Etiquette of Meeting the Family for Dummies 101

I was working away, writing a memo and someone came in about a guy she has been dating. At work, I am very serious and people would be very surprised to see the person I am outside of work. I am still funny, easy-going, and nice, but I don’t share very much; I don’t chit chat very much, I am pretty much working on project after project most of the day.

Either way, they tend to come to me not only for advice about work-related things, but advice in all aspects of their life. Sometimes, I feel like I should be a paid therapist.

Today, the topic was “meeting the family.”

My co-worker (CW) is going to the beach with her undefined BF (UBF). After speaking with her, I was baffled at how clueless she was in the etiquettes of relationship interactions in general, let alone in a relationship.

I just shook my head at her the whole time and she laughed saying how would she know. I told her it’s not really funny. You should know what to do when meeting your significant other’s family and it’s actually sad not to know these etiquettes and she’s in her late 20’s.

It could be a cultural thing. I’m not sure, but I was raised to always bring a gift and go out of my way as a guest in anyone’s home, let alone someone you are dating.

She asked me what I did, I said, every holiday I gave a gift, every birthday, I even wrote cards in Farsi for my ex’s mom and I don’t speak Farsi.

Here are the questions that CW brought up and my responses, if you ever ask me these questions; I will shake my head at you:

Scenario 1: Arriving before the significant other. What are the obligations?

CW:       It’s going to be awkward because the UBF will not be there when I arrive. It will only be the mom, sister-in-law and me. I don’t really need to talk to them right? I was just going to drop my bag off and head to the beach or I am going to park by the beach and when the UBF is done he can text me to come over.

My Response:     No! First off, this is the perfect opportunity to impress the mom because no matter what the mom’s opinion matters and you want to win her over. Secondly, I would think you were so rude to come stay the weekend with me and then just leave. I would put a strike down just for that.

Scenario 2: Talking points

CW:      But I don’t even know what to talk about and I really I want to go to the beach instead of talking to them.

My Response:                 Ask them a few things about themselves. First off, you should know a little bit about the parents and what they do. Ask about their travels, their house, thank them for the hospitality. Then if you really want to go to the beach, ask them to join.

CW:                                  That is so smart.

In my head:                     Not really, I would do that for anyone.

Scenario 3: Art of Gift Giving

Me:                       Are you bringing a gift?

CW:                      Why? I’m their guest.

Me:                       You always bring a gift no matter if it was your friend, friend’s family, or even an acquaintance that invites you over. If it’s a possible future in-law hell yes I will do whatever it takes to impress. I told asked her, if a friend invites you to a party, don’t you bring something? You never go anywhere empty-handed.

Scenario 4: Wine or Dessert?

CW:          What should I bring?

Me:           It depends on what they like?

CW:          Well, I don’t know them.

Me:           It’s your job to find out. If not, wine or dessert will always do. This is always the girl’s job. It’s not the man’s job. It’s your job to impress the parents.

CW:          Well, what if they already have it?           Well, what if I don’t bring anything? I’m only staying for 2 days; they’ve already been there a week.

Me:           It does not matter; it’s the thought that counts. The point is you took 5 seconds of your life to think of someone else. If you were dating my son and came with no gift, strike 2!

Scenario 4: Making an impression

As the conversation continued, she said very confidently that they’ll love her. I said here are a few other pointers:

  • Thank them for letting her stay at the place when arriving and departing
  • Help clean up for lunches, etc…
  • Make sure to include the entire family if you make any plans. Having a more the merrier picture will

She said: I’m making her nervous. I told her, this should not make her nervous, its common etiquette. Even if I visit a friend, I always come bearing gifts and if it is out-of-state, they get even more gifts!

She said that it was a good thing she came to me first for dating advice. I said this is not dating advice; it’s just being a good guest. She said, well you have more etiquette than me.

After this conversation, I realized the guys I dated were so lucky they never had to or have to train me on this piece. I may need to be tamed in some ways, but not in this respect.

I hope once you read this, you shake your head in disbelief and… find that the moral of the story will be to think of someone other than your step and a small gesture can go a long way, especially in love.

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