Most of us have watched the hit romantic movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding from 2002, starring the very sexy John Corbett and beautiful Nia Vardalos. It was a funny romantic story about a young Greek woman who lives at home and waitresses at the family restaurant. Toula (Nia) is 30 years of age and single which causes concern within her family, especially her strict father who would like nothing more than to see his daughter marry a Greek boy and make babies. Wanting more independence, Toula gets a job at her aunts travel agency where she meets non-greek vegetarian school teacher Ian Miller (John).
Over time the two fall in love, but when Toula’s family find out that she has been sneaking around the city with a strange man Toula realises it is time to introduce her boyfriend to the family. We all remember Toula’s fathers disapproval after meeting Ian – “Is he a nice greek boy? oh no, no – no greek!” before he storms from the kitchen. As much as we all enjoyed the romantic comedy, the topic enabled many to open up to friends and family about their own relationships.
Thanks to movies such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Bodyguard, Hairspray, Save The Last Dance, Guess Who and Love Actually (to name a few) more light has been shone on multicultural relationships. Considering how successful these movies have been, it would seem that there is more acceptance of interracial couples in today’s society.
Australia hasn’t always been a mix of different cultures. We have all learned about Australia’s history in our schools and via the media. We know that Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians before the continent was discovered by Dutch explorers in 1606 and that the British took claim in 1770. But how did we grow as a nation? During the late 18th and 19th centuries, large numbers of convicts were transported to penal colonies built along our coast lines to relieve the pressure placed on facilities back in England.
During the 1830’s men and women joined the colonisation voluntarily via public and private schemes. With the discovery of gold in Victoria in the mid 1850’s, people arrived in far greater numbers. Even though the majority of migrants continued to come from Britain and Ireland, approx 1/4 of those arriving on our shores were from Europe, China, United States, New Zealand and the South Pacific.
When Australia became an independent nation on the 1st of January 1901, the total population in Australia was close to 4 million people. In fact 1 in 4 people living in Australia at the time were born overseas. Over the past 113 years our nation has grown significantly, and we are showing no signs of slowing down.
Over the last 10 years those that were born in New Zealand, China and India and immigrated to Australia have increased. One of the reasons has been the dramatic increases in population in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sudan who have the highest annual increases of growth per year in the world. According to abs.gov.au in 2003 – 23.6% of estimated resident population (ERP) were born overseas (approximately 4.7 million people) in 2013 – 27.7% of the ERP was born overseas (approx 6.4 million people). As of June 2013, people born in the UK accounted for 5.3% of Australia’s total population. This was followed by people born in New Zealand (2.6%) China (1.8) India (1.6%) and Vietnam (.9%)
For many of those families that have immigrated to Australia, moving was a very difficult and stressful decision for them. They may have left their birthplace due to economic struggles, harsh living conditions or left a country torn apart by war but they also left behind their relatives and friends. They have come to a new country full of opportunities to enjoy better living conditions, have access to medical treatment and provide a better education for their families. They also have access to affordable food, water, employment and a safer environment. Even though they have a much better life here, they don’t want to forget where they have come from, their traditions or their customs.
Some parents find comfort in their children finding love with someone from their own culture. They feel solace in their children connecting with someone who shares a similar background knowing that they are aware of shared traditions and expectations. If someone has immigrated from a country with harsh living conditions, there is comfort to be found in extended family understanding each others hardships and determination. Even though some families feel this way, I don’t believe that love with someone from a different culture should be deterred. When we feel loved and cherished, we feel it deep down in our souls, love after all knows no boundaries.
That said, you shouldn’t enter an interracial relationship expecting it to be smooth sailing, it may not be – sometimes life isn’t that easy. Asking your family and friends to accept something that goes against their own wishes may prove to much. You will need to be patient and give those that are unhappy about your situation time to understand. Sit down and talk to your family and friends, arrange a time for them to meet your loved one. Over time bring up topics of conversation issues that you feel your family would relate to. Talk about your partner, what his goals are and why he makes you happy.
You also have to respect your families thoughts and any concerns they may have. I’m not saying you will all agree, you may or you may not. If your family and friends are concerned about something, listen to them. They just might have a valid reason that you have not considered yourself. Be patient and try to be understanding.
When it comes to marrying someone from another culture, most of us have a story to tell. My mum is an Irish Catholic, born and raised in Northern Belfast when fighting between the IRA and the British Army was at its worst. She came to Australia in 1969 to be with her sister, met my German father and brought four wonderful children into the world 🙂 today they continue to live together in country Victoria. Its hasn’t always been easy for them. My grandfather (my mother’s father) came over from Ireland to stop my parent’s wedding as he didn’t approve of my mother marrying a german as his family fought them in the 2nd world war. Some of my father’s family don’t get along with my mum, they don’t understand her or her upbringing and its caused friction over the years. But they have stayed together because they love each other. They have worked at what differences they have had by being honest and compromising.
Life is not meant to be easy – I remember the first time I heard that saying, I thought it was silly. Why can’t life be easy? Now that I am older I understand the saying so much better. Life would be if we had forgiveness, patience and tolerance. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come, where you live, where you work or what colour your skin is – it’s about kindness, acceptance and respect. It’s about listening to each other. Its doesn’t mean yelling at someone because they don’t believe in your views, it means acknowledging that you don’t feel the same way and understanding that everyone wants the best for their loved ones. Everyone just wants to be happy 🙂
x x x