ottaw2 THE RULES AND ETIQUETTE OF VISITING CANADIAN PARLIAMENTWe have all established a dress code and a way of speaking in everyday life.  Our era is actually a very a comfortable one.  Tee-shirts, baseball hats and mini-skirts dominate our wardrobes, even if we are the head of the company.  We see pictures of multi-millionaires dressed like they’re homeless all the time.

And when it comes to greetings, we’ve been reduced to “what’s up?” even to our bosses. With the advent of texting, these grunts have evolved to three letter words, such as “LOL”, “S’up” and so on.

This is why, if you happen to be appointed a visit to “The House of Commons,” you may find yourself in a sweaty panic, not dissimilar to the one you had on your first date.  What am I going to wear?  What am I going to say?  Will I get to first base?  Or will I be humiliated because for acting like a fool.

But imagine if you had been given rules how to act properly on your date before it happened?  You wouldn’t ask yourself, how should I act.  You could prepare.  In that sense, visiting “The House of Commons” is easier than your first date.  If you add to the fact, the consequences of messing up won’t result in the guillotine.  So, how badly can you mess up?

Let’s start at the beginning with…


Although it may be a special occasion for you, The Queen, Duke or even the Court Jester, does not expect you to dry up your saving accounts to buy a new outfit.  They just expect you to look decent.  And actually, that’s not even a rule.  They may not even care if you dress like Mark Zukerberg.  Their rules have nothing to do with how well you dress.

Here is what they actually care about:


– Hats.  They can only be worn at functions after 6:30 p.m. And we’re probably not talking about baseball hats (except in the event you’re invited to watch a game with the Royal Family).  Unless this is specified, we’re talking about dress hats, chapeaus and so on.

– Gloves.  You are not required to wear them.  Your hands can be naked.  Just like in the normal world.  There?  Isn’t that a relief?  If you’re a lady, your gloves cannot be white (sorry, no exception for mimes).  Also, you cannot unsheathe these gloves until you are presented.

– When a black tie and long evening dress is called for, the following are also accepted.  For ladies, a cocktail dress or national dress.  For gentleman, a dark lounge suite.

This is the dress code, in a nutshell.  I’m not saying, you should go to “The House of Parliaments” in a wife beater, but if you follow these etiquettes, you are following the rules of conduct, dress wise anyway.  Let’s now talk about…


You know how in a restaurant, a host takes you to your table.  There is also host for the royal family.  This host is likely the reason why you were invited.  That person will introduce you to the Royal Figure.  And this is where it gets tricky.

– The Queen must be addressed “Your Majesty”, but only upon first encounter.  Another words, do not say, “wow, did you see how lo


w the stock market was today, Your Majesty?”  And, “the Raptors really won a close game, Your Majesty.”  After initial contact, you can revert to classic “Ma’am.” Yes, that’s the two syllable Ma-am.  The stuttering version.  Practice it.  You will be repeated “Ma-am” for the duration of your conversation.

– The Duke of Edinburgh must be addressed “Your Royal Highness” at first, and then “Sir” thereafter.  That’s the one syllable, Sir.  Be careful of saying “Ma’am” all day and then find yourself stuck saying “Se-er,” which is not appropriate.

– Other members of the Royal family are addressed “Your Royal Highness” and “Ma’am” and “Sir” based on their sexual gender.  I will let you know determine which is addressed by which, in this regard.

– The Royal Family Member is also the person who dictates whether the greeting is subject to a “hand shake” or a “curtsy” or “bow.”

We all know how to shake hands, I hope (if not visiting “The House of Commons” is the least of your problems).  Let’s start with the neck bow, which is just a little more than a nod.  You know, like when you agree with what someone is saying.  Yes, I agree with you.  That kind of nod.  Now, the curtsy.  Don’t worry ladies, you’re not expected to master “Swan Lake.”  Step 1) Right foot behind left heel.  Step 2) Knees bend slightly.  You’ve just done a curtsy.  Now, for the final rule…


French or Belgian?  Just kidding.  Unless, you happen to be invited to breakfast with the Royal Folks, that is.  This is not the toast with pow


dered sugar and maple syrup.  This is the toast that accompanies a drink.

There is actually a government policy dictating when they will be made.  The event decides when they should be made.  This is the procedure.

– After the desert and coffee are served, the host stands and asks guests in toasting The Queen. With everyone standing, the host raises his or her glass, and then says without music or other words: “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Queen.”

– Everyone – man, woman and child – must repeat the words “The Queen,” before drinking and sitting down again.

– A toast to The Queen is always the first one.  In another words, you can’t toast Wayne Gretzky until The Queen was toasted first.  You can toast to Jesus or Gandhi or whomever you worship.  The Queen is first.  Got it?

– Any type of drink can be used for a toast, except for cocktails, although wine and water are the usual practice.  But for argument’s sake, you can be sipping “Red Bull.”  As long as you’re toasting “The Queen” first, you’re following rules of conduct and won’t be beheaded.

– If you happen to see others not following these rules, don’t call the police.  They are likely Members of the Royal Family.  They are not required to toast.  If you were doing this every single day, you begin to find the “toasts” robotic too and may ask to not participate.  Maybe that’s how that go started.  Don’t be jealous for not having the ability to “not toast.”  Enjoy your moment in “The House of Commons.”  Follow these rules.  There aren’t many.  And in retrospect, you should be much more prepared than your first date.







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