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A while ago I ran into a friend of a friend on the street I said 您好,大姐. (She is two year older than me, 28). She gave me a strange look like she was taken back by what I said so I was wondering: Should have I said 大姐, 您好 instead?

I am not really sure how to order greetings properly.

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    大姐 is more for people in their 40s, so you probably offended said person by saying that they're much older than they actually are. – Mou某 Jun 20 '15 at 1:41
  • possible duplicate of Is 你好,北京 grammatical? – imrek Jun 20 '15 at 5:27
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    Usage: If the person you want to greet with 大姐 is only 28 and, in fact only 2 years older than you, you should avoid 大姐. If you want to address her as 'sister', use 姐姐, that's OK. I remember sitting in a taxi with two friends and the driver addressed one of them (roughly in her late 30s) with 老姐 and the other friend was quite upset about this, because this made our 姐姐 look old. Be careful when and to whom you use terms like this, people have different views on when they are appropriate and when not. – imrek Jun 20 '15 at 5:37
  • @DrunkenMaster 大妈 makes more sense than 老姐 – Krazer Jun 20 '15 at 10:03
  • @Krazer This was an anecdote, I was not recommending the use of 老姐. Please read more carefully. – imrek Jun 20 '15 at 10:25
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Age/gender nuances aside, either is fine. I'd like to point the context you worded you greeting it what got you those looks. You're in part mixing formalities with colloquialism.

Because you are merely an acquaince, calling her 大姐 can be a bit too personal. unless the person you are greeting is in the business heading a gang or mafia (which you might be a member). It's a bit like saying to a person you've just been introduced to as "Pleased to meet you, big sis." This can come off as being overly friendly or as if you are pleading for something by lowering your stature to them (like in a gang).

In my opinion, the true difference between {Greeting} + {Subject} and {Subject} + {Greeting} is what you wish to invoke/acknowledge first. If you want to acknowledge a person you would say their name first, and then follow with a greet. This will come off as being more personal (or overly polite; mockingly). However, if I wanted to emphasize the greeting as if I was pleased/happy to meet them as a person, I would use the greeting first. Think of it as if you forgot the name of the person and still wanted to greet them properly. Of course, this may vary by the region, dialect, and personal preference (of both parties), but you can still use as a starting point.

If you were better acquainted with this 女士 (used like "Ms."), such as if they are you senior in some capacity that you spend sometime with, it might be alright as a sign or respect or as a joke, but it's rarely alright otherwise. If I were to go up to you (haven't just met) and said "heeeey, big bro (大哥), wassup?" How would you feel?

If you wanted to address an audience of your peers you can address them (i.e. asking for a request) as "大哥大姐们." By doing so you would be humbling yourself, making usage in this context appropriate.

To be safe, if you've just recently met them, leaving off the title is fine.

While 小姐 can be acceptable, it's best to avoid using it in mainland China as it can be inferred as a slang term for "prostitute" or a title addressing wait staff (amongst other things), by means of tonal inflections or other indications.

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    Do avoid 小姐 in China - trust me, I almost got beaten up. However, in Taiwan, 小姐 is totally fine. – RexYuan Jun 20 '15 at 12:56
  • Maybe it was just a factor of me being in Beijing but I definitely felt like every dude was referred to as "哥们儿“. I point this out because what Chinese people feel is normal/awkward is very different from Westerners and it doesn't seem unusual for many Chinese people to refer to random people by such titles. – Ringil Jun 21 '15 at 16:43
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The order doesn't matter. You shouldn't call her 大姐.

Use 大姐 when you see someone who is significantly older than you (10+ years for ladies). Since 大姐 sounds old to women.

Please consider using her name. Or just 你好. Don't use 您好 unless you didn't know her before.

For example, she is not your friend but you've talked before:

You: 你好,xxx。还认识我吗?我是xxx。(Please introduce yourself immediately. Since if you don't and she doesn't remember you, you are considered strange).

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Both orders is ok. It has nothing to do with order but something with "age". When you called her 大姐,she may think she is very old in your eyes. Next time, when you meet her, you can say 美女,你好 or 美女,去哪儿? 您 usually is used someone is very old (more than 50 years old) and respectable. So I think you should not only learn Chinese but also learn some culture and square more time to chat with a Chinese friend. As a teacher from han bridge mandarin, I hope my answer can help you.

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Haha, you know what? You call her 大姐,just like, I call you Fat Guy. Nowadays, a woman doesn't want to be called 大姐,even she is old. Let me give you some examples. Given, you are 24. And someday you meet a lady who may be at your age. You can call her 妹妹。Even she is older than you about one or two years old, it doesn't matter. Maybe she will say, I think I am older than you. Then you can reply that Oh, really you look so young. 你看起来真年轻,就是妹妹嘛。I am sure she will be super happy. Again, suppose you are 24, and you meet a lady at the age of 30-40. This time, you can call her 姐姐,not 大姐。The one you should call her大姐,maybe she is at the age of 60+, like grandma. Another secret is if you don't know 妹妹 姐姐 大姐,which is right. You can say 美女,especially in the southern part of China. However, there are two notices. You can't call a lady 美女, who is super young 18- and super old 60+, it is unpolite.

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