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Greek Culture and Italian Culture 

Sample Nursing Culture Paper

Paper topic: Greek culture and Italian culture

This assignment was part of the nursing culture class in the RN to BSN program. The assignment for this paper was to watch the move My Big Fat Greek Wedding and compare the Greek culture with another culture, answering specific discussion points. The Greek culture as presented in this movie was an interesting culture and the research for this paper was also very interesting. 

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The Greek culture 

The movie entitled My Big Fat Greek Wedding portrayed a Greek family and included many Greek traditions. Many Greek customs have food as a main focus and in this movie the food posed some health concerns. The greek culture will be discussed and compared to the italian culture in a variety of aspects including the focus of food and religion in their customs. Both cultures have some similarities in that they bring their religious beliefs into many of their health care beliefs and into their festive activities. They are also similar in their attitudes about family, and how food brings a family closer together. They like to offer a large feast, which is not necessarily a healthy diet by American standards.

In this movie, food seemed to be the focal point of many celebrations, including the wedding. This is consistent with the fact that greek foods were related to religious feasts or celebrations. The Greek Orthodox religion had many celebrations that featured food, and these events could occur daily. Weddings and funerals were included in celebrations that offered huge feasts, including many sugary deserts. Included in the religious ceremonies was the roasting of the lamb for Easter. Bread and pastries had been a main staple in their celebrations, and regular diet (West, 1962).

At meal times, Toula, and the other women played the hostess. The women in the movie prepared and served much of the food. In the traditional greek meal, a large amount of food was set out and everyone served themselves while the hostess kept the wine glasses full (Andronico’s, 2009). This was compared to the italian culture in that both laid out large meals for their families. The italian women prepared the meals, and the customs were that by making these large meals they were keeping their family close together (DiPiazza, n.d.). In this sense they also played the role of the hostess at the traditional meals, as did the Greek women.

The diet that was observed in this movie would not be considered healthy, but was representative of a common greek diet. The Attica study revealed that many Greek’s consume a higher amount of red meat, and a lower amount of fish and white meat than what is recommended. The study also noted a lower amount of grains, vegetables, and dairy products, and an increased amount of sugar products. Close to 90 % of fat intake by the group was in the form of olive oil. The Greek’s in the study did consume adequate amounts of fruit and legumes. This study concluded that Greek’s today eat a less healthy diet than those of the 1950’s. They concluded that the diet is high in foods that are related to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes (Arvaniti, Panagiotakos, Pitsavos, Zampelas, & Stefanadis, 2006). Many of these dietary habits were evident in the movie, as the Portobello family ate a lot of meat, and a lot of sweet deserts. The diet of this family was not healthy in respect to the Greek or Unites States standards.

The diet was not healthy according to United States standards for several reasons. A healthy diet according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture (2009) would include poultry, fish, and lean meats, would emphasize whole grains, low fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and be low in sugar, sodium, cholesterol, and fat. The average greek diet does not follow these guidelines, nor did the diet of the Portobello’s family. The Portobello’s were meat eaters, but not necessarily lean meats, and they ate a high amount of sugary deserts. Cultural and ethnic background contributes to the diet of many individuals. The greek and italian cultures are no different in this aspect. The American Heart Association (AHA) (2008) recognized that olive oil, a staple in the Greek diet, was one of the better oils, but can also add a lot of calories to foods. Other common Greek foods such as feta cheese and olives are noted to be high in sodium. Greek deserts are often very high in fat and sugar. The AHA recommends using less oil, requesting high sodium foods, and sauces on the side to limit their use, and sharing of greek deserts to decrease the serving size. These modifications would help to promote a more heart healthy diet, which would include limited fat, cholesterol, and sodium. The AHA (2008) had similar comments on an italian diet. Pasta itself could be low in fat, and whole grain pasta could be a good addition to a heart healthy diet. Many of the cream sauces, and cheeses used in Italian food can increase fat and calories, therefore the AHA (2008) recommends marinara sauce instead of traditional sauces, and vegetables instead of meat, to help in decreasing the saturated fat consumed.

This high fat diet is likely a contributing factor to the Portobello family being overweight. Without measurements of height and weight, body mass index is unavailable, but by appearance much of the family was overweight. They also appeared to consume alcohol at many of their celebrations. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) (2009) a diet high in fat, and cholesterol, overweight or obesity, and high alcohol consumption are risk factors for heart disease. Another noted risk factor is lack of physical activity (AHA, 2009), which was not portrayed as being a priority among the Portobello family members. These health concerns, specifically lack of physical activity, increased weight, and potential substance abuse, that were observed in the Portobello family members were also noted to be leading health indicators for Healthy People 2010 (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.).

The most noted health concern in the movie was related to food safety. At many times throughout the movie raw meat was observed to be handled inappropriately. The raw meat was out in the open, being carried without any covering, and resting on the counter with other foods beside it. This posed a risk of contamination to the meat, as well as to the other foods. According to The Public Health and Safety Company (2004) raw meats should be kept on a separate surface to avoid contamination of raw meats to other foods. This includes surface areas being kept clean and disinfected, hands frequently washed, and packages sealed to ensure there is no leakage from the meat.

The use of Windex in this movie was another observed health concern. Windex was observed to be used on any type of cut of skin injury or rash. Although Windex contains alcohol (Johnson & Son, 2009), which is effective for killing germs (Purell, 2009) but not meant to cure skin irritations, Windex is not meant to be used on skin for this purpose. The makers of Windex specifically note that their wipes should not be used as baby wipes or for personal hygiene (Johnson & Son, 2009).

Although many traditions of the greek people surround food, they often stem from their religious beliefs. Many traditions of both the Greek and the Italian people came from their religions. The majority of Greeks belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church, but not all attended services on a regular basis. The holidays, especially Easter, weddings and funerals brought a large number of Greek people to the church. The Greek monasteries did not permit any females to enter, and they have a smaller number living in them now than they did in the past (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, n.d.). The majority of italian people are Roman Catholic, but only a third of them attend services weekly. Similar to the Greek traditions, many italian traditions are related to religious celebrations (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, n.d.). The church is an important part of life for the Italian people, including multiple festivals in honor of different saints (Spector, 2004).

Throughout the years the health focus of the Greek’s had changed. In ancient Greece there had been a focus on a healthy lifestyle but that is not the case in modern day Greece. In Ancient Greece they began looking for the cause of disease rather than only at the symptoms, Greek’s such as Hippocrates have made many contributions to medical science. Medical practice in both Ancient and modern day Greece have been based on religious beliefs (Schoolshistory.org.uk, 2002). The people living in Greece were covered under the Greek National Health Service that offered free medical care. There was easy access to care for those in the city, but for those in rural areas they often needed to travel to access care (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, n.d.). Similar to Greek medicine the Italian’s also had a state health plan, and the medical system included religious practices (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, n.d.). They believed that having faith in the Saints and in God would get them through their illness (Spector, 2004). Many churches and monasteries had served as hospitals, and many Catholic charities ran hospitals and ambulances. Many Italian people have practiced alternative medicine such as acupuncture and massage (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, n.d.).

Both the Greek and the Italian people have many festivities that surround their religion, and include large amounts of food. This large consumption of food poses some health risks to these groups, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. It is important to note that this is a cultural concern when caring for these individuals. Health teaching to these individuals should consider these facts, as avoiding some of the food may be difficult for them. The women in their culture may take offense if a family member turns away their food as they see these feasts as a way to keep their families close. The American Heart Association’s (AHA) (2008) suggestion of asking for high sodium foods, and sauces on the side would be very beneficial to include in teaching as it may help them to attempt to follow a healthy diet without offending their families. Teaching being extended to the entire family would also be beneficial as the traditional Greek family all may eat an unhealthy diet based on the United States standards and the AHA’s heart healthy diet plan.

Greek and Italian culture references


American Heart Association (2008). Tips for eating Greek and Middle Eastern food. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1094American Heart Association (2008).

Tips for eating Italian food. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1098American Heart Association (2009).

Risk factors and coronary heart disease. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4726Andronico’s (2009).

Origins of Greek cuisine: A typical Greek table. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.andronicos.com/Features/CoverStory/2008-03-31.php

Arvaniti, F., Panagiotakos, D. B., Pitsavos, C., Zampelas, A., & Stefanadis, C. (2006). Dietary habits in a Greek sample of men and women: the ATTICA study.

Central European Journal of Public Health, 14(2), 74-77. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from Academic Search CompleteCitizenship and Immigration Canada (n.d.).

Greece: Cultural profiles project: Looking at health care. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from http://www.cp-pc.ca/english/greece/index.html

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (n.d.). Greece: Cultural profiles project: Spirituality. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.cp-pc.ca/english/greece/index.html

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (n.d.). Italy: Cultural profiles project: Looking at health care. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.cp-pc.ca/english/italy/index.htmlCitizenship and Immigration Canada (n.d.).

Italy: Cultural profiles project: Spirituality. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.cp-pc.ca/english/italy/index.htmlDiPiazza, J. (n.d.).

Italian-American Foodways: A personal and academic look into Sunday dinner. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~dialogs/vol_03/pdf_files/j_dipiazza.pdf

Johnson & Son (2009). Windex: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.windex.com/faq/Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (n.d.).

What are the leading health indicators? Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.healthypeople.gov/LHI/lhiwhat.htmPurell (2009). In the news. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.purell.com/page.jhtml?id=/purell/include/news.incSchoolshistory.org.uk (2002).

Ancient Greek medicine. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/ancientgreece.htm

Spector, R. E. (2004). Cultural diversity in health and illness (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.

The Public Health and Safety Company (2004). Four steps to food safety. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.nsf.org/consumer/food_safety/fsmonth_fsteps.asp

United States Department of Agriculture (2009). Dietary guidelines. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from http://www.mypyramid.gov/guidelines/index.html

West, A. (1962). From Greece: Food fit for gods. Saturday Evening Post, 235(39), 66-69. Retrieved July 5, 2009, from Academic Search Complete

Greek culture


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