Even heads of state make etiquette blunders—especially when royalty is involved. Last time the Obamas visited Britain’s royal family, the First Lady ruffled feathers by touching the Queen (a big no-no, apparently). Last week, it was the President’s turn to cause a minor breach of protocol by talking over British national anthem.
Here’s how it happened: While addressing dinner guests, Pres. Obama said “I propose a toast to her majesty, the queen.” Unbeknownst to him, these words were a cue to the band, who began playing “God Save the Queen.” He had no choice but to finish his speech by talking over the music, as guests stood in salute. The Queen herself did not raise her glass until the anthem had finished playing.
Of course, you could argue that the band was to blame for the mishap. Still, if I were Pres. Obama, I would be very upset at my international protocol team. It would have been prudent of them to have had the speech approved by someone with a wealth of experience on royal protocol in order to avoid any etiquette breaches.
If you’re travelling abroad, I urge you to brush up on the country’s culture and etiquette guidelines. Making certain gestures or greeting someone with a particular hand can be considered a major slight in some regions. And while it’s unlikely you’ll have to give a speech toasting the Queen, having a good grasp of local customs will help you avoid an unpleasant encounter.