MICHELLE: Miguel is a nurse based in the United States. He’ll be home for the holidays and will be meeting his girlfriend Janina’s family for the first time. Any tips on how to make a good impression? Yes, bring gifts for everyone! Seriously, meeting the family of a significant other for the first time is always a cause for anxiety so best be prepared. Miguel, I suggest you ask your girlfriend about her parents. What they are like, their love story, their likes, dislikes, including their definition of what love is. And maybe a definition of what a potential son-in-law is.
DJ: Bring a present. I’m serious. Something her dad or mom collects. He can ask Janina. It speaks about his thoughtful and responsible qualities. No need to wear a business suit. A tasteful version of him will do. Just practice what his mom bugs him about. Worst case, it’s good to err on the conservative side. Now let’s move to the all-important getting to know him portion of the program. Being completely silent can be awkward. Talking too much can be annoying. Thus, let the family set the tone. Use sir or ma’am. Don’t assume to call them tito or tita, or worse, ‘nong or ‘nang.
M: I’m curious to know though if Miguel has also personally met Janina. There are many LDRs (long distance relationships) these days where couples meet for the first time after many months of communicating through the phone and/or the internet. So if Miguel hasn’t met his girlfriend yet, best to meet her first and then afterward, meet her family. As to preparing for the meeting with the parents, Miguel should cover the basics. Handshake—firm, and look the dad straight in the eye. Venue—if it’s in their house, know the layout, not so he can make a fast exit but so he knows the terrain and thus can be more confident.
DJ: He can also check whether there are potential surprises. Is her mom deaf in one ear for example? Are there topics to avoid? Find out early. Stay clear from jarring subjects. Politics for example. In case they bring it up, just listen to what they say. This is not the time to share his disagreement. Research. Is there a business or career interest that he can connect with? Observe. Is he curious about that golf photo? Do any of the photos of her grandparents strike some resemblance with Janina? They sound generic but they can help the conversation flow especially if she’s joining mom in the kitchen and he’s left with dad. Offer to lend a hand, too. Be sincere. But be respectful if the family declines the suggestion. Now if things are going well, don’t put that foot on the table just yet or start texting or playing games on the phone. No matter how comfortable they make him feel, he’s got to remember they’re watching him.
M: The best preparation is really to be himself, the guy who Janina fell in love with. Do not pretend. Pretensions just make for bad expectations. Don’t expect that her family will immediately warm up to him unless his girlfriend has told them all glowing things about him and they are just so happy that she has finally found someone who will make her happy. Always be respectful, courteous and kind. He’s coming home to spend the holidays with his girlfriend and with her family. Enjoy and make wonderful memories so that when he goes back to the States, he’ll look forward to coming home.
DJ: Ultimately, Miguel will have to gauge the vibe and go with it. Everyone’s family is different. Just remember to be polite without being fake. Her family might be the most important persons in her life but they are people too. No need to pop Xanax before coming over. It’s cool if he’ll present his best foot forward. But he still has to make sure that it’s his foot.