The Etiquette of Meeting the Parents -- and Sleeping Over

When in Rome ...

Rule two: It's equally important to make yourself at home, but not too much at home. "Get a sense of what the household is like and what sort of behavior your partner's parents expect of their guests," suggests Dana May Casperon, author of Power Etiquette: What You Don't Know Can Kill Your Career. "You can start figuring this out via a pre-visit call to his mom to introduce yourself and ask if there is anything special she wants you to bring. Obviously, even if she says no, you will bring a gift such as holiday candles or a basket of local goodies. And make sure you know what kind of clothes to pack." Casperon adds, "Once on the premises do a quick read of their lifestyle. Some people don't walk around barefoot or want their guests to casually open the refrigerator and help themselves to the contents. And don't call his parents by their first names unless they invite you to do so."

Pay Attention to Subtle Suggestions

Adrienne, a 25-year-old human resources manager, has so mastered the art of pleasing her boyfriend David's parents that they invite her over -- sometimes without David! She explains, "The first time I visited, I was careful to listen first and see what types of things the family liked to talk about, instead of injecting myself into the conversation. Then I asked questions about things I knew interested them. And I was very careful not to be a slob. I mean, it would be terrible to leave soaking towels on the bathroom floor. And it's super important to offer to help cook and clean up. If they refuse your help the first time, ask again. If they stop you a second time from carrying plates back into the kitchen after dinner, let it go." Adrienne's thoughtfulness was rewarded with an invitation to visit sans David to join his mother for a pedicure/manicure afternoon. Even better, when Adrienne visits with David, it's now expected the two will share a room.

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