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Addressing a Chinese Person


How one addresses a Chinese person can be a complicated exercise. Considerations to be taken into account include relationship and age. For instance, between husband and wife, "zhàng fu" (husband) and "qī zǐ" (wife) are generally used in written works. But "ài rén" (meaning sweetheart) is used more in the spoken language. When making reference to someone's wife, the term "fū ren" (madam) is commonly used. The general rule is that a younger person cannot address an older person by the older person's first name even if they are of the same generation.

How people address one another in Chinese society depends on the circumstances. Rules relating to courtesy, status and kinship apply. So, one cannot address others without giving the matter some thought. Addressing someone by their first name is acceptable among classmates, colleagues, and friends of the same age. Good friends often have pet or nick names for one another, depending on how close the relationship is.

In China, the word "comrade" is still heard on the streets and is of universal application. However, other forms of address such as Miss, Madam or Sir are used more often these days. Also, not all married Chinese women take on their husband's surnames after marriage. Many Chinese women choose to retain their maiden surnames.