Second, third and perhaps now even fourth generation Greek-Australians have been taught to preserve customs and traditions handed down by their parents and grandparents who first migrated here in the 50s and 60s.
Over time, like evolution itself, these cultural identifiers have a tendency to become lost or diluted. With new waves of migration, young Greeks, from Greece may be the key to reintroducing the more in depth concepts of our rich culture to young Greek-Australians.
While ‘Greekness’ is not determined simply by a blood relation or how much one participates in cultural holidays and traditions, there is more to being Greek than a souvla on Easter Sunday.
NUGAS Vice-President Maria Psomadelli and general committee member Thanos Cheimaras provide their insight on what they think Greek-Australians can learn from Greek youth.
Maria Psomadelli (Vice-President of NUGAS)
Greek heritage has indeed a lot to teach young boys and girls through life. It is said from most Greek people who have come to Australia, for various reasons, that life is completely different in these two countries.
The way kids are raised in Greece is significantly different. In my opinion, life in Greece, especially when you are a young innocent kid, is simple. Every day starts when the sun rises and ends when the moon goes up.
As my parents taught me, among most of young Greek kids, it is important and essential, to cherish every experience, always say please and thank you, and last but not least, work hard to live the life yourself and your parents would want you to live.
No matter how wealthy or poor your family is, when you are raised in Greece, material goods are not the biggest dream, for most at least. For me, I believe there is this dissimilarity between people raised in Greece and Greeks raised in Australia. Life here is faster and sometimes children forget to appreciate and live in the moment as well as express gratitude to either what they have or what has been offered to them.
Moreover, I have also noticed that Greek-Australians tend to forget about our culture as a nation. For example, religious celebrations such as Easter (Pascha), Christmas and tis Panagias, have been transformed into materialistic celebrations, and they don’t stand as an opportunity to get together with the family and celebrate, but they look more like a chance for more presents and social updates.
Could this potentially be because of the fast-paced country we live in? Or maybe the way that children are raised? It could also be both. In the end, traditions and culture will fade if we don’t try to keep them alive.
Thanos Cheimaras (General Committee of NUGAS)
Many people have a different interpretation of ‘Philotimo’ and question its usefulness. Philotimo is a Greek word for which there is no English equivalent. While its literal translation means “sense of honour” its meaning is much more profound. It can incorporate personal values such as “personal pride, dignity, courage, duty, sacrifice and above all it demands respect and deep personal freedom”.
Philotimo can be seen as the opposite of self-interest. The true acts of Philotimo include spontaneous expressions of hospitality and generosity, spontaneous in the sense of that the person involved does not calculate what they might receive in return for his action.
Individuals who use Philotimo in a certain way towards others would often feel deep satisfaction by their act of giving without expecting anything in return. As someone who has been born and raised in Greece, I feel that Philotimo is being forgotten and abandoned by some Greek-Australians of past generations and even worse, when the few people who display it, they are seen as not wise enough and as people who allow themselves to be taken advantage of.
I think that this is a critical point for the Greek-Australian youth as it will shape the forthcoming generations. The Greek-Australian youth speaks a language fluently, that is foreign to me, even though I use it adequately. They are familiar with lore and cultural references that I can’t relate to. They use idioms I sometimes do not understand. They are familiar but not so familiar with Greek culture and I believe that this plays an enormous role in understanding and accepting Philotimo.
I would like to see Philotimo being displayed by the Greek-Australian youth in our communities and see more people unite from the benefits of Philotimo as it will help our society to become healthier.