How I told my Filipino Father-in-Law I was Quitting My Job to Travel with his Daughter

| Monday, January 27th, 2014 | 15 Comments »
The happy "after" pic. With Jammie's dad atop Baiyoke Tower II - the tallest building in Bangkok.... if only we could have skipped the "we're leaving" conversation...

The happy “after” pic. With Jammie’s dad atop Baiyoke Tower II – the tallest building in Bangkok…. if only we could have skipped the “we’re leaving” conversation…

I’m not going to say it went perfectly.

Just over a year ago, Jammie and I sat down with her dad and two brothers to give them the news that we had both handed in our resignations and were leaving on a 12-month service and travel trip around the world. It easily ranks as one of my most-dreaded conversations EVER (As a Swede in a Filipino family, there has been a steep learning curve on what to say and how to say it – see my last post for some of my lessons learned)… Here’s how we did it:

I practiced on my parents first – Since my own parents raised me all over the world, I decided to break the news to them first.  They were pretty good about it although there was definitely a little resistance to the idea of giving up good jobs for travel and freelancing.  The Swedish “hands off” approach to parenting adult kids made the conversation fairly easy.  Having done it once, I geared up for round 2…

Timing, timing, timing – Since Jammie’s parents lived 8 hours away from us (as opposed to on a different continent like my parents), we decided that we were goings to tell them in person.  Luckily, we had a reason to drive down to them (A LARGE family wedding).  We waited until about two hours after the wedding before dropping the bomb.

Group Dynamics – We gathered Jammie’s dad and two brothers around the table in the formal dining room that hardly ever gets used, took a deep breath and went for it.  “We have some big news…”  Everyone tensed up…. “We’ve done a lot of thinking and planning and…”  Yikes, this was harder than our practice sessions in the car on the drive down… “We have handed in our job resignations and we are going to be traveling around the world and doing service projects for a year.”  THERE! We said it!!

Charts and Projections – I pivoted quickly to the prep we’d done for the move.  I knew that a Filipino dad was going to be very no-nonsense about practicalities, i.e. just how did we plan on surviving?  So we talked about finances – how we’d saved up and found other ways to make money.  We talked about why we were doing this – the year was supposed to be an idea and relationship harvest for the future.  We wanted to make international connections for future career moves.

Prepared Answers – I’d done a lot of prepping for how to respond to family concerns and objections.  And sure enough, there were some (although, not a lot, surprisingly):  I had info on what the cost of living would be in the countries we were visiting.  I had planned a lot to make sure that career-wise, this trip would enhance my marketability rather than hurt my resume and I made sure everyone heard this.

Being real – We talked about risk.  The cities we were visiting were generally safer than your average American city.  Jammie’s dad made Jammie promise she wasn’t going to do any crazy exploring of back alleys on her own.

Wrap-up – As the conversation wound down we thanked everyone.  Amazingly, everyone gave us their blessing. We got out without too much lingering.  All things considered, things had gone well and we breathed a sigh of relief.

Final word – We were actually surprised by how easy most of our “we’re leaving” conversations turned out to be.  If you are planning on breaking big news to family, I think my big takeaway would be: be prepared but don’t over-think it.  It is hard to predict how it will go but don’t delay the talk because of imagined disastrous outcomes.  The most important thing thing is that you actually have the conversation.

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15 Comments

  1. Jamie says:

    Nice job! Well done and well said. First and formost there are all the components of concern that you mentioned regarding safety and finances and so on, but just as big…the cross-cultural differences. You have experience with this culture are well traveled and culturally competent. Going to the family like you did especially with this culture was nice and respectful. I didn’t think about this whole family aspect when I thought about all your guys’ adventures and bold moves that many date to consider. Brave!

    *sigh*….”Anyway you talk a lot” LOL.. I trust you’d of have all the right words to conform the fam. ;)

  2. Razwana says:

    You chose a big wedding as the time to break the big news? Brave move, Bjorn ! You ran the risk of either taking advantage of the happy mood spilling over to you, or sucking the happiness out of the entire day ! Hah!

    Stressful family discussions – I’ve had plenty of em. And I’m with you 100% – you can’t predict what they’ll say, but best to do your homework by preparing answers to objections. And learn to sell !
    Razwana recently posted…MORE taglines. Are you kidding me?My Profile

  3. Gene says:

    Bjorn, nicely done but I can’t help but think how uncle must have looked like when you said “We have some big news…”. Well, he trusts you with his daughter, might as well trust you with your judgment.:)

  4. Congratulations! Being a Filipino myself and having been raised with Filipino family values, I imagine that must have been difficult.

    Cheers to your great adventure! :)
    Claire | Traveling Light recently posted…IN PHOTOS: Ati-atihan Festival Winning Tribes + Street PartiesMy Profile

  5. Arthur J. Pollock says:

    Bjorn, I have found, over the years, that the imagined reaction to phone or face to face conversations is always greater in the mind than it is in reality. You planned it well, and were pleasantly surprised. Way to go. Love, Arthur

  6. Vishnu says:

    Awesome job! See all the benefits of your travels and even the benefits for your zoo-loving Filipino father-in-law who was able to visit you overseas. If you were able to crush this fear, you could swim with sharks in Bali, right!!?

    Our reality is often much much bigger than our fears. A good reminder that you have to face your fears to live your dreams.

    p.s Did you have medical professionals around when making this announcement :) ?

  7. Inger Karlman says:

    Good approach to cracking difficult and potentially hazardous news. Interesting that you tried them on us first. We are pleased that things have gone well so far and wish you and Jammie a very good and rewarding future.

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