6 Ways to Prepare for Meeting the Parents in China | Speaking of China

24 Responses

  1. Susan
    Susan November 17, 2014 at 7:28 am | | Reply

    Thank you for writing this post. With my upcoming marriage to my Shanghai born and raised sweetheart in about 6 weeks, I will be traveling there to meet the parents (and ALL the rest of the family including two sisters, their husbands and children because they were all born long before China’s one child policy).

    My problem is that he doesn’t tell me much about them when I ask about then! And since my attempts to learn Mandarin have led to laughter and tears on both of our parts, I suspect even a few words of Shanghaiese will be beyond me.

    Your advice is very helpful. I will plan on a book of pictures of my family and of us here in the US and keep trying to figure out what gifts I can bring beyond a fruit basket.

    1. Autumn
      Autumn February 26, 2015 at 3:56 am | | Reply

      I’m late to this post and wondering how your visit went. Meeting my Chinese-American boyfriend’s parents inspired my blog, and I always wonder how other Western women did when meeting the boyfriend’s Chinese parents!

  2. Constance - Foreign Sanctuary
    Constance - Foreign Sanctuary November 17, 2014 at 8:38 am | | Reply

    I first met my husband’s parents and the rest of his family at a wedding (immediate and extended). It actually went really well because my husband’s older brother just got back from studying in Canada so we could exchange stories about Canada. Plus, I used the little Chinese I knew at the time to communicate with everyone.

  3. R Zhao
    R Zhao November 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm | | Reply

    I remember meeting my mother-in-law the first time. I don’t think I was all the nervous. My husband must have put me at ease about the whole thing. I think it was kinda out-of-the-blue that he casually announced, “Let’s go out for dinner tonight, okay? BTW, my mom’s gonna be there.”

    I never thought about it much until recently, but I’m really grateful that I live somewhere (a medium-sized city in Hebei) where Mandarin is almost everyone’s first language. I’ve begun to realize that this is not the case for many places, even nearby villages. It makes things a bit easier!

    Oh, and I agree, fruit baskets are a great gift in China! I think this was mentioned in a previous post, but food and snacks from abroad (if that’s where you are coming from) is also appreciated. Chinese men usually love a nice pack of cigarettes and women love cosmetics. Many people also seem to appreciate things like foreign vitamins, too, though that might be a better gift later on. Don’t be too cheap either. Chinese people will often look up the price of stuff online to see how much you spent!!

  4. Liya
    Liya November 17, 2014 at 3:15 pm | | Reply

    Great post! Wish I would’ve read this a couple of years ago. 😀
    My husband’s family is living in a big city but I can still relate to most of your points, especially about the clothes being conservative. Definately one should learn about the culture. Always look if they need more rice, more tea etc. as if you care about them more than about yourself. It’s important to be VERY respectful. 🙂

  5. Marta
    Marta November 17, 2014 at 7:19 pm | | Reply

    Very good advice, all of them!

    When I first met my boyfriend’s parents everything went well and they were more nervous than me! I didn’t bring any gifts as we met for dinner in a restaurant, not in their place. But afterwards, every time I’ve been to Spain, I’ve brought them gifts. His mum also prepares gifts to give to my parents every time I go back. It is a constant gift exchanging and I don’t know what else I can possibly buy for them in Spain haha. Last time I told his mum this gift thing has to end!! We don’t need to buy each other presents all the time, haha.

    I have tried to learn some simple things in Suzhou dialect but OMG, they have the weirdest consonant sounds I have ever heard… it is impossible to pronounce!!

    I hear you about the long johns (I think this word is so funny, haha)! I’ve never felt more cold in my life than during winter in Shanghai and Suzhou.

  6. Timo
    Timo November 18, 2014 at 1:42 am | | Reply

    I prepared more or less in a similar way but especially learning phrases in the local dialect was especially back then impossible for me.
    Other than that I tried to learn everything about my future in-laws beforehand and bought things they would like.

    Thankfully I had been always during summer and autumn in Xi’an so it was always either too hot or warm enough that I did not have to worry about warm clothes. Now my in-laws also got a heating system installed in the entire block and the occasional visit during winter time shouldnt be a problem anymore 🙂

  7. Yocelyn
    Yocelyn November 18, 2014 at 5:07 am | | Reply

    This is a great post. I wish I read this before I visited my boyfriend’s family in China for the first time. I’m a very artsy, free-spirited kinda gal…conservative is not in my nature or vocabulary. I actually went out and bought some clothing on the conservative side before I met them because my style is a bit eccentric. Next time I will definitely plan on taking the time to learn a few phrases in their dialect and take a gift to show my appreciation. During my visit I went with the family on many trips together exploring different parts of China. I had my fancy camera took many photographs of them and printed after as a gift. That made them happy. 🙂

  8. Nicki Chen
    Nicki Chen November 18, 2014 at 12:49 pm | | Reply

    The first time I met my Chinese father-in-law, I’d given birth to my third daughter three weeks earlier and was worn out from that and from traveling from Seattle to Hong Kong to spend a few days with him on our way to Manila where we were moving. It was a frantic time. About all I could do was smile and follow along while I either carried the baby or held the hands of the other two (ages one and three.) All I can say was that my skirts were long enough. Also my oldest daughter got on his good side by asking for thirds on the shrimp dumplings.

  9. Sarah
    Sarah November 18, 2014 at 6:05 pm | | Reply

    It’s so wonderful to read others’ experiences!

    I first met my husband’s parents very late at night at the airport in their hometown and my nerves had kicked in about 6 hours before when we were delayed before our transfer flight. Smiling is a universal language and I pretty much relied on that for a few days before my Chinese started coming back to me.

    It sounds like most of the commenters here are very lucky to have welcoming and open-minded in-laws 🙂

  10. Ruby Ronin
    Ruby Ronin November 19, 2014 at 7:21 am | | Reply

    Wow all these tips are spot on! I think if any girl follows all six of your tips up there she’ll definitely win the parents over no problem.

    I recently met my boyfriend’s parents for the first time and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. While western parents are more easygoing and think ‘oh we’ll see where this one goes’ and laugh it off, Asian parents (particularly Chinese ones) meet their child’s special someone with marriage on the mind. Knowing this, I was waaaaaaaaaaaay intimidated and nervous.

    My Chinese boyfriend also told his parents I spoke Chinese, but neglected to tell them that I wasn’t actually Chinese. I think they were quite bewildered when they saw me and realized that my boyfriend forget one major detail.

    Anyway, it all ended well (although I wish I learned a few phrases of Sichuan dialect before going in there). I think I passed the initial test and it seems like his parents are A-ok with a potential non-Chinese daughter-in-law.

    I gave his parents a present for our first meeting, and in return his mother gave me some Benjamin Franklins in a red envelope. I was floored–even my own family doesn’t give me that much money! When I asked around my Chinese friends told me this was a normal, traditional gesture. Do Chinese parents always give money upon first meeting their child’s bf/gf? Or is it kind of a “you have my approval” type gesture?

    1. Sarah
      Sarah November 21, 2014 at 3:03 pm | | Reply

      When I met my ex-boyfriend’s (Cantonese) parents who were settled in the UK they gave me a red envelope when we were leaving – with £100 in!!! That’s like the amount I may get from parents on Christmas to buy a nice Christmas treat. I felt so uncomfortable as I didn’t see how I could reciprocate fully. So generous!

    2. Autumn
      Autumn February 26, 2015 at 4:00 am | | Reply

      That’s funny — both about your boyfriend neglecting one tiny little detail and the red envelope. I did not earn a red envelope when I met my Chinese-American boyfriend’s parents! Now I am jealous.

  11. Ri
    Ri November 19, 2014 at 12:40 pm | | Reply

    All excellent advice! I wish I’d gotten the chance to prepare before meeting my husband’s mother. Unfortunately he sprang it on me one weekend, just as I was finishing up work at a fashion eventーdressed in short shorts and rather bright clothes, and we were to meet her an hour later. It was not the first impression I wanted to make. >_> She was very diplomatic though and asked if I wasn’t cold, haha!
    I made sure to be better prepared ahead of meeting his whole family, but I7m still a little mad at him that he didn’t at least give me notice a day in advance!

  12. Li
    Li November 20, 2014 at 6:06 am | | Reply

    6 Ways to Prepare for Meeting the White Parents in the US?

  13. SBB
    SBB November 22, 2014 at 2:11 pm | | Reply

    #5 is the one I wish I’d understood more fully before I went to China to meet the in-laws over Xmas. Having spent winters skiing in Vermont, I’d assumed I’d be ready for whatever Wuhan could throw at me. However, I didn’t realize how truly miserable it could be to feel unrelenting cold from when we left our hotel in the morning until we came back at night (tourist sites, museums, restaurants, department stores, all unheated). It also didn’t help that everyone likes to leave the windows wide open in the middle of winter. I actually found Beijing more pleasant because you could always step into a shop to get a respite from the cold.

  14. 刘念
    刘念 November 23, 2014 at 10:03 am | | Reply

    My English is poor,but now I am learn english very hard. I am glad to hear about you .How it going now?ahout you parent’s attitud to chiese guy.I pay close attention to you story.

  15. marghini
    marghini November 26, 2014 at 5:04 pm | | Reply

    I always freak out about #3 as I am so bad at picking presents and frankly my boyfriend’s family is not the easiest to please. I almost always end up buying chocolate and sweets at the airport just to avoid to show up empty – handed.. I count on their sweet tooth! Am I so bad of a girlfriend?

  16. Sveta
    Sveta December 8, 2014 at 2:31 pm | | Reply

    If the time ever comes, thanks for the tips 🙂

  17. Hilary
    Hilary December 10, 2014 at 6:14 am | | Reply

    Breathe. 😀 That is my best advice, along with your points. I was also anxious to meet hubby’s parents. This meant lots of high pitched giggling and wheezing but my future inlaws were laid back and lovely.

  18. Autumn
    Autumn February 26, 2015 at 4:10 am | | Reply

    Wow. I wish this post had existed and I had read it before I met my boyfriend’s parents. He’s American born, but his parents were raised in southern China before fleeing to Hong Kong and ending up in Hawaii. Although…I probably didn’t have a shot at being modest without suffering heat stroke, since I met them in Honolulu in the summer.

    My boyfriend gave me very little background information on his parents, and I stupidly did not press for more details. So I would suggest getting your significant other drunk and then asking the probing questions. 🙂

  19. Rae
    Rae June 9, 2017 at 11:07 am | | Reply

    I just love reading your blog. I feel like we’re cut from the same cloth.

    I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost a year now and we were discussing meeting his parents. Unfortunately they only speak Cantonese, so I’ve been trying to learn the basics. This post and all the discussion is helpful!

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