To make things even more complicated than us being a interracial couple meeting each others' family for the first time, we wanted to communicate our marriage plans, PLUS Stephen needed to as my dad's permission for my hand in marriage. GULP!
Meeting the Parents…this subject is overused in romcoms for a reason my friends! I learned exactly why this past December when my now fiancee and I flew from our little bubble of bliss in South Korea to the United States (check out our dates in Korea here).
First stop Michigan, Stephen’s hometown. Well let me back up for those of you who may not know. I started vlogging about a year ago and posting my excursions in South Korea on my YouTube page Tonya’s World. A few months into vlogging I met Stephen and behold an Asian Male Black Female (AMBW) couple was born.
We moved pretty quickly as a couple compared to our peers but the pace was just right for us. December 2016, ready or not friends and family back home here we come!
“Hello there sir and ma’am I am just meeting, I’ve come to greet you and marry you daughter!”
OK no, it went way better than that. Thank God! But I’m getting ahead of myself, the first stop was Michigan. So the first platter of pressure was on me. Did I mention Stephen is Chinese American and while his mother can speak English is father cannot? Oh, and two days after landing in Michigan we went to visit his aunt, uncle, and grandmother who only speak Cantonese. Platter of pressure!!!
Having survived and successfully spent two weeks on each family’s side, I have compiled a list of my tips for MEETING THE PARENTS (and family):
- GIFTS- Call it old school, cliche or whatever but coming into someone’s home, especially when that someone is your family-to-be, empty-handed is a NO-NO! Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Its best you talk to your partner about their family’s gift style. Are they flashy? Minimalists? Health nuts? Hate gifts? — Stephen gifted my mother a bouquet of flowers and chocolates, my family isn’t into house gifts or trinkets (they will trash something unnecessary with a quickness). I gifted Stephen’s mom some Korean ginseng tea after having learned from a previous phone conversation with her that they swear by ginseng tea. Leading to my next point..
- MAKE PRIOR CONTACT- I owe Stephen a bunch of brownie points for this one. I’m not a huge fan of talking on the phone but he practically shoved the phone to my ear every time he had a convo with his mom to make me get over my insecurities and develop a relationship with her even abroad. When I met her in person, I felt I kinda already knew her and can honestly say despite initial butterflies I wasn’t nervous. On Stephen’s end, him and I Skyped my mom, dad and younger brother separately and as a bonus, when my older brother visited me in Korea, Stephen spent a weekend hanging out with him. Bottom line, having a small relationship or memories prior to in-person meetings can really add a smoothness to an awkward situation.
- STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE- Most family members only want the best for their loved one. So are they judging you? Yes. Is it unfair? Yes. Is it natural? Yes. We all get protective of our own. One way to lower their protective walls is to show you are a REAL person who genuinely cares about them, not only your partner. For example, Stephen’s family speaks Cantonese, a few months before arriving I started some basic Cantonese studies. I was no where near fluent when I met his family (still not) and I was nervous as hell to speak it in front of them. But when I did speak a phrase or two it made things sweeter. I began listening intently and engaging in asking questions about vocabulary. Not only did my Cantonese improve, but I had something to talk to his family about and I learned more of the language as time passed. When with my family, Stephen went through a super intense climbing course that took him to his physical max AND he went to Christmas Eve church service with us despite being agnostic. Both of us stepping out of our comfort zones made us both feel vulnerable but that’s exactly what helped us connect with each others’ family.
- FORGET YOUR NORMS- I thinks its safe to say if you are at the point where you are “meeting the parents” you can be considered a grown ass woman or man! You’ve got your own way of doing things. But just like in the previous tip, when meeting the parents/family, that comfort zone has to go, norms included. This of course should be taken case by case. But for me for example, this norm was food. I am technically a pescatarian but I try not to eat too much seafood, mostly veggies. When Stephen’s family found out I was pescatarian they went out of their way to cook and order as much seafood as possible for every meal! This was an incredibly considerate and thoughtful gesture for them and if I had let my “norms” get in the way I could’ve greatly offended them.
- BE YOURSELF- I bet you saw this coming. I couldn’t omit such a key tip. BE YOU! At the end of the day the parents and family will be able to sniff out a fake. Of course we all want to put our best foot forward, be respectful of culture etc but nothing beats being authentically you. Its refreshing for others to see and it takes a ton of pressure off your shoulders. Crash courses from your partner are good for getting a sneak peak on the family style and the big do’s and don’t s but being you will allow for a fast track through the BS and getting what you truly want, say a REAL relationship with your future in-laws.
After an entire MONTH of meeting the parents and family we were, needless to say, exhausted but we were very satisfied with the experience. The above are just some of my top 5 tips after reflecting on surviving and succeeding such a interesting time.
Let me know your tips for meeting the parents in the comments section!