Monday, 26 March 2012

How To Behave When Meeting Latin American Parents

A couple of weeks ago, my dad FINALLY met my boyfriend! After being so stubborn, he eventually was "ready" and accepted to have a small introductory chat with him.
However, Jeff and me were a bit uneasy about how it was all going to turn out. After all, we come from different cultures (he's Canadian, I'm Peruvian) and our understanding on what is polite or what is correct may not be the same.
Luckily, both times that Jeff got to talk to my dad (yes! Twice already!!) went pretty well; but after talking on the phone with him about what else he would've done or talked about with my dad, I realized we both needed some ABC on what to do and what not to do when meeting parents.

When introducing to Latin American parents, first of all you need to know how much English they know. Maybe they don't speak it at all, which means awkward silences are going to be dominating the first encounter. If they don't speak English, you need to learn at least five very important things in Spanish:

#1 Me llamo ______. Mucho gusto. [My name is _____. Nice to meet you.]
#2 Yo no hablo mucho espanol. [I don't know too much Spanish]
#3 Muchas gracias. [Thank you very much]
#4 Si, gracias. / No, gracias. [Yes, thank you. / No, thank you]
#5 Senor / Senora. [Mr. / Mrs.]

If they do speak English, ask to your partner how well they speak it. Some people speak it slowly (because is not their native language), whereas others have more domain of the language. If they do speak it fluidly, then you better have a list of possible topics to break the ice to make it less awkward. Hopefully your partner will participate, too, to help make the conversation more interactive.

Number five is tricky, though. You see, in Canada it's polite to call everybody by their first names. So if I am white, I'll be presenting my dad to my boyfriend as Robert*, and my mom as Alice*. To most white people, being called by last name is not correct and even considered rude. In Latin American countries, being called by their first name is a sign of disrespect. They might not be offended, but they won't like you for sure. They preferred to be called by last names. In this case, I won't be introducing my parents with my last name because my boyfriend is supposed to know my full name by now!! Introducing should go like this:

Me: Jeff, this is my dad.
Jeff: Nice to meet you, Mr. Villa.
Me: And this is my mom.
Jeff: Nice to meet you, Mrs. Villa.

After that intro, you don't need to call them by last names anymore for the rest of the conversation. Simply "Sir" or "Ma'am" will do. It is also important to shake hands, as Latin Americans believe in physical contact, as opposed to North American countries in which a nod of the head is usually enough.

These are just the basics. There are so many differences between cultures about what is correct to do in one but not in the other. But for now, this is all you need to know about meeting your Latin American girlfriend/boyfriend's parents. It's a very interesting culture that will get less complicated with time and communication. So, embrace it! =)

[*] Different names used to protect the identity of the individuals.

No comments:

Post a Comment