I’ve been an avid traveler for a number of years now, but I never really knew much about the guidelines for interacting with other cultures.
I love learning about different customs and traditions, and I’ve always tried to be respectful when traveling. But recently, it dawned on me that there were flags everywhere I went: in windows and on cars, hanging from buildings, and even adorning a fair number of people’s clothing. It’s a truly impressive display of patriotism, and it made me think about the American flag etiquette that I never knew existed.
How to stand at attention
You may think that saluting our nation’s flag is the ultimate sign of respect, but saluting a flag is reserved for members of the Armed Forces. Rather, to pay your respects to the flag, you should stand at attention, remove your hat if you’re wearing one, and keep your hands out of your pockets. Talking or making noise is considered disrespectful, as this can distract from what should be a quiet moment for reflection and respect.
Flying the flag at half-staff
In certain situations, we signify a period mourning with the height of the flag. But knowing when to fly a flag at half-staff can be a bit confusing for some people. There are a few customary dates to fly the flag at half-staff:
- May 15: Peace Officers Memorial Day
- Last Monday in May: Memorial Day
- September 11: Patriot Day
- December 7: Pearl Harbor Day
The flag may also be flown at half-staff after the death of certain government officials or when otherwise instructed by the president.
Flying two flags at once
Another rule of flag etiquette that you may not know is that you can fly two flags from the same flagpole—but the United States flag should always fly on top. Typically, you should leave about one foot of space between the United States flag and any other flag flying underneath.
When removing the flags from the pole, never let them touch the ground. Not only is this considered extremely disrespectful, but it can also damage the fabric making it unusable. You should always lower the flag slowly and ceremoniously, and it should never be allowed to drag on the ground.
When you’re flying, displaying, or otherwise handling the flag, think about what this symbol means to you and how you want others to see it. Be sure that whatever you do shows respect for our flag and what it stands for.