6 Ways to Impress an Aita

If you’re lucky enough to be dating someone from our lovely Basque American community, the big meeting with the family is inevitable. Meeting your partner’s dad, specifically, can be incredibly intimidating.

Basque dads, a.k.a. Aitas, are remarkably tough or easy to please, depending on your perspective. Get a few simple things right, and you’ve got his approval. Get them wrong, and you will forever be known as that skinhead who took his daughter to prom (true story).

To avoid Aita’s immediate disdain, be sure not to utter any of the Top 5 Things Not to Say to a Girl’s Aita. To win him over completely, take the following advice to heart:

1. Respect his family.

Whether you’re dating his son or daughter, the #1 way to impress an aita is the same: respect his family. Do not interrupt his son or daughter (presumably your boyfriend or girlfriend) when they speak, keep PDA to a minimum (or even better, leave it out entirely in his presence), make eye contact when speaking, greet everyone appropriately, compliment him on his home, and thank him for his hospitality.

Above all else, Aita wants you to be someone who will integrate well into the family, not someone who will shake things up. Find the balance of being polite and respectful without being a suck-up, and you’ll go far in winning him over.

2. Be Basque.

Aita loves fellow Bascos, especially as potential spouses for his children. If you’re of Basque descent, you’ve won half the battle already just by your genealogy.

However, check to see if you come from a family the aita in question likes. Basques are known to have their prejudices and disagreements, so it’s no use being Basque if Aita doesn’t like your family.

If you’re a Montague, don’t be surprised if Capulet Aita gives you the cold shoulder at first. I won’t tell you to stay away from the Capulets entirely, as love is love and opinions can change, but just know you might have to work a little harder to prove you’re better than those family members of yours that Aita dislikes.

Now, if you’re in no way, shape, or form Basque: show appreciation for Basque culture. Your honey should have filled you in on the basics, so you should know a bit about it. Ask Aita about where he came from, tell him you love Basque food, or just express that you would love to learn more about the culture. Respecting his family’s roots is key (see #1).

3. Show knowledge of any of the following: agriculture, sheepherding, cattle ranching, dairy farming, landscaping, electrical work, plumbing, carpentry, construction, car maintenance, property management.

Preferably, have knowledge in Aita’s specific area of expertise, but it helps to know something about any of these topics. Most likely, Aita has spent his entire life engaged in manual labor or as part of a family that has, so showing appreciation for his background can go a long way.

To have him instantly love you, actually work in any of the fields listed above. Aita will automatically make positive assumptions about how you make good money, how hard of a worker you are, and how handy you are around the house/garage/yard.

If you don’t know anything about these manly fields, don’t make stuff up or pretend that you do. Aita can smell a fake from a mile away. Just ask him questions about his work and show interest. That’s how my charming, white collar ex managed to crack my Aita’s tough exterior.

4. Present yourself as clean cut and polite.

Ditch the ponytail, shave the beard, dress appropriately for the occasion, cover up your tattoos, take out your piercings, show up on time, and accept any food and drink offered you with a “thank you very much.” Aita doesn’t want any hippies, punks, skinheads, gangsters, or hoochies associated with his family.

Part of good presentation is making sure your car (or truck–Basque bonus!) is clean and well maintained. Yes, Aita will most certainly judge you on your vehicle of choice. Make sure you stop by the car wash before you head to his house.

5. Be prepared to answer difficult questions.

Like all dads, some aitas are quiet observers and other are a little more in your face. Prepare for the more confrontational ones just in case–even the quiet Aitas have brazen Amas for wives who would be happy to ask you personal questions.

Be able to articulate what your intentions with their son or daughter are. Practice tactfully answering whether you practice a religion, want to get married, want to start a family, hold certain political views. Being ready for anything will make you look cool and confident under pressure. Aita will respect that.

6. Bring him wine.

You can check with your boyfriend or girlfriend to see what kind of alcohol Aita likes best, but chances are you can’t go wrong with a bottle of wine.

If you’re more of a green thumb, Aita also loves homegrown fruits and vegetables so bring those along. They could be an excellent conversation starter.

If all else fails with the first five steps, Aita won’t think you’re a complete loser if you at least have the decency to bring him a bottle of wine.

What other things would you add to this list? What impresses your Aita or Aitatxi?


23 Tried and True Ways to Piss Off Your Aita

1. Go out with your friends, especially during family dinner time.



2. Don’t get Straight A’s on your report card.



3. Mess up your room and keep it messy.


4. Get in a car accident.


5. Don’t tell him things about your life, but tell your mom and sister.


6. Talk to your mom more than you talk to him.


7. Go on vacation with your mom and leave him at home to watch the cat. Maybe forget to call him one day too.


8. Decide to move to Europe. Or just decide to move out.

Why You Want to Leave Me?

9. Decide to go traveling instead of working toward your master’s degree.


10. Get a spa treatment.


 11. Get something pierced.


12. Tell him you’re sharing a hotel room with a boy for a Basque festival weekend away.

The Lord is Testing Me

13. Go on vacation with your boyfriend.


14. Get engaged to a non-Basque.

 15. Say “I love you” to your cat more often than you say it to him.

What the Fuck Is Wrong With You?

16. Tell him his piperade omelette looks gross and refuse to try it.


17. Forget it’s time for an oil change.

Shane Dawson Pissed Off

18. Only wash your car twice a year. Refuse to let him take it to the car wash for you. Because you’re independent.


19. Forget his birthday.


20. Tell relatives things about your nuclear family that he wanted to keep private.


21. Accidentally lock yourself out of the house.


22. Ask him to clean up after himself.


23. Write about him in your blog.



My response to it all:


You Know You’re Basque American When…

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

1. Your Car has Basque Flag Bumper Stickers and a License Plate Frame.

Most likely with cutesy phrases like “Proud to be Basque” or “World’s Greatest Aitatxi.”  Most likely purchased from the legendary Etcheverry Basque Imports.  Most likely tacky yet fabulous.  Everyone who sees your car will be dazzled by your ethnic pride and confused by what flag that is.

Morcilla2. You Get Excited When You See Beef Tongue, Blood Sausage, Oxtail Stew, or Pigs Feet on the Menu.

Your friends might think it’s disgusting, but you grew up with it. Amatxi probably told you it was chicken, and you went with it.  Now these treats get you a little nostalgic, so you have to order them whenever you can.

3. Your Aita/Aitatxi Stores Slabs of Dry Cured Ham in the Garage.Xingar

Call it Jambon, Jamon, or Xingar–it’s overly salty and it looks like an entire pig’s leg.  (Is it an entire pig’s leg?  I don’t know!  My city girl brain just knows it’s huge and a little creepy to have hanging from the ceiling in your house.) You know your aita/aitatxi is proud of these massive hams, but it’s embarrassing to have friends come over and think your dad is some kind of serial killer for a hot minute before you can explain.  He’s not an axe murderer, he’s just Basque.

4. You Say You’re French Basque or Spanish Basque.  

No one outside the Basque community knows what the hell Iparralde and Hegoalde are, or what you mean by “Northern Basque Country” and “Southern Basque Country.”  Heck, even a lot of Basques in the U.S. don’t know what Iparralde and Hegoalde mean, and that’s okay. I’m only fortunate to know those terms because of culture classes at Udaleku.

But actually, if I’m being honest, most Americans don’t even know what Basque means.  So when trying to explain things, we don’t bog them down with the details.

5. You Get Told You Either Look Like Your Tantta Maite or Otto Manex.

Or any number of mystery relatives from the Old Country you’ve never met.  But your parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents will swear you are the spitting image of this stranger.  Just roll with it and hope it’s a compliment.

6. You Have a Marching Band Playing in Your Catholic Mass.

1993 Klika closeupI know I’ve mentioned Klika quite a bit, and I know bugle corps are mostly an Iparralde thing (see what I did there?).  But that’s not something you see every day.  A band of men marching up and down the church aisle beating drums and blasting loud bugles?  So bizarre.  While other cultures might find making such a racket during mass disrespectful, it’s just Sunday as usual to us.

7. You Don’t Remember the Difference Between Euskal Herria and Euskadi, and You Don’t Really Care.  

map of Basque Country

Euskal Herria is the Basque term for the entire Basque Country, all seven provinces included.  Euskadi is the Basque name for the Basque Autonomous Community, a government entity in Spain comprising the three Basque provinces of Araba, Gipuzkoa, and Bizkaia.  Again, this is something I learned at Basque camp.

I’ve also been reminded of the correct usage of these terms by highly politically correct visitors from the Basque Country.  While I understand the sentiment behind their proud lessons about the homeland, I don’t appreciate the grammar lesson.  Don’t they know we Basques in America are the descendants of backwards, illiterate sheepherders?  You can’t expect them to have told us everything about what’s hip in the Basque Country nowadays.

8. You Hear Lamb Birth Stories at the Dinner Table.

Or a variation of such educational farm anecdotes.  For me, it was learning how pigs are slaughtered to make blood sausage, while eating blood sausage.  (Thanks for that one, Aita!)  While these gems only come out once in a while, they really leave an impression.

*I realize I’m neglecting my country Basque Americans here.  Perhaps instead of hearing stories of animal births and slaughters, you’re actually witnessing them?  In that case, I applaud you for your strong stomach and thick skin.  My French cousins would call you a vrai basque.*

9. Your Aitatxi Can Outdrink You. 

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Dear ol’ Aitatxi has probably been drinking wine and/or cider since he was four-years-old.  They made it on the farm, after all, and he’s got the cute rosacea red face to prove it.  If your aitatxi’s like my aita, maybe he doesn’t even drink water unless it’s in his wine. Maybe he doesn’t even consider wine to be alcohol.  It’s only like 12% alcohol.  To your aitatxi, that’s child’s play.

10. You Think You’re Hella Basque, Until You Go to the Basque Country.

The times in my life when I’ve felt the least Basque–and by extention, the most American–were when I was visiting the Basque Country.

You grow up, going to all of the picnics and festivals, learning Basque dances, card games, and sports.  No one can question how Basque you are!  You are hella Basque.  Until you go to the Basque Country for the first time and realize it’s a whole different world out there.  An actual different country!

You realize your knowledge of cultural traditions is mostly irrelevant in your travels, as Basque people don’t actually spend all of their time folk dancing or playing cards and pilota.  While you may impress people with your “Ni neska polita naiz!” [translation: I am a pretty girl!], your language skills are useless.

Really, you’re just in a foreign country you thought you knew everything about.