This may seem like a silly question, but in North America a woman may take offense if one calls the wrong one "ma'am". "Ma'am" implies an older woman, so some women think that you are calling her old if you call her this. What I'm wondering is, since in France it is polite to pepper your sentences with madame or monsieur or madamoiselle, would a French woman take offense by being called a "madame" if she is apparently a younger woman? Is there, roughly speaking, a "cut-off" age? For example, call every woman who looks like she is younger than 35 a "madamoiselle"?
Thank you in advance for your advice!
in France this is the contrary, you'll have more success calling a woman "Madame" to underline her adult status, charge to her to modify it if she is in the mood to play with these terms and her marital status. If under 25, you can try a "Mademoiselle" and use it with a sense of humour according to the situation. If between 25 and 30, take your chance with any of the two terms, knowing that Madame will be the more politically correct
[ Edit: Edited on 20-Apr-2009, at 22:57 by philophil ]
...in my experience, having lived here for twenty years or so, it doesn't seem to matter very much any more...women over 70 probably prefer to be called madame because they lived in a different era when it meant more than it does today status-wise...nowadays, it's all first name terms and living together without being married so doesn't really become an issue...there may be circumstances that will demand it - when talking to someone in authority or in a professional capacity, for instance...
...personally, being called madame makes me think of my grandmother!...
In France, Mademoiselle is generally for the youngest women or teenagers. Madame is more for women over 30 years. But don't worry about that. if you've got a foreign accent, people will forgive you immediatly. Furthermore, this kind of error is not very important in France. No woman will be offended.
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]
Thank you to everyone who replied. All of your answers really helped.