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Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/12 23:03
Hi all,
long time reader first time poster here...

After a 8 years apart, my long lost Japanese love and I met again - quite randomly since we never happened to live in the same continent, even though we both moved around a good bit.

This time we are really serious, I found a job in Japan, he found an apartment for us to move in together, which will happen in a few months.

His family is being extremely supportive and helpful, probably happy to see him happy, so I really don't have too much to worry about there...

Still, when we knew each other years ago, I visited him in Japan, not really as his girlfriend, more like a backpacker friend who needed a place to stay: they were very friendly to me back then, and I managed to get on with them even with the language barrier and cultural difference. This time (I am visiting again in a few weeks), it will be different, since I will be there as his girlfriend.

So I would really appreciate any advice on mistakes I could make without knowing, I have studied a lot about Japanese etiquette, and have lived in different places so I am quite culturally aware, but I originally come from south Europe so I could come across as too loud / messy / talkative sometimes to Japanese standards I suppose... Anything in particular comes to mind to help me out?

Also, we will be staying in our new apartment some nights, but also with his family a few times - my boyfriend suggested we could sleep together in the guest room, is that appropriate in Japan? He said it's ok but when I'm under his parents roof I'd rather go by their rules than our wish... ;)

Thank you!
by Brida (guest)  

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/13 12:16
Bring a pair of socks if you don't wear or just wear stocking. Wearing just stocking is the same as barefoot. It's very bad manner when you go step in someone's house with barefoot.

Keep your hair tidy(no need to go hairdresser), no need to wear too much makeup but you do need at least lipstick.
Wear something tidy clothing other than jeans and tee. Your first impression remain forever.

Be a good listener rather than speaker.

It's better to stay in different place until you both officially married. Say to his parents "Thank you for the offer but I stay in the apartment". That's the perfect answer.
by tokyo friend 48 rate this post as useful

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/13 19:37
Thank you for the adivices on making a good first impression... (even though they have met me before, that was many years ago.)

About sharing the same room, the thing is, we are not going to get married any time soon - as far as I know... We are going to move in together in a few months and his family helped us to rent a place and never seemed to mind about us living together before marriage (is this unusual?). So sharing a room in his house it's more a matter of what would be more appropriate and more polite on my part, but I don't think they would be shocked either ways...
Still, of course I don't want to do anything that might upset them, or force their hand to accept something that deep down they consider wrong.
by Brida (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/13 21:40
My mother and father in law are amazing people. Truly they are otosan and okasan to me.

If you are loud, I am loud, remember the old samurai ideal of speaking little means less to answer for later.

Brings socks and sleep separately out of respect for them. It is a nice gesture on your part.

For the apartment rental, keep in mind they are sticking their necks out for you. Thank them by keeping them at ease as much as possible and making their son as happy as you can and being happy yourself.

You and I are lucky cause we are gaijin. We are not held as accountable by Japanese society as other Japanese are. It is a constant struggle for them to fit in and be accepted. Remember this. I try to in everything I do outside our place. Its not always easy.

by KumaDog rate this post as useful

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/13 22:23
My son is not getting married yet, but I am a mother who belongs to a generation whose sons are getting settled with girlfriends.

We are going to move in together in a few months and his family helped us to rent a place and never seemed to mind about us living together before marriage (is this unusual?)

No, that is not unusual. There are parents who do mind, but it's getting more common nowadays. Many parents even think it's important to try living together before marriage and many don't mind if their children never get legally married as long as they have a good partner (although if they have babies, that's another story, since the Japanese law doesn't work well for children out of wedlock).

So, is it your boyfriend who insisted on sharing the guestroom in his parent's house, or did his parents insist on it first?

If it's your boyfriend, why not say to him, "Please tell your parents that I said we should sleep seperately." He can tell his parents that, and if his parents say they don't mind, you can sleep together. It would be a nice gesture just to suggest sleeping alone.

If it's his parents who suggested it, my answer is to accept it since it's their offer.

Perhaps another thing is that, the Japanese aren't used to seeing their children hug and kiss with others. The parents might feel more comfortable if you two can keep a nice distance between each other in their presense. It would even be a good opportunity to stay closer to his parents (especially his mother) rather than to him. And I'm sure it's universal to suggest help in the kitchen while you stay at their home.

Actually, as a modern parent, some of the suggestions by the other posters sound a bit extreme, but it's always nice to be on the safer side. You can try their suggestions, and if his parents say, "Oh, don't do that, we don't mind." then you can accept whatever the parents suggest.

Also, not because you are coming as a girlfriend, but because you are older now, you will be expected with more proper manners than you were as a young backpacker. Just try not to embarrass your own parents from Europe who were responsible for bringing you up as a nice lady. Then you will be alright.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/13 23:12
@KumaDog: yes I am extremely lucky with them being so nice to me, and I know it...

@Uco: thank you for the precious insight. We are both about to turn 30 so yes, no more excuses for a little unexperienced girl, this time I just have to behave appropriately. Of course I would know how to be a well behaved guest in Europe, it just gets a bit trickier in a completely different culture...

Regarding PDA, I know they are frowned upon in Japan, but to be honest I would find open expressions of affection in public quite childish and inappropriate in front of older people anyway, not only in Japan. ;)

Regarding the sleeping arrangement, I will stay at his place for a few days, he lives there at the moment so he has his own bedroom, and there is a guest room that would be prepared for me with a futon. Since we haven't seen each other in months and we are hoping to be together as much as possible, he suggested to me to share the guest room, just adding a futon. I said of course I'd like to, but I want to do what his mom likes best. But he thinks that discussing this matter weeks ahead of time would be awkward so he'll suggest it casually to his mom later on... In my family this would be perfectly ok, I think actually everybody would have a good laugh if me or my siblings asked to sleep separately from their partners, and his family seems quite liberal too, so I'm really not sure. Not displeasing his family is my top priority, but of course I'd also love to share the room with him so I don't want to say no if there is no real reason to.

As for helping in the kitchen, is it really a good idea? I think where I am from this is only for very close friends who feel at home in the house, but a first time guest would stay at the table, not creating more fuss for the host and keeping the conversation up (which actually I'll be useless with since my japanese is still nearly non-existent). Of course I don't mind helping but I'll end up just being in the way, and me and his mom have no language in common apart from warm smiles...

Oh one last question: I am going to bring small gifts such as sweets etc, of course, but since they helped up so much with finding an apartment, I was thinking maybe I should also buy a proper, more expensive gift. What would be a good idea though, since I don't really know them personally that well?
by Brida (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/14 06:20
The first impression I mean is, when you met his family in the past was as a friend(of backpacker). This this time you will meet them as a future member of his family or his fiance.
Your formal meeting on this occasion is important. You will be no longer a friend.

You can ask to help about the kitchen work. If he/she declined the offer then you won't. Majority of women don't like to be used their kitchen others(some people do), so firstly you need to ask and wait for the response. Do not go into the kitchen without permission.

A small gift is fine.
by tokyo friend 48 rate this post as useful

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/14 10:33
Hi again.

As suggested, the whole idea is to show what options you are willing to accept, and then to leave it up to them to decide.

In other words, you can say, "May I help you in the kitchen?" and his mother would think, "Oh, what a thoughtful lady she is." and if she doesn't need/want any help, she can just say, "No thank you." and then you can sit at the table to entertain and get to know everybody.

The point is to show you are open to options (which I thought that that was what you are asking for).

Same thing with everything else. You can suggest that you are willing to accept the option of sleeping separately. This will be a good chance to find out what his parents would truly prefer. Even sons don't really know what their parents are thinking, and this will be a good opportunity to comfirm with each other. If they laugh about it, that is that. You will all find out that they are people who laugh about those things.

The other thing is that you aren't just a guest. You are going to become family with those people (even though you won't be "legally" married). So this is your first step to becoming their daughter. On a related note, I once attended a wedding in a London house, where I stayed for a couple of nights, and the English family was more than happy to let me join their relatives to wash dishes. It was also fun learning the different ways they wash them. You don't even need language to wash dishes!

As for gifts, why not bring something for each parent. That would be thoughtful. I don't know what part of southern Europe you're from, but I find that lace from Latin countries are lovely for mothers, and perhaps some European craftwork would be nice for the father. Ask your boyfriend for their preferences and ask department stores for advise.

All the hassle you go through would be a step further into getting to know your new family.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/15 08:39
And try to make sure that your body is really clean and wash a lot before coming to their place. Japanese are very clean and have a different style to wash/take a bath. Ask your bf about it. ;)
by Sameme (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/15 14:01
Mmmh being clean wouldn't be a problem usually, but I will come to his house after a journey of around 24 hours door to door... So it probably won't be my best moment. I'll have to get organised with a survival kit and get changed / made up at the airport.

Uco thank you again, I think I get what you mean, I will try and show I want to help and fit in and then I'll do what they say.

As for the presents, I am Italian and last time I made everybody happy with wine / oil / special types of pasta, etc... Now I live in the Netherlands and I am not that familiar with the local products or good shops. Hopefully I will find something appropriate...
by Brida (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Staying with his family, any advice? 2014/4/16 23:34
Lost time poster fist time going on your comment

Like they say, there a season why you two stop talking and trying to rekindle an old relationship may not be a good thing.
by SomeGuy (guest) rate this post as useful

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