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For female waiters, my dad taught me to use the phrase "小姐 ".

But for male waiters, my dad doesn't know how to properly call them. I discussed the possibility of using "da ge", "小ge", "da di", "小 di", but they sound whimsical compared to the way one calls for a female waiter.

How should one appropriately call for a male waiter?

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    You can try using the polite salutation 先生 (mister) or address them directly based on their occupation specifically as 侍应生 or more generally as 服务员. – 杨以轩 May 19 '13 at 3:02
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As fluffy's answer has noted, 小姐 may now cause confusion because of its other meaning - a prostitute. So you may want to avoid that unless used as an honorific e.g. 董小姐.


According to my knowledge, in the north (of mainland China), they are usually called 服务员(server), both male and female. But in the south, they are usually called 帅哥(handsome man) for waiter and 美女(beautiful lady) for waitress, instead of calling them a server. And in Guangdong or Cantonese-dominant region, they are called 靚仔 and 靚女 respectively, basically the same meaning as 帅哥/美女.

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As far as I know, 小姐 (xiao3jie3) is not very appreciated anymore by waitresses, even in Beijing; they might even be offended because that is how girls who sell their bodies are addressed. That is how Chinese people explained it to me. Waiters, be it male or female, are addressed as 服务员 (fu2wu4yuan2) and it is safe to call them that.

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    服务员(Attendant) also sounds a little old-fashioned. – Stan May 25 '13 at 13:59
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It is offensive to call any woman “shiao jie”(or in Pinyin, xiao jie) these days. Since maybe ten years ago "shiao jie" has carried the implication of being a prostitute(before that "shiao jie" is equivalent to Miss). And "da ge", "shiao ge", "da di", "shao di" are not proper addresses. "Da ge" is usually related to gangs in cities, and in rural areas it can be used to address a man who is older than you. "Xiao ge" is not used now, except for humorous effect. "Da di" is an old-old-old-fashioned word for your biggest little brother. "Shiao di" is the exact opposite of "da ge". You can call any waitor, either male or female, "fu wu yuan".

P.S. why can't I agree or comment here? I read through the FAQ section yet found no answer.

  • You need 50 reputation to be able to comment on other questions and answers; you can comment on your own questions and answers any time. – yuritsuki May 19 '13 at 21:30
  • Read more at: chinese.stackexchange.com/faq#reputation – yuritsuki May 19 '13 at 21:40
  • @Retrosaur thx, seems I didn't read carefully enough xD – arax May 20 '13 at 2:15
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    @AlexSu Please try to use pinyin as much as possible as it is the standard transcription scheme used on an international level at the moment. I believe even Taiwan has started to move towards this direction. – deutschZuid May 21 '13 at 23:51
  • @deutschZuid Pinyin is a system for Chinese kids to learn how to pronounce, so basically it's not intended for people who can't speak Mandarin. If you are motivated enough to learn Mandarin, Pinyin is not that hard actually, it's just a different set of symbols which can be somehow mapped to what you call standard scheme. And anyway 小 is not pronounced in Mandarin how you pronounce “shiao”. There are phonemes in Mandarin that don't exist in European languages(and there are more phonemes in Cantonese). And Taiwan has always been using the “standard scheme”. It's just different, not better. – arax May 22 '13 at 1:59

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