The story appears on

Page A5

November 11, 2013

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro » Interactive

The dos and don’ts for visiting would-be in-laws

An American expatriate asks us:

I'm going to visit my girlfriend’s parents soon. Any dos and don’ts that I should pay special attention to?

Chinese families with foreign sons-in-law or daughters-in-law are not such a rare sight now. Shanghai Daily would like to flag some precautions for would-be sons-in-law who want to pay a visit to their Chinese parents.

Dress appropriately

The first impression is a critical criterion for Chinese parents in deciding whether their daughter’s boyfriend can qualify as a son-in-law. Wearing an expensive black tie or a casual T-shirt with jeans is deemed inappropriate. A clean and pressed shirt is likely to leave a sincere, and better, impression.

Speak politely

Calling Chinese parents with a respectful form of address is one way to show politeness.

Zhao, a 55-year-old Chinese mother-in-law, told Shanghai Daily about her first experience with her Canadian son-in-law. “I was shocked that he called me by my full name when he entered my house,” Zhao recalled.

“I felt that he knew so little about Chinese culture and I was really worried about their marriage.”

In Chinese families, the son-in-law usually calls his would-be parents-in-law “uncle” and “aunt” before marriage as a sign of respect. It is considered extremely impolite to address an elderly person by his or her full name.

Give the right gifts

When a son-in-law gets the go-ahead to visit his would-be parents at their home, it means they have accepted or are ready to accept him. And during this first visit, gifts, ideally a variety of presents, should be taken for every family member.

Cigarettes and Chinese liquor (baijiu) are among the most common gifts for parents. But be careful. You should ask your girlfriend first whether her father smokes or drinks. Otherwise it would be very embarrassing for you to take two cartons of expensive Chunghwa Cigarettes (the most popular gift cigarettes in China), only to find he is a non-smoker. Baijiu is usually okay but not necessarily in all cases.

Avoid too much intimacy with girlfriend

Feodore, a Ukrainian son-in-law in his 30’s, visited his girlfriend’s family in Shanghai last month.

“Probably because we were cuddling all the time, her parents gave me bad looks,” Feodore said.

In China, too much intimacy with the girlfriend in front of her parents is not an appropriate way to show strong affection and willingness to marry her. The parents-in-law may feel uncomfortable and will leave the couple alone.

 Don’t refuse or open the red envelope in front of would-be parents

Parents-in-law sometimes give their would-be son-in-law a red envelope, provided they are satisfied with him. A refusal to accept this gift may be taken as a sign of the guest’s dissatisfaction with the parents.



Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend