African societal norms place a lot of importance on marriage. Stories abound of people who have been barred from vying for political office because of not having spouses. Marriage seems like a measure of achievement in our society or an important rite of passage. So, on that big day before finally meeting your man’s parents and kin for the first time, what do you need to consider?
Your first communication is the manner of your dressing. Now come on, I don’t mean you should dress in overly long skirts and dresses as if you are a member of some cult. Don’t also make it too official as if you are going for some executive interview.
Similarly, don’t also be too skimpy as if you are going out for hiking or for a date with the girls. Instead, keep in simple and conventional. Most African parents still believe that a ‘wife material’ should either be dressed in a skirt that goes slightly passed her knees or a dress. Trousers are still frowned upon among some parents, avoid them on the first date.
This is where you have to be very keen. Now nobody expects you to go right to the kitchen on the first day, but you can assist in serving meals or clearing the table. In case your mother in-law is very welcoming, you are free to assist her minimally in preparing the meals too. Don’t overdo it because pretense can be discovered and frowned upon.
In case there is an open discussion, limit yourself to the topics brought up by someone else and contribute minimally. Do not expose your vast knowledge or lack of it on any issue. Also, try and respond to questions only when they are directly addressed to you and be assertive enough to say you are not able to answer this or that question. Do I need to talk about your sitting posture? Or your eating mannerisms? Surely you can figure out how to go about that.
In case you share a tribal affiliation with your man, then you are free to communicate in that language if you are eloquent in it, but don’t force it. There is no harm in using the national language. Caution on the use of English, some folks may feel demeaned if you speak English throughout especially if they are not very familiar with the language themselves, be wise.
Your mobile phone
Limit the use of your mobile phone on your first date with your in-laws. You see, most of the attention will be on you. Too much use of a phone is a sign of being anti-social. If possible, switch off your mobile data and limit the reply to numerous text messages.
Do not Skype while at your in-laws at the first time. I mean, they deserve some attention from you. And by the way, is it possible you carry just one mobile phone, leave your tablet and I pad at home for future use. Your in laws expect a wife, not an IT specialist.