My partner’s family currently lives in Las Vegas, which means I was able to spend nine glorious days in the sun over winter break. However, the trip was daunting. Not only was it my first time spending more than a day with her family, but everyone was in town, and we were set to sleep on an air mattress in the heart of the house for the duration of our stay. Fortunately, my experience in Vegas was great! I am very lucky, as I get along well with my girlfriend’s family. Nonetheless, if your partner is from a different country than you, a long trip may be your first time meeting their relatives. The uncharted waters of staying with someone else’s family, especially when you are dating their son/cousin/niece/whatever, can be nerve wracking. Here’s some tried and true advice to make the experience as enjoyable as possible:
Remember, you are a guest first.
Perhaps you and your significant other share a living space and have grown accustomed to each other’s habits (leaving the toilet seat up, not making the bed, etc.). When visiting family, it’s essential to be respectful of their space and time. They’ve likely opened their home to you and gone out of their way to make you comfortable, so keeping your space tidy and helping with meals and cleaning can go a long way. Bringing a small gift of food or another token of appreciation is always welcome.
Your partner likely wants to spend time with their family (alone).
While they did invite you to come along, family time is important. You may be their top priority at home, but here it’s important to allow them space to reconnect. Bring work, a book, or other activities to keep yourself entertained if/when they need some space.
Every family is different
What’s normal in your house might be unusual in another. My family is overly talkative, while my partner’s family enjoys silence. Both are okay! From the foods we eat to how loudly we speak, every family and culture is unique and respecting that is important.
Keep it PG!
We’ve all seen it before — that couple groping each other at the family reunion. Some things are better left behind closed doors. Be conscientious of those around you and how you express your emotions, especially around your partner’s older relatives.
Communicate with your significant other!
If you don’t understand something, ask! “Does your family pray before meals?” “Can I drink the sink water?” “What does the word mean?” “What time do you usually eat dinner?” These are things we know about our own families and often take for granted. Asking questions and communicating with your partner can prevent a lot of awkwardness.
Ask questions beforehand.
From dietary restrictions, medications, pet allergies, or a WiFi connection ask your significant other/their family if your needs can be accommodated during your visit. If they can’t is there a work around? Maybe you can bring allergy pills if they have a cat or renew prescriptions before you leave. Doing so will make the trip much easier.
Cheesy, I know, but don’t cultivate a facade you can’t maintain. Most people want to be liked by their partner’s family. They don’t know you, and you’ve got to prove your worth. However, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not; it will only cause problems in the long run. Stay true to yourself!