Royal Etiquette: What to do when meeting a member of the royal family
October 6, 2015 | BY Calvin Chong
Tatler's special consultant, Tunku Dara Naquiah guides us through the do's and don'ts when meeting any royal.
For the daughter to the late Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Ja'afar, royal protocols and etiquette have always been part and parcel of Tunku Dara Naquiah's life.
Be it meeting and greeting or dining and entertaining, Tunku Dara is extremely well-versed in the art of royal etiquette and she has even opened a finishing school to extend her knowledge to the younger generation.
"My finishing school lasted for 10 years but I still teach etiquette upon invitation. Every year, I will also host a three-hour class on social etiquette for the Upper-Six students of Kolej Tuanku Ja'afar to prep them before they graduate."
Here, the gracious Tunku Dara shares with us the many things we need to know about royal protocols when meeting a member of the royal family.
Always 'junjung duli' when you meet the King and Queen
Traditionally, when you meet the Sultans (rulers of individual states) or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King), the first thing you need to do is perform the act of 'junjung duli' – a royal tradition of bowing.
When you are invited to greet the Sultans or the Agong, along with their consorts, simply place your hands together and raise it above your head. Then tilt you head down slight for a small bow toward them.
Tunku Dara says "While a new government ruling has been imposed in the Federal Territory stating that people only need to bow or curtsy when they meet the King and Queen, this royal tradition is still upheld to this day by all the other states."
Kissing the hand of the King or Queen
After performing the 'sembah', you can then approach the King or Queen and kiss their hand. When doing this, do not plant your lips on their hand. Instead, you should near your face towards the hand without any lip-to-hand contact.
Always remember that you should only do it if they extend their hand to you and take only one hand when this happens. Essentially, it is a deep bow towards the hand of the King or Queen.
Addressing the King or Queen
When formally introduced to the Agong and his consort, it is only natural for you to address them as "Your Majesty" and for the Sultans, it is "Your Royal Highness".
Subsequently, you can address all the rulers and their consorts simply as "Tuanku".
Tunku Dara says, "It is no different than how you address your mother or father. You can't simply say "yes" or "no" when talking to them out of respect."
"Even at home, you will say, "Yes, Mother" or "No, Father" and this is no different when addressing royals."
Addressing the royal family
For the rest of the royal family members, you need only to address them by their given titles, which includes Tunku, Tengku, Toh Puan and so on.
"Ku" is also an accepted short form to use when addressing the extended royal family.
How-to for expatriates and foreign visitors
For all expatriates and foreigners, it is not customary for them to perform the 'sembah'. However, instead of only a handshake, men should always bow (above left), while ladies should curtsy (above right) when they greet the royal family.
Despite their own culture and beliefs, it is always good to follow the local customs and traditions as a sign of respect to the host.
The art of handshake
A firm confident handshake is a given, no matter the person you meet. However, when meeting a royal, you should always wait for them to extend their hand out to you first.
This applies to any situation or person. The more important the person is and if they are more senior to you, it is always courteous to wait for their lead.
The correct posture of sitting
If you are in the same room as the royal family, always remember to never cross your legs when they are in view. No matter who you are, it is best to plant both your legs firmly to the ground and sit with a straight posture.
"Personally, I think that showing your shoes or the sole of your foot is rude when seated facing the King and Queen, especially when your socks and shoes are in full view, " stresses Tunku Dara.
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