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An Intense Welcome Ceremony

Many of you may have seen this viral picture of French President Emanuel Macron disappearing under layers of wreaths or 'leis'. This picture of his visit to French Polynesia is actually photoshopped. It is true that greeters laid a huge number of floral garlands on his shoulders. However, in reality, they were much fewer in number. The question is, how many garlands are too many garlands? Is there such a thing as too warm of a welcome? In this post, I will explain the elements of a welcome ceremony and how to organise one without causing a diplomatic faux pas. If you’re interested in learning more about the role of a protocol officer, check out my courses or get in touch.

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Many of you may have seen this viral picture of French President Emanuel Macron disappearing under layers of wreaths or ‘leis’. This picture of his visit to French Polynesia is actually photoshopped. It is true that greeters laid a huge number of floral garlands on his shoulders. However, in reality, they were much fewer in number. The question is, how many garlands are too many garlands? Is there such a thing as too warm of a welcome? In this post, I will explain the elements of a welcome ceremony and how to organise one without causing a diplomatic faux pas. If you’re interested in learning more about the role of a protocol officer, check out my courses or get in touch.

What is a Welcome Ceremony?

A welcome ceremony is an integral part of every state visit made by the head of state of one country to another. It is usually the first item on the official programme as it occurs upon the guest’s arrival. The ceremony takes different forms in different countries. This may include a gun salute, playing of the national anthems, displaying of the national flags and state symbols at premises, or a review of a military guard of honour. The visiting head of state is greeted by the host country, which is usually represented by lesser official representatives. If you’re wondering why the host country’s head of state doesn’t welcome their counterparts at this point, it’s because both heads of state often meet at another location later on. The whole event is organised and overlooked by the protocol officers of the host country, who also make sure the event goes off without any diplomatic faux pas or embarrassment.

A Bread and Salt Welcome Ceremony

In Russia and most central and eastern European countries, guests are traditionally greeted by women or children in national costumes, with a loaf of bread and salt. These historically symbolise prosperity and health. The guest should carefully break off a piece of the bread, dip it in the salt, and eat it. This signals that a friendship has been forged between the two parties.

A Lei Welcome Ceremony

Whilst a warm welcome is one thing, the way that French president Emmanuel Macron was received during his official visit to French Polynesia was quite an intense welcome. His greeters, one by one, placed a customary lei around his neck. The festoons of garlands and strings of seashells historically symbolise friendship, status and respect. The more leis you’re given, the greater your standing. There would be nothing wrong with it, unless president Macron didn’t disappear under layers of leis placed on his shoulders. Luckily, people around the president helped him to remove a number of strands but it was too late to avoid some individuals photoshopping his picture, which then went viral.

 

Taking part in a welcome ceremony is about showing respect and appreciation for cultural diversity. It can enrich relationships between the host country and the guest country. However, if you’re organising one, keep in mind that even the best intentions can result in disaster if they are not thought through. Obviously, transforming the French president Emmanuel Macron into a human wreath wasn’t the intention of his greeters. My point is, showing respect and consideration is about thinking about the other person first. For instance, how many layers of leis would still do the trick and make the person, dressed in full business attire, feel comfortable and look appropriate.

 

If you want more tips on how to become a good protocol officer, check out my classes. For more personalised help, I’m also available for 1-on-1 sessions.

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