One of the first things you are told when learning a new language is how to address people: “Hello, my name is Sarah. What’s your name?”. Of course, this is more than necessary if you want to master the language one day or another, but it remains very basic. And teachers usually forget to mention when you should use “excuse me, Sir”, as opposed to “eh John!”, which can indeed lead to very embarrassing moments.
There are countless situations upon which even native speakers wonder how they should address the other person – and this is true for all languages. The most common is probably at work, as you really don’t want your boss to think you are disrespectful, but you don’t want them to think you are too distant either… The same phenomenon occurs with one’s boyfriend’s / girlfriend’s parents – you need to be polite, but you don’t want to be too ceremonious either.
In some languages, forms of address can really get complicated and subtle, so we have made a list of our articles on the subject to help you avoid mistakes. And if in doubt, remember, the easiest way to get out of a tricky situation is to have a good sense of humor and to laugh at one’s own mistakes!