange to others, but it is the essence of the Greek culture.
This essence of Greek...
References: Cabral, Raquel R. and Timothy B. Smith. (2011). Racial/Ethnic Matching of Clients and Therapists in Mental Health Services: A Meta-Analytic Review of Preferences, Perceptions, and Outcomes. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58, 12-27.
Hays, Pamela. (2008). How to help best: Culturally responsive therapy. Addressing Cultural Complexities in Practice: Assessment, diagnosis, and therapy (2nd ed.). 275.
Sue, D., & Sue, D.W. (2008). Culturally diverse: theory and practice (5th ed.) Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
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