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In Taiwan, we call women 小姐 and this is often used in everyday situations including calling for a waitress or anyone in the service industry.

However, I have heard this is rude to call a woman a 小姐 in China because they use the negative connotation of the word 小姐. Instead, Mainlanders call a woman 姑娘. Is this the same throughout all of China, or is it different in places such as Hong Kong and Macau (which uses mostly Cantonese). If we go to a rural part of China (outside of major cities like Beijing, etc) would calling a waitress 小姐 be considered rude? Would this hold true for other semi-Chinese speaking countries (Singapore, malaysia, indonesia, etc)?

  • Another word would be 女士,may be a a little bit formal, but you won't go wrong with this. – Sheldon Sep 14 '16 at 8:24
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This is a little tricky. I know in Taiwan, you call the ladies 小姐. I'm from northern China. If you say 某人是小姐 means she's from sex industry. If you just say 小姐 to a person, it means "Miss". There's negative meaning in this word, but it's OK to use this way. If you want to call for service in a restaurant, you can say 服务员 which means waiter/waitress. If you ask for help, or you need to get attention from someone you dont know, you can simply say 你好(HELLO)to get people know you need something. You may want to say 你好 toward to the person and raise your hand to indicate you need attention from him. When I was traveling in Shanghai, there was a girl asking me to take a photo of her and her friend, she used 姑娘. It's a little weird to me, I would just say 你好 to start the conversion. 姑娘 means young girl, you call people young girl, but you dont say "Hi, young girl" to the person, right? It's OK to say 姑娘 if she's not very old, so if you dont know which word is better and want to be nice, 姑娘 is safer.

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姑娘 is more used in northern China or say the mandarin spoken regions. 小姐 is more often used along the coast especially in south.

小姐 gets the meaning of sex worker in 90s. In formal situation, it's still prefrered to use 小姐 rather than 姑娘, which sounds informal and rural.

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