“I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the geographical centre of North America. My father is from Drymos, Achaia, close to Kalavryta and he migrated to Canada in 1952 at the age of 21 years old. He went to Canada because there was a shorter queue than the USA and more opportunities as fewer migrants were going there. My mother was born in Canada. Her father was from Molaoi, Lakinias and her mother was from Smyrna and had fled to Canada with her family as refugees when she was eight.
Our city had a population of about 800,000 people and from that number about 5,000 were Greeks. We all knew each other because we only had one church, which was the centre of our community.
I followed my heart to Australia in 1995. My aunt lives in Australia and she and her family had come to Canada to visit. My cousin brought her close friend Lexy as well. Lexy was our house guest for a month and stole my heart. I visited Australia in 1993 for my cousin’s wedding and the romance blossomed.
When I left Canada I was straight out of university. I studied Multimedia and Production Arts while working in my brother in law’s restaurant. He taught me the ropes of running his business. When I came to Australia I got into the film and TV industry in various creative and technical roles until 2003. In 2004 I followed a dream and started my own cafe, Cafe Bido, from the ground up. 12 years later, Lexy and I are still at it.
The name ‘Bido’ (pronounced ‘beedo’) was a nickname growing up. I was the baby of the family and had three older sisters. My sister Marianne, who is three years older than me, couldn’t say little brother, and she’d call me “‘eedo bido’. When we were trying to think up cafe names anything with ‘Nick’ in it wasn’t the go.
The cafe is known for the ‘Bido Burger’ which is a Canadian style burger made with love. We don’t put things like beetroot or pineapple (which are great on an Aussie burger!) and use ketchup, not tomato sauce. They are two totally different flavours, don’t get me started!
What I miss most about being away from Canada is my family. We see each other all the time, and my mum is even on Facebook keeping everyone in line with her trademark “mazepsou”. I miss friends I grew up with, but they’ve moved away too. I tell people I miss Winnipeg 1995 it’s different when I go back home now.
I always knew how cosmopolitan Sydney was and still is. I assimilated quite easily as, apart from the climate, it’s quite similar to Canada. The hardest thing about moving to a new country and new life was that I went from knowing everybody in a small city to knowing hardly anyone except for my cousins and Lexy’s family. Twenty years later and being in my own business for 12 years, I’ve established a name for myself. People know me in the streets and in the mall, bank etc. It feels good.
The number of Greeks in Australia is HUGE. The main difference I found between the Greeks in Canada and the Greeks in Australia is that communities are separate from the churches here and are based on the region in Greece which people came from. Lexy’s family is Kytherian, so we mix with the Kytherians quite a bit, and that community has embraced me with open arms. Coincidentally, my cousin married a Kytho too.
I’ve always been amused that a lot of the Greeks here can’t get their head around me being a Canadian Greek. I guess they think all the Greeks came to Australia! When Greeks find out I’m from Canada they ask if I know their cousin Spiro in Montreal.
Going to the set of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 last year and being an extra was a lot of fun. I missed out on the first movie, being here in Australia, but I was determined to get there for this one. Nia has immortalised us all. Nothing makes us laugh harder than seeing people react to Nia, it’s bizarre. To us she’s just our sister. It’s been so much fun and we’re so proud of her. We’re all that funny, she just gets paid for it.
My daughters are ethnocentric like their Pappou Gus. Lexy and I are both the youngest in our families so our Greek is horrible, we understand more than we speak. I haven’t been to Greece since 1980, but when the time comes for our grand Greece visit, we’ll immerse ourselves.
I would like to go to Canada for an extended stay but home now is here in Sydney. I hope my daughters spend an extended trip when they’re older, maybe for university or work.
I definitely feel like I have three πατριδες (countries). There is a piece of me everywhere.”
Nick Vardalos, Canadian- Greek- Australian