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How to get along with the family of a Russian woman you date

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Russians, being a pretty conservative and, let’s say, patriarchic nation, have a unique view of what a family must be like. And to find oneself in constant contact with a Russian family for an outsider may be quite a harsh experience.

There can be no solid guides on how better to get along with your date’s parents, it’s a feat even in a culture you’re familiar with. But a few tips about dealing with Slavic tempers and how these people usually think might be useful. Plus, the usual advice on what you shouldn’t do can, be in order.

A Russian view on domestic life

An understanding with you girlfriend’s parents is valuable, if you want to create a family with a Russian woman. The difficulty of doing it varies based on how ‘liberal’ her parents are and how exotic you are for a country.

What you may have problems with

Firstly, it may be shocking for any extremely tolerant society, such as British, French or American, but a race and nationality still matter in Russia. The real question is to what degree. Russia is much larger than the United States or any country in Europe. Thus the list of what you can see on a regular basis diversifies from a region to region. So, if people are just not used to your… kind, they may not even accept you.

For instance, a Middleeasterner may be quite comfortable in Caucasian regions and the European South, as the percentage of Muslims there is pretty high. The man of African descent will probably face preconception anywhere, except the biggest European cities. However, the European may feel little or no prejudice, especially if he is of Slavic descent. So, whereas she is OK with the notion of dating foreigner, her parents may not.

Secondly, the important issue is how liberal the family is. Yes, it also applies to pretty much any other country, but Russian families are quite conservative nowadays. Plus, this item and the one above are interconnected. As a rule, the more patriarchic regions are located in the South and the East. The Siberian families are usually pretty hardcore and those in the capital are much more liberal.

This, however, can not be regarded as 100% accurate, and don’t use it as a manual. It’s just a few tips. You probably won’t even travel to the more distant of a country, but knowing, what’s out there, may help.

Thirdly, the seriousness of your relationship matters as well. It sure may be relevant in other parts of the planet as well. But keep in mind, that Russian society is more hardcore. If you come from an undetermined part of Asia and chose to date a Russian woman just to ‘try’, how it feels — chances are somebody will beat you. However, the commitment to the relationship will probably be admired, if you’re sincere. 

The combination of these three factors is the staple of your Russian girlfriend’s parents will even tolerate you around. But how to get them to like you, exactly?

Conversation with the parents-in-law

Means to improve a reputation

The question is rather difficult, and the thorough answer to it can only be achieved through some gruesome research. But we clearly don’t have time, so consider it a beginner’s kit of tips and tricks (mostly tips, tricks are life-threatening in this case).

What you should do

These may be pieces of advice, not only relevant for Russia, below, but nevertheless, here they are:

  1. Be sincere, as future fathers-in-law tend to assume the worst anyway. Being honest, you’ll at least have something solid to back you up. For instance, don’t lie about the job or your intentions. You can keep back some info a bit though. That’s fine, everybody does that.
  2. Be respectful to the parents. It doesn’t only mean that you should be mindful of what you do. Her parents, being of exotic (perhaps) culture for you, may have something odd about them. Just hold your negative emotions back and keep an open mind. It would be even better if you adopted some of these weirdish peculiarities: they are mostly harmless.
  3. Take a few lessons of Russian. See, it takes a few years to master the Russian language. But knowing at least, what certain exclusively Russian words mean, will greatly improve your understanding of certain situations. Moreover, if started beforehand, by the time your girlfriend wishes to introduce you, you’ll have an adequate level of the language. It will ease the tension while talking to virtually any Russian person, and especially with her parents.
  4. Learn a bit of Russian etiquette. What it means is, you should observe, how people behave casually in Russia. Casual behavior is one the things that ultimately trigger people when done strangely. So, learn, how people shake hands, how they address one another, how you should interact with senior people. Casually, mind you. Special rituals for deeper interactions may not make people uncomfortable that much. 
  5. Look sharp and neat. Depending on what kind of people you’ll be meeting, you’ll need to wear a suit or just a nice shirt. Anyhow, an effort made to look presentable will not avoid their eyes. Don’t forget about manners, but don’t be overpolite as well. It’s often considered to ingratiating and slimy. Russian people don’t like that. Try to look like a good man, but don’t break a sincerity barrier, we’ve already talked it over.
  6. Support any beginnings her parents (especially father) will propose and try not to turn down any offerings. It’s a bad form. Even if the evening begins to drag on — don’t stop drinking, eating and conversing. If they don’t insist — just do it anyway, but modestly. And try to understand, how welcome you are and don’t overstay your welcome. It’s not that hard to catch, just be mindful.

What you shouldn’t do

You won’t be amazed, but there are lots of things you shouldn’t or even mustn’t do in Russia. And certainly not in front of your girlfriend’s parents. Well, the list of things (not all of them) you probably should avoid to do looks like that:

  1. Try not to comment on what’s going on in the country. You can be right, saying something negative, and the person in front of you can inwardly agree. But until you know exactly what type of a father you’re dealing with, try not to say something of the sort. 
  2. Don’t address people by the first name or the second name in pair with the ‘Mister’. It’s not how they do it there. Senior people are addressed by the first name + patronym (the name of the father + ‘-vich’). 
  3. Imposing something on people is generally not a good thing to do. However, while talking to conservative Soviet school people, you may be tempted. After all, it’s about respecting the housemaster and his beliefs, which you shouldn’t condemn.
Picture of her parents

Disclaimer

Again, it’s not everything, most goes from experience. However, it’s pretty much, what you need to know for starters. In the more long-lasting relationship with the parents of a Russian woman you date you will figure things out for yourself, don’t worry.

To top it all

The key to a safe relationship with the Russian woman’s parents is also good timing. It’s not like you need to meet her parents right away, you actually shouldn’t. So, to top it all, before undertaking such a step, consider this:

  1. Have your Russian on an adequate level, around B1 (recommended, if they speak English, you actually need only a little Russian);
  2. Don’t come knocking too early, as everyone needs to be sure that you are serious, otherwise, it would be ridiculous;
  3. Observe and ask your girlfriend, how you should interact — thus you’ll have even more tips;
  4. Don’t spare effort to look as good, as you can. You need to outweigh the awkwardness of you being the foreigner by your presentable look;
  5. Be a respectable guest, have fun and don’t criticize anything they do. It’s even better to take part in things.

Conclusion

For the third time — you should think for yourself on this one as well. Much of the social skills come from experience and common sense. Anyhow, you must have at least one of those, you’ll be just fine.

But if in case you’re just doing a research and still don’t date a Russian woman, you may try this guide or this video out to know exactly how better to impress one:

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