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I’m wondering how someone in their say twenties would address a male acquaintance who is only a few years older than them. Like say I was in my early twenties and I had met someone that I’d only seen a few times and who I didn’t know very well. If they are older than me, isn’t it considered rude to address them with (ssi), and it would be quite odd if I called them (oppa). Would you call them (ahjussi)? I believe this word is used for men above their thirties or forties. I’m am very confused about this, I know how to address friends, family, people in the workplace, and I think acquaintances younger than me, but not acquaintances older than me, mostly by a couple years.

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People speak differently of course, but you could use:

If older:

  • Full name + title + 님
  • Full name + 선생님

If younger:

  • Full name + 씨
  • Name + 씨

If someone is older than you, or higher ranked, you should use their title/job title + 님. Never use 씨 to address older or higher ranked people, as it is rude and only used to address people younger than you. If you have no idea what they do for a living, or what their title is, just use full name + 선생님, as this is very safe and polite.

Exception: If you have the same position at a company, but the other person is slightly older, you could use 씨. If the older person has a lower position than you, you could also use 씨.

You should also be very quick to find out the age/position/job title/학번(year you started university) of the person you're talking to, so that you can adjust your speech as soon as possible. If it is a bit vague, try to not use the name of someone untill they tell you what you can call them.

Even for those a bit older than you or similar, dont use 씨, and if you dont know what to calll them, avoid using their name, and just refer to them using polite speech, 시-forms of verbs and words such as 본인 (i.e. polite way of saying you).

After a relationship has been established, you can start using the relationship titles needed, such as 선배, 오빠, 형, 누나 or 언니.

Also; You'll often see MC's refer to guest of a TV-program using 씨, this includes the older guests as well. However, this is acceptable, as the MC is using this form of speech for the viewers, and not when speaking to that person/guest directly.

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