It may show a level of commitment to the relationship but
meeting your other half's parents is a daunting prospect. It is
important that the time is right: if you're uneasy about calling
them 'your boyfriend/girlfriend', then it's too soon.
Generally the occasion calls for a balance between being yourself and being on your best behaviour - this is the time to put your finest interpersonal skills to the test.
- Ask a few questions in advance to gauge the level of formality of the family and check that there aren't any no-go conversational topics.
- Dress on the conservative side, without being too smart for the occasion, and go armed with a present; a plant and a decent bottle of wine is usually appropriate.
- Unless otherwise prompted, initial introductions should be accompanied by a firm handshake - save social kisses for when you're better acquainted. If they seem particularly old-fashioned, opt for Mr/Mrs until first names are initiated.
- Keep conversation light and interesting. Avoid swearing and taboo topics. Debate with reason, but don't take parents to task.
- Remember your table manners. If your cutlery/food/glasses confuse you, hang back before tucking in.
- Switch it off your mobile/PDA to avoid any temptation of nervously fiddling.
- Muck in with basic chores such as washing up, clearing plates away etc.
- Never get more drunk than the parents.
- Never display embarrassing amounts of affection towards your other half.
- If you are sharing a bedroom with your partner, be super-discreet. If in separate rooms, your partner should do the bed-hopping. Only they can steal down unlit corridors and avoid creaking floorboards and alarm systems...
- Afterwards, write a thank you letter within a week.