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13 things to do when you meet the parents, as told by the stars

Local artistes share tips on what to do – and what NOT to do – when meeting a significant other’s family for the first time

13 things to do when you meet the parents, as told by the stars
13 things to do when you meet the parents, as told by the stars
16 Oct 2017

13 things to do when you meet the parents, as told by the stars

Wednesday Addams is all grown up and has fallen in love.

In The Addams Family – The Musical Comedy, which comes to Singapore next month, audiences will get to see the endearingly eerie bunch come to life – whether they’re already undead or not – on stage at the MES Theatre. The production centres on the creepy clan hosting a dinner for their not-so-little-anymore girl’s “normal” boyfriend and his parents.

Will the princess of darkness and her new beau survive that first meeting? Guess we’ll all have to watch to find out.

In the meantime, we speak to local celebs to dish out their own real-life meet-the-parents experiences, and to see what tips they may have to offer to folks like Wednesday about the do’s and don’ts of making that all-important first impression on your potential future in-laws. Read on for more!

Shaun Chen
Shaun Chen
16 Oct 2017

Shaun Chen

Tip: Make a good first impression

Shaun, who introduced his wife Celine to his family in their second or third month of dating, believes so much in the importance of making a good first impression that he mentioned it twice, first in Mandarin and then again in English.

So how exactly does one achieve that? “Dress neatly and prepare a gift, maybe something like health foods, to bring to her house,” said the 38-year-old. “And when you’re there, only talk about positive things instead of negative things, and remember to put food on her parents’ plates before getting some for yourself. It’s important to show them how well you were raised.”

That said, it sounds like he may have a more relaxed attitude towards meeting his daughters’ partners in the far (very far) future. “As long as she likes him I will try my best to accept him, but of course I will see if he’s a good man and if he’s suitable for her,” he said. “We’ll see how it is, there’s still a long way to go!”

Pierre Png
Pierre Png
16 Oct 2017

Pierre Png

Tip: Flattery will get you everywhere

Even if you’re not a self-proclaimed “aunty killer” like Pierre, turning on the charm and doling out compliments are good ways to gain you an express ticket into your potential future in-laws’ good books.

This is what the 43-year-old actor did with his wife Andrea De Cruz’s mother in the beginning. “I just praised her, saying things like, ‘Wow, what a lovely house’ and, ‘Wow, now that I’ve met you, it’s no wonder your daughter is so pretty’,” he recalled, grinning. “I buttered her up like nobody’s business.”

He also urged others not to be nervous (“Just concentrate, eyes on the prize, be nice, and everything will take care of itself”) and to do an all-important background check. “If both parents are still together, say something like, ‘Uncle must be very proud of your daughter’, but if not, then be smart and don’t bring up the ex-husband!”

Jeremy Chan
Jeremy Chan
16 Oct 2017

Jeremy Chan

Tip: Make people laugh, and know how to laugh at yourself

When Jesseca Liu first showed her mum a picture of her then-boyfriend, now-husband Jeremy, she – for some unknown reason – picked one of him dressed as a balding fortune teller from a variety show. “Her mum was like, ‘Huh!? You’re dating someone botak?’” he said.

The 36-year-old’s mother-in-law was in for another surprise when he came to their house. “I had bleached my hair white-blonde for a show, and from far away, I could see her shocked expression!” Thankfully, Jesseca’s mum was able to see past her son-in-law’s, er, interesting looks, and now, she always laughs at his jokes. “Jesseca told me that her mum likes me a lot because I’m very funny.”

As for Jesseca’s first visit to Jeremy’s home, which happened about two years into their relationship and not long before they tied the knot, the conversation revolved mainly around her hometown of Langkawi as they chilled on the sofa with drinks. “I wasn’t nervous because I knew that as long as I’m happy, my parents will support me,” he said.

Felicia Chin, Jeffrey Xu
Felicia Chin, Jeffrey Xu
16 Oct 2017

Felicia Chin, Jeffrey Xu

Tip: Do your research and be prepared

A mutual friend of Felicia and Jeffrey’s once had a wise piece of advice to share with them. “You must prep each other. For example, if Jeffrey is meeting my mother, I should tell him what my mother is like and how he should behave,” said Felicia. “That way, he won’t be nervous and he’ll be prepared.”

She put these words into practice when she visited her beau’s family in Shanghai earlier this year. “I wasn’t sure how I should behave as the girlfriend of a Shanghainese, like, what should I bring and how should I address his family,” the 32-year-old shared with us. “So before we went, I kept asking him what to do; it was very nerve-wrecking!”

However, her worries proved unfounded when she got there. “His parents were very nice and just wanted me to be myself; in fact, his mum was the one who kept taking care of me! I just had to be present,” she said. “It was nice lah, because it’s always nerve-wrecking to meet the parents.”

Still, it didn’t hurt for her to ask questions and do her research before the trip. Better to be safe than sorry, right? 

Carrie Wong
Carrie Wong
16 Oct 2017

Carrie Wong

Tip: You can’t go wrong with certain topics

Worried that you won’t have a common subject to converse about with your beau’s family? According to Carrie, who has had good meetings with the parents of both of her past boyfriends, food is a pretty fool-proof option.

“Most of the time, mothers like to cook, but even if your partner’s mum doesn’t, you can share about your own mother’s cooking,” she explained. “Besides, it’s quite normal to have a meal together during that first meeting, so it’s easy to start talking about food; just tell them about what you like and ask them what they like.” (For the record, the 23-year-old specified ex-boyfriends as the worst topic to delve into.)

And while she’s a staunch advocate of being yourself, she clarified that you should draw the line if doing so means swearing and dressing in a manner some conservative folks might consider “sleazy”. Other than that, “Be natural because they’ll eventually see you for who you really are, so don’t try to act like someone else to get them to like you.”

Paige Chua
Paige Chua
16 Oct 2017

Paige Chua

Tip: Be genuine – it’ll help you spot problems early on

We don’t blame Paige for not remembering a thing about her first meeting with her non-celebrity boyfriend’s parents, given that they’ve been together for over 13 years now.

What she does recall is being her “awkward, nervous self”, as she’s uncomfortable with strangers. However, she still put on a brave face and went with the flow, trying her best to get to know them better.

Her advice for others is simple: “They’ll have to face reality eventually, so the best thing to do is to be honest about the real you and share genuine conversations with them. If they like you, then good, but if they don’t, at least you’ll know there might be some things that need to be worked out.”

Rayson Tan
Rayson Tan
16 Oct 2017

Rayson Tan

Tip: Be sincere, and you’ll have nothing to worry about

Like Paige, Rayson, who has been married to actress Chen Li Ping for almost two decades, can’t remember much about his first get-together with his in-laws, other than her father telling him, “Please take good care of my daughter.”

The 52-year-old also remembers being very calm. “I think it was because my feelings towards Li Ping were sincere, so I had nothing to be afraid of,” he mused. It’s easy to see why his advice to others who are nervous is: “Don’t think so much, and let your partner’s parents know that you are sincere, which is very important.”

When asked how he thinks he will be like when his son, 14-year-old Xavier, brings a girlfriend home to meet him, he said, “I think I’ll treat her like a friend instead of my son’s potential future wife, but of course, she has to call me ‘Uncle’ instead of ‘Rayson’ lah; it’s basic respect! (laughs)”

Xiang Yun
Xiang Yun
16 Oct 2017

Xiang Yun

Tip: Be polite and helpful

Xiang Yun remembers two things about her first meeting with husband Edmund Chen’s parents over 28 years ago: she was very nervous, and there was a bit of a language barrier between her Mandarin-speaking self and his more English-educated family.

The 55-year-old also has memories of Edmund’s much more hilarious encounter with her mother. “He brought her out to eat and tried to speak with her in Cantonese, but it came out sounding like he was scolding vulgarities! (laughs)” she said. Thankfully, her mother was understanding and didn’t think poorly of him after that.

If there’s one thing she thinks everyone must do whenever they visit their significant other’s house, it would be to make sure they greet everyone there. “Some people immediately go and hide in their room without saying hello, which you absolutely should not do,” she said, adding that whenever she went to Edmund’s place, she would automatically help his family with their chores. “I believe that left a very good impression on them.”

Ian Fang
Ian Fang
16 Oct 2017

Ian Fang

Tip: Play to your strengths

According to the Shanghai-born actor, bringing home a boyfriend or girlfriend is not something to be taken lightly in China, as it pretty much guarantees that marriage is on the cards (which is why he has yet to do it). However, he has brought girlfriends out for dinner with his mum, and gone out for meals with partners’ families.

During the latter, the 27-year-old does what he claims comes very naturally to him: sweet-talk. “I’ll be like, ‘Aunty ah, eat more, eat more!’; I know how to say things that make people happy,” he said. However, he warns not to cross over to “chut pattern” (Singlish for being full of antics) territory, because like everyone else we interviewed, he emphasised the importance of being true to yourself.

So, how will he prepare for the day he finally brings a gal home to his mama? “I will make sure my house is clean and will ask my mum to cook some dishes for her,” he said. Nice and simple.

Michelle Wong
Michelle Wong
16 Oct 2017

Michelle Wong

Tip: Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not

Disaster struck during Michelle’s first visit to her first boyfriend’s house a few years ago. “It was that time of the month and I didn’t bring any, um, extra things with me, so I had no choice but to ask his sister for help!” she recalled. “But in the end I think we also kind of bonded over it; it’s funny in hindsight but at that moment I was panicking.”

Because of this, the 26-year-old knows first-hand that it’s better to be honest than to hide your problems and shortcomings (in her case, it was better to be slightly paiseh [embarrassed] to ask for help than to leave a bloodied sofa).

“If you put up too much of a front and eventually do get married, they’ll see you for who you really are; for example, if you pretend you can cook when you can’t, they’ll be like, ‘Eh? Why is she different?’ So the best is to just be yourself,” she said. “There’s always this pressure to please the whole family but you could end up giving wrong expectations, and who knows? Maybe the things you’re the most insecure about could be what draws them to you the most.”

Aileen Tan
Aileen Tan
16 Oct 2017

Aileen Tan

Tip: Remember to breathe and smile

As a fan of Hong Kong dramas, Aileen felt like she was watching one unfold right in front of her eyes the first time she visited her husband, director Gerald Lee’s home in Hong Kong. While her limited Cantonese-speaking skills at that time (she’s fluent now) made communication a bit difficult, she used an internationally-understood gesture to charm them.

“Even though I didn’t talk much, I was always very smiley,” she said. “You must always have a smile on your face and never be rude to your potential parents-in-law – if they see you putting on a black face, they’ll tell their son not to marry you! (laughs)”

The 50-year-old also recommends breathing exercises if you get the jitters to calm yourself down, as well as to always act natural. “You should always be yourself because if you stay together in the long run, they’ll eventually see the real you anyway.”

Gerald Koh
Gerald Koh
16 Oct 2017

Gerald Koh

Tip: It doesn’t hurt to “wayang” a bit sometimes

The 987 DJ had a confession to make: the mooncakes he brought for his mother-in-law during their first meeting eight years ago were freebies. “To this day she thinks I bought them,” he said with a sheepish grin.

We don’t think the truth would have changed anything about their chummy rapport, though: Gerald shared that he was very close to his wife Thia Zhi Xin’s mum – long before he got married – and that whenever they got together, they could talk about anything under the sun. “It’s important to have a good relationship with your potential in-laws because they need to give you their blessings as well.”

When asked for his must do’s and don’ts, he thought for a while before saying, “I can’t really think of any don’ts, aside from not being late, but one thing you must do is that when you’re having dinner and the food comes out, take some and put it on her mother’s plate. [Hesitates] Wah, very wayang (showy)!” Well, if it gets the job done, why not?

He Ying Ying
He Ying Ying
16 Oct 2017

He Ying Ying

Tip: Be comfortable, but not too comfortable

Ying Ying’s advice for others is to not do what she did during her first visit to her first boyfriend’s house at the tender age of 17. “His mum’s cooking was delicious and I ate so much that my then-boyfriend told me, ‘Eh, you eat so much ah’,” she recalled, chuckling. “I didn’t really control myself, but I should have held back a bit. (laughs)”

The 22-year-old then explained that although she was nervous in the beginning, she eventually felt more comfortable around the family. However, she did remember her manners and even offered to help wash the dishes.

Another “don’t” in her book is bantering with your other half, even if it’s something you usually do, as it might not be the most appropriate behaviour. “His parents might wonder what’s wrong with you,” she said. “Apart from that, dress a bit more modestly to be safe, because you never know if his family is more conservative.”

Watch:
Celebs’ “do’s and don’ts” of meeting your partner’s parents for the first time

Related:
FRIGHT NIGHT: The spookiest reel-life families

The Addams Family will play at MES Theatre at Mediacorp from November 15 to December 3, Tuesdays to Sunday at 8pm with additional 2.30pm shows on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are priced at S$165, S$135, S$95, S$65 (excluding booking fees) and are now available on SISTIC.

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