Dear Ms. Wai — Meeting the ‘Rents

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Dear Ms. Wai,

After a very quick, but very serious, romance I’m going to meet my boyfriends family next week. I know what a big deal this is and I’m nervous. I would love to marry my boyfriend someday, even soon, but I know we need his parents approval. (Although my boyfriend said if they don’t approve he will marry me anyway. But I WANT their approval.)

Can you give me suggestions on what to bring as a gift? I’d like to really make a good first impression and I think a good gift can really help me.

–A (hopefully) future WWAM

Dear Future,

Before we get to the do’s, let’s cover the don’ts.

Don’t bring a watch/clock, fan, a green hat or anything with the number four featured prominently due to culture negative connotations. There are a few others (some places believe a knife or scissors means you want to “cut ties” with them) so check with your boyfriend for any hometown specific beliefs.

Luckily, the verboten list is short, which leaves you with a ton of other options, so let’s whittle it down a bit, shall we?

Usually when you visit a Chinese persons home it’s nice to bring a basket of fruit and some flowers, but this is your possibly future husbands family so you might want to kick it up a notch.

Bringing something “fancy” might warm them up a little more. A high luxury brand of tea (in a fancy box) or a well-known fragrance, a box of imported milk or a big jar of fancy nuts.

If you really want to impress, you can buy an ipad or some high end electronics but be careful with this. If you give a poorer family in a village an ipad they might be too embarrassed by the generosity of the gift and try to “repay” you during your stay with lavish dinner (they might not be able to afford) or things bought for you at the store. It will cause a lot of stress on both sides and will cause more embarrassment than endearment.

Fruit is always a suitable gift when visiting a Chinese family.

If possible, try to bring something from your hometown, or something specific to your culture. Does your hometown have a special food you can get (maybe on taobao) or have a special (possibly beautiful) handicraft? Beautiful things will go a long way with impressing them as will something “exotic” they can show off to their friends.

Or, how about bringing something more active than just a gift? I once brought a thing of spaghetti and sauce to a friends house and on my second night I cooked for his parents. It was so easy (just spaghetti and sauce, I added nothing fancy) but the family went gaga for it thinking it was something really special and unique.

Another time I brought a DIY gingerbread house as a gift to a friends family (because I knew he had a lot of young cousins) and it really took off. Kids had the most fun, but even the adults got into it and my friends mom said it was one of the funnest nights she had all year.

Whatever gift you end up giving, wrap it in red paper or a decorative gift bag and don’t expect the parents to open it up when you are there. Also, double check everything with your fella first and make sure it is not something they will hate.

Good luck and hope everything goes smoothly!

Have you given the perfect gift to your in-laws? Let me know what it was in the comments below!

Do you have a question for Ms. Wai about dating Chinese guys? Email her at [email protected]


Ms Wai

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