You’re dating your Russian or Ukrainian girlfriend and everything is going so well between you two, that she invites you home to meet with her family. Now what?
You might think that you’re in like flint but Russian women rarely make significant decisions, like who she is choosing for her man, without getting her family’s opinion so you must make a good impression if you hope to continue dating her.
A visit to her family’s home isn’t a strictly formal affair but there are some cultures or customs that you must be aware of. This article from The Medeleyev Journal has a lot of good advice. It’s a blog written by a Western journalist that has done a lot of work in Russia and ended up marrying a Russian woman. His blog is very insightful and worth a look.
I would also add that your Russian girlfriend or any interpreter that you bring with you to meet her family will be aware that you’re in a foreign country and might not be aware of all the customs. So if they have any advice or suggestions for you, it’s a good idea to listen and follow their suggestions. Your girlfriend would want this to work out as much as you do and wouldn’t want you to look foolish in front of her family.
Second, you will be expected to bring a gift for the hostess and this might end up backfiring. I’ve dealt with some traditional cultures before and the families of such cultures often live modestly, but a more affluent American may want to show his generosity and not appear stingy and will risk offending the host by overdoing it. In America we like to keep up with the Joneses, but in more traditional cultures this is showing off and it’s a big turnoff. Giving an extravagant gift to a host might be seen as you rubbing your success in her face. So it’s best to keep it simple in this situation.
A rule of thumb that I’ve always found useful: Your gift should not exceed your host’s ability to reciprocate with a little bit of effort. This rule applies well in almost any gift-giving situation. In America, people often agree to a price limit when it comes to giving gifts during holidays which is a more explicitly articulated idea of my rule of thumb. This doesn’t mean you should expect your host to reciprocate at that moment in this case. You’re being invited to his or her home, after all. But keeping this rule in mind will keep you from overdoing it.