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What to Expect When You're Meeting His/Her Italian Family

There comes a time in every relationship when it's time to meet your girlfriend/boyfriend's family, and that experience can be even more stressful when that person's family is the total opposite of yours. If your significant other is Italian, just know that you may be introducing yourself to a whole new world. Your family may be small and peaceful, but theirs will likely be double the size, and classify yelling as their "inside voice". You may have met their parents a couple times here and there, but once you get the invite to a family gathering, that's when you know the commitment has been taken to a whole new level. This is the day you're going to meet the crazy uncle Angelo, the sweet little Nonna, and the cousins you gotta click with FAST. There is no bigger spotlight on you than the day you meet your significant other's family, and there is no better feeling than receiving that sign of approval.

Clearly there's some preparation involved for the introduction, and I'm here to help you out. Here's what to expect when you're meeting your significant other's Italian family:

  1. Brace yourself, they're going to be loud. Every European person can speak to the fact that our families just naturally speak at a higher volume than most cultures. With that being said, we also like to talk a lot. You might think a fight is about to break out, but really they're just catching up. This introduction is not the time to be shy, and if you are, it'll be the only thing your significant other hears about at the end of the night. Italians like it when you talk as much as they do, so get in on the conversation and don't sit there in a panic.

  2. Your outfit needs to be on point. Italians appreciate good style, and the first impression is everything. They'll be looking at everything from the shoes you leave at the door, to your hair, and your socks. Girls- try to avoid any ripped jeans, no matter how cute you think it is (his grandmother is going to want to sew them for you, thinking you ruined them on your way over). You're also going to want to go with anything with a higher neck because your cleavage CANNOT make an appearance. Guys, leave the sweater vest at home, and go with a polished button up or long sleeve (you're not Chandler from Friends). Bottom line: if one of these elements is off, you're going to be remembered as the chick with no respect, or the guy with the dorky sweater vest.

  3. Don't cling to your significant other. This is one of those things that you really need to be cautious of. Meeting the family for the first time is a big deal, and it's important that you take the initiative to get to know them. If you're attached to your girlfriend at the hip, her family is gonna think A) you're whipped, and B) you're scared of them. If you need to help your girlfriend get something out of the garage, that's alright, but if her dad and the cousins are outside barbecuing, you gotta get out there.

  4. Be affectionate, but not TOO affectionate. Old school Italians really pay attention to affection, and the saying "there's a time and place for everything" really comes into play here. Being affectionate should be more minimal as a sign of respect. It's important that you read your significant other, and if they says its okay to hold her hand, you're good.

  5. Bring your appetite. Italian moms will get offended if you don't eat their food. If you tell your significant other's mom that you "ate before you came", that's an automatic strike one. Their mom is either thinking A) they don't like my cooking, or B) does this baccala not realize that I've been planning this meal for weeks. If she offers you another plate of pasta, take it, it'll make her day.

  6. Be able to take a joke. Ripping on each other is one of every Italian family's favourite past times, and everyone gets a turn as the target. If you're sitting at the table and the family starts joking around with you, laugh it off and don't take it personally.

  7. Don't criticize Italian soccer teams. Europeans in general are die hard soccer fans, and if you're for any opposing team, you better zip it.. especially during the world cup. You really do not want to get into a debate about whether Pirlo is the best player whose ever lived.

  8. Holiday dinners are a HUGE deal. This is another post in itself really, but holiday dinners are big. These are the days your significant other stresses about. If their cousin is bringing their girlfriend, the pressure is on. You don't show up to your significant other's Easter dinner if you guys aren't serious. These gatherings are meant for family, so if you make it to Christmas, they love you.

Once you've gotten this down, you're pretty much set. Here are a few terms you can look out for:

  • Baccala- the direct translation is cod fish (totally irrelevant), but it basically means that person is acting stupid..better hope it's not you.

  • Scema/ Scemo- silly

  • Piace- like/ enjoy (this might be the only thing their grandmother asks you.. she's probably talking about the food)

  • Paisan- someone from the same hometown or may be a family friend

  • Nonna & Nonno: grandmother & grandfather

  • Zia & Zio: aunt & uncle

  • Cugini: cousins

I hope you enjoyed this post, whether you could relate to it, or you learned something new! Stay tuned more more things Italiana!

Fa la brava,


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