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How to address people correctly?

The first impression matters

· French Etiquette

China is a country whose people value etiquette highly. And with the further cultural integration, people gradually show more and more interest in Western etiquette.

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So today, let's talk about how to address people correctly!

With strangers

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When talking to a stranger, if you address him or her in a wrong way at the beginning, it could not only make the other person embarrassed, but might also cause misunderstanding.

Titles in English

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Different titles are available for different occasions. If you want to make a polite first impression on strangers, be sure to choose the right one!

With ladies

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  • Miss+complete name (Miss Sarah Jones) for an unmarried woman
  • Miss without a name when speaking to a woman in the public space (pedestrian, waiters, clerks, salesperson in a store…)
  • Ms. / Ms.+surname for a woman when marital status isn't important or when it is unknown
  • Mrs. for a woman who is officially married (this is also the preferred method for addressing a widow). This is not to be used in business (use Ms. instead)
  • Ma'm (American English) when speaking to a woman who is older than you

With men

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  • Mr.+surname only or complete name for both married and unmarried men. Mr.+surname when speaking to a man over the phone.
  • Sir in place of a name when generally speaking to a man. Do not use Mister alone, instead of sir.

Other special titles 

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In China, people are used to address others directly by their position, such as Director Zhang, Principal Li and so on. In the West, people rarely do that.

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Except for the following: if the woman/man that you will talk with has a superior academic degree (for example Doctor, Professor…), use it instead.

Titles in French

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  • Use Madame (or Mme in a written form) when addressing a married woman, or a woman who is of a certain age
  • Use Mademoiselle (or Mlle in a written form) when addressing an unmarried woman, or a young lady
  • Use Monsieur (or M. in a written form) when addressing a man

Conversing with strangers

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Choosing the right title is a good start. Now, to have an excellent communication experience, you also need to know how to choose safe and interesting discussion topics.

Safe topics 

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  • Food and wine culture
  • Environment
  • Pop culture topics
  • Literature, cinema, museums
  • TV shows or movies

Taboo topics

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Family members

When it comes to communicating with family members, there are fewer and more casual rules in the West than in China.

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To address cousins, there are 8 special titles in Chinese culture, while in English world there is only one term in general, "cousin", and there is seldom distinction of age and gender.

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Under the globalization, having a deeper understanding of various social etiquettes can help us better adapt to the rapid changes in this world!

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Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.

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