Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Getting to know you...

Aisatsu


This is the first official “meet the parents” and hopefully, it will go a lot more smoothly than that Ben Stiller movie.

This is what I learned from my friends and those etiquette books (asking my husband-to-be was a bit hopeless – like most guys, he just said, ‘oh, don’t worry, wear what you like… you don’t have to bring anything…they’re cool’ Don’t listen to him).

Your future parents-in-law have probably already been told that you’re getting married (or duh, guessed that this is the reason for the visit) – and if they haven’t had a lot of contact with non-Japanese, they might be feeling a bit anxious. Mine had zero English ability beyond ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, so they were very nervous about communication. 

They might have some preconceptions about you...



Learning a few phrases about yourself in Japanese is very useful. My in-laws wanted to know: what my job is, what I studied at university, what my parents do, where they live, how long I’d been in Japan… being able to chat about these things helped to reassure them. You may feel like you’re being grilled, but when you think about it, they only have this one meeting to get to know you. Back home, parents usually have months, if not years of dinners and BBQs to get to know someone before marriage is even mentioned.

So, bring pictures – of your hometown, your family, your family’s house. It makes small talk so much easier.

Bring a gift! Even if you’re told by your bf/gf that it’s not necessary. However, it shouldn’t be too big or flashy. You know that old Japanese gift culture – they may feel obliged to give you something back, and they don’t have anything, then they feel bad… the vicious cycle!

I consulted my trusty etiquette guide, “Wedding Manner to Kotsu” – Wedding Manner Secrets. It recommended for women: bring sweets like youkan (made of bean paste, the ‘best’ – or most expensive – comes from Toraya) and for men: alcohol – preferably from your hometown or something ‘my family likes to drink’. Of course, do a little research – ask your partner what their family likes – if they don’t drink, obviously, alcohol is out. 

I took some biscuits and happened to find some small Australian jams & honey (having found out future MIL liked toast and honey for breakfast). Most international supermarkets have a good selection of sweets and spirits from around the world. Just make sure you get it gift wrapped or put it in a nice gift bag from Loft or similar. As you will find out, appearance can be more important than what’s inside….


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