Etiquette on Greeting Foreign Dignitaries

Shaking hands is a respectful greeting among dignitaries in many nations.
... Jupiterimages/ Images

With nearly 200 countries in the world, etiquette for meeting foreign dignitaries can vary widely, notes the Emily Post Institute. The main principle is to behave formally but courteously and respectfully to the dignitary, avoiding overt familiarity. You may learn the specific etiquette for any country’s representatives by contacting their U.S. or U.N. embassy, or by contacting the nearest consulate. However, some general rules apply.

1 Introductions and Address

Stand up when you are introduced to someone, advises E-diplomat, a protocol site recommended by the U.S. Office of the Chief of Protocol. Handshakes are a common form of greeting in many countries, but if you are uncertain, follow the dignitary’s lead; if she expects to shake your hand, she will extend hers. The standard formal response to an introduction in English is “How do you do?” If you speak further, use formal forms of address based on the dignitaries’ title and position. Foreign ambassadors may be addressed as “Your Excellency,” “Excellency,” “Mr. Ambassador” or “Madam Ambassador,” according to Emily Post. Most heads of state and high-ranking officials from Europe should also be addressed as “Your Excellency.” For other positions, use the person’s preferred royal, peerage or professional title, as they were introduced to you, but not the name; you would address Grand Duke Alexei simply as “Grand Duke,” for instance.

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.