Etiquette: Meeting the parents

Posted on Apr 10 2019 - 9:00am by Samantha Clark
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It can be really intimidating meeting your partners parents for the first time. You want to make a good impression but at the same time, you don’t want to come across as fake.

If this is likely to be a serious relationship, you’ll likely be sending a significant period of time with them. So, we thought it may be helpful to create a little etiquette guide to help alleviate some of that pressure.

1.      Take a gift with you

gift wrapping

If they’re hosting you for the first visit, take a little gift with you. It doesn’t have to be extravagant and can be really simple; a small bunch of flowers, a box of biscuits or chocolate etc. just a token gift to thank them for having you.

To score a couple of extra brownie points, it’s worth asking your partner what their favourite flowers or chocolates so you can go armed with something they’ll love.

If you’re meeting at a neutral location like a café or restaurant though, you don’t need to take anything- but it may be worth reading our etiquette guide to eating out!

2.      Be courteous

The usual. Be mindful that you say please, thank you when appropriate, avoid swearing; be friendly and complementary of their home. Help out with the dishes and tidying up if appropriate.

If they ask you something you’re not comfortable answering, or the conversational moves to something debatable (hi politics- we’re talking about you!), move on with the conversation as quickly as you can or simply listen to what they have to say without contribution.

3.      Conversational pieces

It can be difficult to know what to talk about when you meet your partners parents. But there are some very easy conversational pieces you can draw on:

Where you and they work: be inquisitive about how they spend their time and what they do. Equally, they’ll be interested to know what you do. If you don’t want to be too direct about what you do, talk about it more generally rather than the specifics.

Ask about the family: if there are pictures around, show an interest in the family or friends within it. They obviously mean a lot to them so are likely to be excited to talk about them.

Praise your partner: it shows adoration for your partner and their parents will love that! It’s also complimentary of their upbringing if you illustrate the wonderful things they do for you, like holding open the door etc.

Find out about their interests, do they read books, go to the cinema, eat out (can they make recommendations), participate in sports, go to the theatre etc. knowing a little bit about them in advance will help you direct the conversation and have a topic in your back pocket should you need it.

4.      Be yourself

It’s really important that you be yourself when meeting the parents as this is the version of you your partner wants to show off. They like you for who you are, and they should too. Tell them about your interests, passions and work and your personality will easily shine through.

5.      Don’t be an open book

It’s your first meeting with them, you don’t need to share your life story with them. That is only likely to make you more vulnerable.

Also, we get silences can be awkward, but you’ll have lots to talk about without giving everything away. When telling some stories, omit some of the details to be short and concise. The more you see of them, the more you’ll share.

6.      Do some research in advance

Family Holiday

We’ve already touched on this in various ways but finding out a little bit about them in advance can make a huge difference to your confidence when meeting the parents for the first time.

Like we say, if you go prepared with a more personal gift this will immediately warm them to you. Ask your partner about their likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests. Find out a little more about the extend family, family holidays and the such. If your partner is a little reserved when it comes to sharing details, there is always social media but perhaps look back at your partners posts rather than stalking the family.

7.      Don’t stress about your outfit

It can be easy to get caught up in the ‘what to wear’ dilemma but seriously, don’t sweat it. If you’re going out for lunch, dinner or tea, you’ll know the location in advance so can research the appropriate dress code for that in advance. If you’re going to their house, be smart but casual and allow your personality to shine through in the clothes you wear.

We hope our tips have proved helpful. If you have any additional advice for meeting the parents, we’d love to hear them! Just share your thoughts in the comments below.

Some of the links within this post will direct you to an affiliate partner and we may make a very small commission on any purchases you make through them. This is one of the way that helps to fund the publication and allow us to have free articles.

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