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Quite a few times now, from my working with Indians, I've had most of them refer to me as "Dear". A common occurrence is when I am chatting on social media or speaking on the phone.

Though where I come from it is mostly used as a word of affection unless in emails or friendly letters, I got used to it but now that I will be travelling there I was wondering how the word is used there. Can I just walk up to a random stranger and refer to them as dear or is it just close friends? Is it even used in the same context as I have described among majority of Indians?

EDIT: I am a man and have mostly worked with Indian men so I find it a bit odd in this situation. A simple example would be when starting a phone call where the person would just receive the call and say "Hello Dear!" or when starting a chat conversation with the same greetings. I mostly use the term when referring to very close female friends or family so at first I found it a bit strange.

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    I see nobody has given this a lash so far. Would you please edit your question to include a few indicative citations? I.e., usage examples that you may have encountered. This would be helpful and almost certainly generate some quality answers. – Gayot Fow Jul 25 '15 at 16:34
  • Do both sexes call you dear? – tchrist Jul 26 '15 at 4:17
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    Don't know about India, but it certainly works in Tyneside… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 26 '15 at 7:53
  • I added an edit to my question. – Zack Jul 26 '15 at 14:54
  • Oh I see. Yes, I think I would find that peculiar as well. – tchrist Jul 26 '15 at 15:03
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Indian here. So I've been called 'dear' in some situations where it felt weird. And in all of them, the speaker was mostly trying to communicate familiarity and affection. See, when we speak in Hindi, we generally add a word like 'bhai' (brother) or 'sahab' (sir). So the 'dear' is probably an attempt to showcase their affection for you. They just don't know that such usage is uncommon and that there are other phrases to convey the same emotion.

A person who my dad was consulting texted me asking for some info. When I gave it to him, he said "Thank you, dear." He would never call me dear to my face or on phone, so I think this meant, "Hey, thanks a lot, man. Bye." in textspeak.

Having clarified that, PLEASE NEVER EVER CALL A GIRL OR WOMAN DEAR WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW THEM VERY WELL. The traditional people would balk at your forwardness and the open minded people would react the way you'd expect an American (assuming a random country) to react: "Is he alright? He's acting weird." And don't call males 'dear' either. I can't predict their reaction but you'd be better off avoiding it altogether.

Be yourself. If some dude calls you 'dear', please inform them that the word isn't normally used like that. Tell them to call you bro or pal or something else you're comfortable with. Not only will it help them out, it will also reduce the number of unintentionally creepy Indians on the planet, for which I'd like to thank you in advance.

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    Indian female here. I second this answer. I too have noticed that a lot of Indians have a habit of saying 'hi dear' or 'hello dear' when they really want to say 'hi dear friend' or 'dear xyz'. If they do not know you at all or you are their senior at work, they will say 'hi sir' (or 'hi madam' to a lady) out of respect. You can let them know like @Andy356 suggested and teach the right thing. I would be forever grateful to you too for doing this. – User56756 Jul 27 '15 at 4:00
  • @Zack You're welcome. :) BTW, I just gained a huge rep boost, thanks to you. I feel like I'm playing a game and it suddenly goes, "Achievement Unlocked". :P – user129823 Jul 27 '15 at 14:29
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Well-educated Indians use the words dear and dearest exactly in the same way as people in the UK or the USA do.

However, it is not uncommon to see some Indians prefix the word dear to an instruction or a piece of advice. Also, some Indians say 'Hello dear', when they could easily say just hello or hello xyz.

As far as I know, unlike some other common Indianisms, this does not appear to have an equivalent in Hindi, or in Bengali. I cannot vouch for other languages. It is definitely not common to hear something like "Priya, is kaam ko karna hai" in Hindi.

As an Indian, I find the usage quite patronizing, (though it may not have been intended as such), and either ignore it, or tell the person so, based the situation, or my relationship with them.

It is, however, more common for Indians use the word sir or madam, instead of dear, in the situations described by OP, for example, "Sir, you need to do xyz", or "Hello, sir!", or while being defensive. I cannot make out whether we Indians are polite or apologetic.

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    "I cannot make out whether we Indians are polite or apologetic" _ Politely apologetic in advance... – English Student Apr 22 '18 at 21:10
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By convention in both American and British usage, we usually (but not always) begin letters with "Dear", as in "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam" or "Dear Mr Jones" or "Dear Betty", but no particular affection is meant or implied by such usage. Using "dear" elsewhere in the letter would normally express affection (unless you're using the word to mean "expensive").

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