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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.

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

With strangers

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

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

  • 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

  • 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 

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.

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

  • 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

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 

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

Taboo topics

Family members

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

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.

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

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

Find more information on our website :

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