Meeting the parents, formalities, manners and chop sticks ..

Hey everyone ,
So , as above, I'm taking the plunge to meet my girls parents and wondered are there any do's and don'ts ?
i've read loose info , bring the women some chocolates and perfumes , Father whiskey (I live 30 miles form Talisker distillery so i'm thinking on that one , but it's heavy peaty brew !). Father likes a drink and so do i so hopefully we'll bond via 'translate' ...I'm afraid i speak no VN , a language selfish Englishman i'm afraid , though i will learn a few basics in prep, or try at least . Almost mastered chop sticks ! Well , only a 50/50 drop rate !
Daughter is 14 and my GF just divorced her Father though they separated some 5  years ago so i think i maybe not her favorite relative when she learns of me ...literally divorced yesterday .
The area they live is an hour out of Hanoi and in my Gf words is "boring ,, rice farms , nothing there at all, people never seen foreigner with blue eyes and i'll be like an alien " Hmm...so any advice ,i do wish to create a good impression and she promises food won't be fido ...as they do eat them which is alien to me, but in contrast we eat Hindu's highly respected beleifs and cute wee lambs ! So in balance ...
Anyway, thanks in advance to a relatively newbie to VN life !
cheers ,
Glenn.

You are exactly where I was a year and a half ago down to "boring countryside" where she grew up and the daughter, although my wife's daughter never knew her father as they separated when she was one so you might have a little trouble with that one in the future as you are the interloper. 

Bring something like you propose for the parents.  Don't sweat not being able to communicate with the parents.  They won't mind.  I've known my in-laws for a year and a half and been married since April and whenever we go there it's "hello" and that is about it for the duration of the trip.  Do not get upset when they all sit around you and talk to each other and you feel left out.  I did at first, now I don't worry bout it. It's not personal and they really aren't likely talking about you.  Your girlfriend will translate anything important or questions but otherwise they will talk like old hens for hours.

I'm the first foreigner in her hometown as well.  Someone did call the police on my first visit when they saw me walking down the street holding my daughter's hand while going to the store and they had to pay coffee money since I wasn't "registered" with the police for a weekend visit but that was it.  I still get a lot of stares but many came to the wedding and those that didn't all know that Phuong is married to a foreigner so no comments since.

Just go with it and don't worry.  Just smile a lot.

SteinNebraska :

Someone did call the police on my first visit when they saw me ...

Soviet style secret police persist and is creepy. Cops in my wife's ward know all about me from the finks in her hem.  :P

Chum in the water, lucky you!
Be conservative, humble, a shirt that buttons, don't touch anybody including gf is a good general rule, don't take flowers (complicated),  avoid jokes - they won't understand.
Ask the gf about presents. Who knows what to get for the gf mother and gf daughter? Token gifts over large gifts for the probably-poor people. You won't learn anyone's name, and the names they use are different from the names you should use. Just smile.

I mostly (still) play with the cats since I haven't a clue what they are talking about.
They think that is charming.

- Talisker is too peaty for Vietnamese so they'll put ice in it as with alcohol that is not peaty.  After 150 times watching everyone massacre the drinks (with Vietnamese in the States as well), I've learned to decline the ice and soda water without offending the host.

- Don't pick up the chopsticks/forks until the parents (or at least the father and uncle) have picked up theirs.  They will tell you to go ahead and eat.  Don't do it.  Gesture a reply (or have gf translate) that you would wait for the elders (even if they're younger than you in age, they're elders in ranking if they're parents, uncles, aunts of your gf).  They will tell you again that it's OK, go ahead.  Smile and wait. 

A Southern family loudly brushes most faux pas away and forget them right afterwards.  A Northern family gently smooths over the mistakes but remembers them until after the couple is married and the man improves.

- If you can use chopstick 50% of the time, a better strategy would be to reserve them for picking up food from the share plates, then use forks with your own food.

- Bow slightly from the head (don't bow low) to the elders before shaking their hands (wait for them to offer).

- Until you marry your gf, the ex will always be there in the shadow.  The influence he left behind in the daughter's view towards you (and all other men) is something you cannot change.  You can allow it and him to be a factor in everything you do to make a good impression over and over (in essence, to compete with him), or you can leave her alone (not ignoring her, mind you) in her emotions and hopefully she'll eventually like you as yourself. 

- Vietnamese is an unnecessarily difficult language to learn.  Every Vietnamese knows that.  Nevertheless, every Vietnamese expects that a foreigner who has a relationship with a local ought to know the basic (not pillow basic).  It's a ridiculous expectation but Vietnamese can be ridiculous without trying. 

In your case, whatever basic you learn, it should not be in Southern dialect.  It's not an offense but it wouldn't earn you any brownie point.  Every accent should be Northern, every term should be Northern.  The hosts can use a Southern slang here and there if they want, but as you're trying to win their approval, stay away from those.  They'll like you better if you speak their dialect, trust me in this.

I'll help with the dialect, custom, etiquettes, and language lessons if you cannot find anyone else, through Skype or Whatsapp.  Free of charge -- everyone here knows I do that for people who need my help.  Although if you get a 100% approval, I wouldn't turn down a bottle of Talisker 18 or Lagavulin 16 if you happen to be on Islay ;)

glen67 :

(her) Daughter is 14 and my GF just divorced her Father though they separated some 5  years ago so i think i maybe not her favorite relative when she learns of me ...literally divorced yesterday...
Hmm...so any advice ,i do wish to create a good impression...

(I went back and reread all of your posts so far)

First, I truly do wish both of you happiness and a successful future life together.

Having said that, just one observation for you plus my buttinsky opinion for any casual reader contemplating a similar route to bliss:

You've most certainly already made an "impression" on these people in the past.

You are the man who has helped your intended to end her marriage; you have enabled her divorce, no matter how long they had been separated. You are likely seen as a co-conspirator in the final breaking of their matrimonial vows.

I'm sure you don't see it that way, but look at the situation from their point of  view:

Once, she and her ex husband likely participated in a formal Vietnamese wedding, with family and friends joining them to witness and celebrate. There would have been great hope for a wonderful future together, abundantly magnified at the blessed event of their daughter's birth.

Yes, they were separated for many years, maybe even because of his abuse and/or neglect. But they remained married, with most (especially the daughter) likely hoping that they would be able to reconcile.

Now all those hopes are extinguished, and you are likely seen by many as the Great Extinguisher.

Those who are the exception--those who welcome you sincerely--will be happy with any gift you give that honestly reflects your ability to give, meaning, don't go over the top but also, don't be a cheapskate.

Those who do choose to see you as 'the pen used to certify the divorce finalization' won't have their attitudes changed because of thoughtful gift giving.

For the casual reader, if the woman you've met is "separated", most relationship experts will tell you that it's best for a divorce to be finalized AND a period of no relationship (six months or so) to be observed before the divorced person is really capable of committing to a new relationship without using it as leverage of some sort to escape the old relationship.

Now the reader knows another reason some young Vietnamese women marry much older foreigner men.

Best of luck, Glen!

Just be yourself, because at the end of the day that is what your gf likes.

Dont try to be something you are not. Most country people are fairly laid back, but those Northerners can be a little stand offish.

gobot :
SteinNebraska :

Someone did call the police on my first visit when they saw me ...

Soviet style secret police persist and is creepy. Cops in my wife's ward know all about me from the finks in her hem.  :P

Ah, the hem bà táms strike again!!!

colinoscapee :

Just be yourself, because at the end of the day that is what your gf likes.

Dont try to be something you are not. Most country people are fairly laid back, but those Northerners can be a little stand offish.

Exactly!!

gobot :
SteinNebraska :

Someone did call the police on my first visit when they saw me ...

Soviet style secret police persist and is creepy. Cops in my wife's ward know all about me from the finks in her hem.  :P

You want to know the creepy part?  We were out of the house a total of 15-20 minutes.  In that time someone called the police, they arrived, (now) father in law discussed it with them, paid them coffee money and they left on the only road that goes from the highway to the house and I never saw them when walking back to the house.

SteinNebraska :

You want to know the creepy part?  We were out of the house a total of 15-20 minutes.  In that time someone called the police, they arrived, (now) father in law discussed it with them, paid them coffee money and they left on the only road that goes from the highway to the house and I never saw them when walking back to the house.

Better than the Headless Horseman.   :lol:

Forget the whiskey, forget the perfume, load them all in a minivan & take them to the nearest all you can eat & drink buffet (your treat) & you'v cracked it man! You'l be the best thing that's hit that village since sliced loaf.

unionjack :

Forget the whiskey, forget the perfume, load them all in a minivan & take them to the nearest all you can eat & drink buffet (your treat) & you'v cracked it man! You'l be the best thing that's hit that village since sliced loaf.

Yes, true.
"Buffet/BBQ - all you can eat" has about the same effect here as "whitening" and "Japan Quality".
Everyone is crazy about it.

Many thanks for that , some good advice and appreciated , I will try smile a lot but since I was 4 I’ve always been told to cheer up as I seemingly have grumpy face ! thanks again .

I'll inquire with the gf if that's practical - cheers!

So sorry for slow reply ! Thank you so much for your in depth reply it is very much appreciated and i will bare in mind the other points you mention , best wishes Glenn.

Good advice ! i asked my gf and she nearly married me lol ! So it is arranged and off we go ...AND i already bought some gifts so double points hopefully , recently divorced (separated 5 years ) then i come along...cheers !

glen67 :

Good advice ! i asked my gf and she nearly married me lol ! So it is arranged and off we go ...AND i already bought some gifts so double points hopefully , recently divorced (separated 5 years ) then i come along...cheers !

Common sense prevails Glen & it will be a night to remember....believe me! On that night the only Vietnamese language you will need to use is mot, hai, ba, yo!
You will be the dogs bollocks with her family & in the village & she will be the Queen!

Glenn, congratulations and wish you the best.  To give you a little more insight while you are in her parents home.  As someone advised, don't touch others and not your GF and in addition, do not be surprised if you can't sit next to your gf, unless others are around.  I remember the first time I was in the parents home and we were alone in the living room and she sat across from me and i asked her to sit next to me and she said, "I can't, big problem".  I smiled and said ok, I understand, no problem.  It was pretty much like that until we got married. 

With respect to the ex husband, you are a better man than me.  I do not know how much you know about VN women, love and relationships, but marriage is a serious institution.  So, if I were you, I would never never never talk or even mention his name and would act as if he never existed.  Let her bring him up, if she does at all.  You need to make her feel like she is the only person in your heart and vice versa from her. 

For example, my wife was never married and no children, but had 1 boyfriend.  When we met, she made me promise to never bring him up and to this day, many years later, it is though he never existed.  BTW - it works both ways, don't ever ever mention or talk about any of your ex's, unless she brings it up, you will thank me later, I promise you.

I don't know how old you are or your GF, but having a child with her will do wonders in ways you cannot imagine, trust me.

vndreamer :

...don't ever ever mention or talk about any of your ex's, unless she brings it up, you will thank me later, I promise you.

SO true!

I once made the mistake of commenting on an ex relationship in a fairly derogatory manner...something like, "You are so thoughtful and considerate! My ex would never be so caring about my needs".

For the next three days my Vietnamese girlfriend kept bringing up my ex, accusing me of being unhappy in our relationship here and still longing for a reunion with my ex.

I believe I will NEVER make a similar mistake again.

:top:

OceanBeach92107 :
vndreamer :

...don't ever ever mention or talk about any of your ex's, unless she brings it up, you will thank me later, I promise you.

SO true!

I once made the mistake of commenting on an ex relationship in a fairly derogatory manner...something like, "You are so thoughtful and considerate! My ex would never be so caring about my needs".

For the next three days my Vietnamese girlfriend kept bringing up my ex, accusing me of being unhappy in our relationship here and still longing for a reunion with my ex.

I believe I will NEVER make a similar mistake again.

:top:

So true, I mentioned to my wife about a gf in Australia from 30 years ago, her mood changed considerably.

We talk about my ex wife and her ex boyfriend sometimes and it’s never a problem.  We both know each other have a past and accept it. 

I just asked her about this and she said some are very jealous but she knows that we are together and it isn’t a problem.  It is ok if I talk to my ex wife or help her with something since we were together for 20 years.

glen67 :

Good advice ! i asked my gf and she nearly married me lol ! So it is arranged and off we go ...AND i already bought some gifts so double points hopefully , recently divorced (separated 5 years ) then i come along...cheers !

Good luck. Don't forget you owe us a full report after the event.  :top:

SteinNebraska :
gobot :
SteinNebraska :

Someone did call the police on my first visit when they saw me ...

Soviet style secret police persist and is creepy. Cops in my wife's ward know all about me from the finks in her hem.  :P

You want to know the creepy part?  We were out of the house a total of 15-20 minutes.  In that time someone called the police, they arrived, (now) father in law discussed it with them, paid them coffee money and they left on the only road that goes from the highway to the house and I never saw them when walking back to the house.

They went through the tunnel.... :).... lol

Hey VNdreamer !
Many thanks for your advice and taking the time for this .
Yes , I can imagine the etiquette , so to speak , I will keep my hands to myself which maybe difficult as I’ve not seen her for almost 2 months when I arrive  !
I'm becoming more away of the seriousness of their marriage and I am also learning about VN women too and the relevant issues..complex ! However, without going into too much detail he was  a very bad husband, a nasty man,  and consequently they separated 5 years ago, of course I am not sure how much her family know due to her pride and I only mention him if she speaks about him and her daughter is a worry for me too , however , she did say she not care who she loves as long as she not leave her . I can only try my best and be careful , gentle and be myself . The general feeling she tells me is mainly positive with of course some concerns about this ‘blue eyes foreigner ‘ ..But hopefully they can see i'm a genuine person in time .
Sadly , I cannot have any more children unless I have a reversal of operation , but given my age 53 and hers 34 and the fact I brought up 2 children alone since their almost birth I think it’s an impossibility which is sad as I would enjoy another child and perhaps we could consider adopting if our future allows maybe – but as per another post  we have not even contemplated a UK visitor visa , so we need to walk before we can run . The Visa  process seems daunting , depressing and maybe unfair I feel .
Finally , your comment about ex girlfriend..yes were looking through my phone pictures and one came up form some 4 years ago …phew , not happy ! Then on Facebook she saw an ex in-law in a photograph with me and I got some harsh questioning even though it was strictly friendly and she is ‘family ‘ - so I am learning !
I wish you well in your future and thank you again .

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