A survival guide for your first house-visit as a couple

You've been dating long enough, things are going well, and now you've decided to take the plunge and bring your partner home to meet the tribe this Chinese New Year. Congratulations on your bravery.

Now, how do you pull this off and get out of it alive? Apart from the obvious things like being on your best behaviour and avoiding discussions about religion and politics, here are other just-as-important strategies to follow if you want to cement your partner favourably in your relatives' minds.

1. Give your partner a crash course on your family.

Photo: The Straits Times

Which auntie or uncle always goes for the jugular and asks the most direct and nosey questions? Are there any taboo topics best to avoid, say, a cousin who is recently divorced, so DO NOT ask where his or her spouse is?

The more thoroughly your partner is prepped, the better they can respond and navigate away from potential conversation land mines.

2. Bring gifts.

Photo: The Straits Times

Yes, bribery still works. It's still seen as a form of respect, especially to the older generation. Find out what your uncles and aunties like. It doesn't have to be a carton of abalone.

Bringing a small gift shows that your partner is thoughtful and has good manners. Easy gift suggestions: if that family drinks, bring a six-pack of beer. If it's a no-alcohol household, bring Chinese New Year snacks. Do your homework and buy accordingly.

3. Form alliances with your cousins.

Hopefully you are on at least neutral terms with your cousins, because you're going to need their help, especially those whose parents are your nosiest and most critical relatives. Coming from the same generation, your cousins are also more likely to empathise and can help you persuade their parents to go lightly on your partner.

4. Pre-arrange an escape plan.

Photo: The New Paper

Agree on a signal beforehand. It could be a safety word, or four coughs in succession, whatever. That will be the signal to make a quick exit.

So just in case, if despite all your best intentions, something screws up somehow and the situation turns dire, make the pre-arranged signal, then pretend to take a call, make up an emergency (your mum/another cousin/someone believable needs you to buy shallots for tonight's dinner RIGHT NOW), make your excuses, promise to come back another day, and get the hell out.

Your partner's dignity and safety are your responsibility, especially on these all-important first house visits. Unfortunately, first impressions tend to last, so plan this well. Strategise your heart out and best of luck!

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