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Tips for Making a Good Impression of Your English-Speaking In-Laws

Image representing students learning how to make a good impression of their English-speaking in-laws

For many people, the scariest part of a new relationship is meeting your partner’s family for the first time!

In English, you might hear people talking about meeting the “in-laws”, which is short for “mother-in-law”, “father-in-law”, “sister-in-law”, “brother-in-law” and so on. Properly speaking, it means the family of your husband or wife, since these people are now your family in “law” rather than in “blood”. However, many people use the term informally to refer to their boyfriend or girlfriend’s family, too.

With Christmas coming up (when families traditionally get together across the English-speaking world!), are you getting nervous about spending time with your partner’s family? If so, here are some handy tips and phrases to help you make a good impression.

When You Arrive

As we say in English, you only have one chance to make a good impression, so make sure the very first things you say and do are polite and friendly!

Often this is the most awkward moment. Other cultures have clear ways of greeting people for the first time, for example with a kiss on each cheek, but in places like the UK, the US, Australia, etc., different families do things differently, so you might be unsure whether to give someone a kiss on the cheek, or a hug, or just a friendly wave! The safest thing to do is to smile and hold out your hand for a handshake, and then if the other person responds by going in for a hug etc., do the same!

A polite greeting here would be something like “It’s lovely to meet you!”

It’s also a good idea to take a small gift or contribution, especially if they are making dinner, or it’s a party. A bottle of wine, some chocolates or flowers will all be appreciated. Or take something special from your own country. This will seem thoughtful and help to start a conversation, too.

Making Conversation

Before you arrive, make sure you ask your partner plenty of questions about his / her family member’s interests, jobs, hobbies, recent holidays and so on. This will make it easier to make conversation when you get there.

You can then say things like:

“Sarah tells me you’ve just been to Spain.”

“I hear you’ve just finished your exams to become a doctor.”

“Tom says that you’re a wonderful artist.”

… etc.

Asking lots of questions and taking an interest in your partner’s family will help them to warm to you!


Everyone likes to receive compliments, so making positive comments about the food, the house and so on will also help you to make a good impression. It’s best when compliments are genuine, though – you don’t want to sound rehearsed.

For example, you might say something like:

“Your home is beautiful.”

“What a lovely garden!”

“I love your earrings.”

Following up with a question helps to keep the conversation flowing, too. For example:

“This dessert is delicious…. How do you make it?”

“I love that painting… who is the artist?”

Saying Goodbye

When it’s time to leave, try to be warm and friendly, and thank them again. For example:

“It was great to meet you at last. Thank you so much for making me feel so welcome.”

“Thank you so much for dinner, it was wonderful”

“Thank you, it’s been a lovely evening. I hope I will see you again soon!”

… if you do all this and manage not to break anything or insult anyone, you should make a good impression on your in-laws!


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