First time to meet Husband's parents

Discussion in 'Culture' started by iluvuma1, Feb 12, 2009.

  1. iluvuma1

    iluvuma1 Well-Known Member

    OK. My husband and I have been married a few years and we've finally been able to plan a trip to visit his family in Dvur Kralove. This will be the first time I've met his family. I am an English speaker and may know a few words of Czech- but that's it.
    What is the customary/accepted behavior in meeting your husband's inlaws? Should I bring gifts and if so are there any good suggestions? My husband's family is not rich or poor, just middle class.
    Are there any things I should remember? Do daughter in laws help with dishes, preparing meals, etc? Any insight would be appreciated.
    Are there any things I should remember NOT to do manner wise?
  2. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    When are you going, iluvuma? Because I reckon this will run and run as everyone thinks of different things to chip in with!

    Right. Gifts to start off with. If you're going to stay with someone, in any country I would have thought, it's always a good idea to take small presents and in any case, I would have thought your husband would want to take quite a lot of things home to his parents. But specifically, if your father-in-law drinks (and which Czech doesn't?!) some local booze from your home area would be a nice idea. Or some very good Scotch or dark rum - all the older Czechs I know would appeciate this. And women are the same the world over as well. Perhaps some nice perfume - how about one of the gift sets you get at Christmas, with perfume and hand cream in a presentation box? Or some expensive chocolates?

    The big thing to remember when you go into a Czech home is that everyone takes their shoes off. It felt quite strange to me to start with but now I feel odd if I keep my shoes on in the house. So make sure you take some slippers with you.

    As far doing the dishes and things around the house... I've only stayed overnight with one Czech family apart from my own in Olomouc and although I offered to help clear up after a meal, I was told to get back to the table with the men because I was their guest. I have to admit, when I have people staying with me, I always decline offers of help because it always takes a lot longer to do a job with someone 'helping'!

    But a 'new' daughter-in-law might be different. In fact, I would have thought preparing a meal together might be a good 'bonding' exercise. Cooking doesn't need language! And if the pair of you have a couple of glasses of something before you start, you'll probably have a great time!

    Over to the Czechs here for some more ideas...
  3. iluvuma1

    iluvuma1 Well-Known Member

    We are going in mid May. I always have problems with gifts for his family (we will send the occasional care package at holidays) because my husband always says his mother is a "natural" woman and does not wear perfumes or makeup. She loves to garden.
    He will be bringing gifts as well, and I want to bring something "unique". The idea for local liquor for his dad is good. We have a lot of local wineries in Missouri.
    Thank you for your helpful suggestions. We will be there for two weeks and I want to be sure to make a good impression- and certainly don't want to make a bad one.
    I've got my Czech language tapes that are helping me to speak minimal Czech- but I'm a little nervous about being in a home this long where I cannot clearly communicate. I am definitely a bit nervous.
    His mother sends wonderful cookies that are little pieces of art- and I'm sure it would be a great experience to cook with her..
  4. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    If possible, order the book "Czech in 3 months" it’s a good one and will give you a good base before your trip. If they are anything like the Czechs I know, they will LOVE the fact that you are attempting to learn their language. Also, just try to relax and feel comfortable over there, watch some TV, compliment their country when you see something you like even if all you can say is "mam rada tento" (I like that).

    You may find that they are just as worried about you liking them as you are with them liking you. After all, he's your husband and if you don't like them, they know that visiting each other may happen less often - especially if they would get the opportunity to come visit you. When my in-laws learned that I was very interested in their country & language, it put them at ease and lessoned the fear that their son may not return home often.

    Therefore, if you demonstrate that you like their country and enjoy visiting them, they will feel more at ease and things should go well. Also, if you ask mom to teach you to cook some of hubby's favorite foods, Mom will feel good about herself knowing that her son misses her cooking as well as her.

    As far as gifts, perhaps you could bring her something for the house like a small picture frame with a pic of you & her son. Or even if your husband has an old pic of her & him and you could frame it. Another nice gesture, for later during the visit, after she has shown you how to cook some things, you might want to share a family recipe with her by cooking something for them like banana bread or cookies.

    One big thing is to be sure to guard your heart from getting upset when they get involved in a conversation and fail to translate to you. Chances are, they won't mean to exclude you but may just get wrapped up in the conversation and fail to include you. Also remember, they don't get to see their son often so may want some alone conversation time with him. Everyone desires one-on-one time with someone they love. Try not to get your feelings hurt or angry at your husband over it. And also don't worry about looking like a snob when you spend some alone time in your room reading a book. Chances are, they will appreciate the alone time with him.

    My husband and I went to his homeland for our wedding. We came only a few days before the wedding and were leaving 2 days after the wedding for our honeymoon. Our second night of marriage (the evening before heading out on our honeymoon), my husband left me alone in our hotel and stayed up talking with his mother until 5 am. I really didn’t thought much of it. But his mom really appreciated it. She thought it was so wonderful of me to give up my husband on our 2nd night of marriage so he could be with her. So remember, he chose to leave his family & country. They may have thought that someday he would return, but now he's vowed to live the rest of his life with you. That's bound to create some insecurity in them just as you are insecure about them liking you.

    So if they see that you really love their son, treat him well, & are interested in his homeland and family, things will probably go fine.

    Well that's all the advice I have for now. I'm sorry if I went on & on. :)
  5. Geshe

    Geshe New Member

    My girlfriend is Czech and we went to her village to meet her parents when i was in the CR. They didn't speak English and I didn't speak Czech so it was a little awkward for the both, but every little phrase i was able to communicate in Czech was greatly appreciated and made them like me.

    I think Czech customs are pretty much the same as all western customs. Your from the US right? Just imagine if someone helped you out in your kitchen preparing food or washing dishes, you would appreciate but you also might want your guest to relax.

    I'm sure your in laws will love you! :)
  6. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    Agree with everything already said here. Just take it easy and you will be fine.

    I was thinking: a small gift for your husbands' mom garden might be a good idea. If it was me, I would e.g. love a set of solar lights or something similar. Just an idea.

    On the other hand I would also observe the habits of your husbands' family. Although US and CZ cultures are very close, there are some minor differences.

    I still laugh when I recall my husbands' visit at my sisters' place. She is an excellent cook so she made svickova for him. We all enjoyed the meal but my Czech relatives (sister, her husband and a few other relatives present that day) were looking at my husband as a sort of "caveman" when he ate (with fork in his right hand). I had to explain to them that Americans have a bit different table manners.

    A dress code is also important (Czech pay much more attention to the apparel than Americans). You might try to consult this with your husband, maybe (I mean where his family stands)? Well, I think that for the first day I certainly would not wear jeans. But this is me :cry:.

    If I think of more later, I will let you know :p .
  7. cestina

    cestina Active Member

    Certainly bring a present/s, something for the garden sounds good but don't be surprised or upset if the manner of receiving it is different from what you are used to. Czechs, and some other countries in the region, may regard it as bad manners to open the gift there and then and will quietly accept it but barely thank you. And will then appear very rapidly with a gift for you in turn. It's cultural, and not meant to be rude.

    If you give flowers at some point remember they should not be chrysanthemums which signify death. I forget whether it is correct manners to present flowers wrapped as in the Uk or unwrapped as in Germany......I seem to remember the number of flowers is also significant.

    Speaking of something for the garden, I invested in a couple of these last summer and they seem to work......not available in the CR where there are plenty of wasps however! People laughed to begin with but then had to admit that there were fewer wasps round my garden seating than theirs :)

    By the way Polednikova I would react very negatively to any attempt to give me perfume, scented soap or any such "womanly" items. I'm with the OP's mother-in-law on this one - quite apart from being allergic to nearly all scents/perfumes regardless of the form in which they are presented :?
  8. Dannae

    Dannae Well-Known Member

    Flowers - right. In CR they should be presented unwrapped (if wrapped in paper). If they are wrapped in a transparent foil, it is ok to present them like this.

    Number of flowers - 1, 3, 5, 7 etc. is OK. Never give an even number of flowers to a living person! Even number is used for funerals :?
  9. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    Cestina: I did suggest perfume or soaps before iluvuma said her mother-in-law didn't use them. What a shame if you're allergic to them. I don't know anyone in the UK who is allergic to perfumed soap and I always love receiving it myself.
  10. magan

    magan Well-Known Member

    I love to garden also, but in May or any other months when I have flowers in my garden, to bring me flowers would be like bringing wood into forest. Skip flowers, your mother in law is "natural woman" and prefer natural flowers not from the flower shop.

    Ask your husband what type of garden his parents have. Vegetable? Flowers, both? My idea of personal gift for gardener would be some packets of seeds. It could be vegetable and flowers. See some unusual vegetables. Make sure that you read back of the packets to see that May or June is the time to plant them outside. Also some seeds have to be planted in very early Spring into pots first, but she can do it next year. If you have garden of your own, it would be nice to share some seeds. It seems like a very "cheap" gift, but it would be something she is interested in and will appreciate your thought.
  11. laylah

    laylah Well-Known Member

    I certainly think something for the garden for your mother-in-law would be well received. When my daughter-in-laws Czech family visited her here in the UK, her mum brought me knitting yarn as a gift. Not the first thing that springs to mind when you're thinking "present", but I was delighted that trouble had obviously been taken to find out what my interests are, and I was able to send photos of the bolero I knitted with the yarn when I wrote to Katerina's family after the visit.
  12. iluvuma1

    iluvuma1 Well-Known Member

    The time is flying until our trip in mid May! I'm working on the Czech tapes and have the very basic phrases down. My mother cross stitches and has stitched a Christmas ornament for my husband's family thus far. (I know, Christmas in May.. a little bit strange.)
    With his mother being an avid gardener, and with guidance from my husband I have considered bringing seeds/bulbs. My husband is encouraging me to bring his mother something native that she does not have in her garden to plant. This brings some ecological- and even possible customs oriented concerns. Is it OK to bring some kind of native plant/bulb/seed to the Czech Republic from Missouri?
    Here in my native Missouri I hear stories about how our river ecosystem has been ravaged by a non native fish that was introduced and now is eating all the other fish! In the south there is some kind of super fast growing non native weed that is strangling out the native vegetation.
    Aye! I tell you finding an appropriate gift (and I say this because my husband is super picky) is kind of difficult. I found a small, crocodile print purse that I was going to give her that he vetoed saying that it was too "young" for her. This was more of an organizer type thing with holders for checkbook, credit cards, etc. He said she is simple and would not have a use for it. I don't know if he's right about that or wrong.
    Thankfully, I do have 8X10 photos as well as a small album of our wedding photos put together as well as dried flowers, favors, etc. from the wedding I have put aside. I also plan on taking videos of the family with a new mini camcorder I plan on purchasing soon.
    All of your cultural input, particularly on table manners, cooking, leaving space for him to spend quality time- is very much appreciated. It was a huge compliment to me when my husband met my family/ came to my home for the first time because he said "Wow! I'm very surprised that your family is so similar to mine. I did not see anything that was much different even the potato salad was similar." It was very comforting to me.
    I am reminding myself that when I am there that things won't be so different/difficult as I am imagining- and I will hopefully have the same perception of familiarity/home as he did with my family.
  13. magan

    magan Well-Known Member

    Your husband is right about keeping it "simple". Regarding organizer - checks are nor used here, credit cards are not as widely used as in US, id is different size... I was surprised that even size of regular paper page etc.(metric sizes here and imperial in US/Can)v were different and didn't fit into plastic packets/folders.

    I have made "misake" yeas ago when I returned to CR after 18 years. I brought housecoats and, nightgowns (different Season versions) from Canada for my mother in Prague. I thought they vere nice and chearful and it was something "different" and in any case she will be wearing it at home, so I am not imposing my "sense of fashion" on her outside wear. When I found it in the closet years later - still never worn, and I knew more about what older women wear in CR, I couldn't believe my eyes. Stuff looked like "for crazy Hollywood star" while in Canada it just looked 'cheerful". Even I couldn't wear it. It was overhelming and flamboyant and it "hurt my eyes". Eventually, I took it to charity shop and I heard that theatres look there for crazy costumes. Some things just "don't transplate well" into different culture/lifestyle.

    When taking out "wedding cake" treats, make sure that story about tradition of it is told. And say that there are especially baked not to spoil for guests to take/keep (put it under pillow to dream......). Tell about wedding cake layers tradition (one layer eaten at the wedding, another after first child is born, another on future anniversary...)

    Which reminds me about THE best gift daughter-in-law can ever give. It will be always perfect, exiting, very much adored for ever and ever...........grandchild!!!
    :lol: :lol: :lol:
  14. Petronela

    Petronela Well-Known Member

    What about one of those “upside-down” hanging planters for vegetables? I’m not much of a gardener but I do remember that space is always in premium. It’s my understanding that those things actually do work.

Share This Page