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Re: Mr and Mrs!!
by Greg Brush - Thursday, 9 October 2014, 09:24 PM
  There are two separate, but interrelated, issues in your posting. The first one concerns the answers to the specific questions that you ask, while the second is more general: basically, how does a given usage relate to contemporary spoken Greek as a whole nowadays?

As to the first:
a) γεια σας [note spelling], κύριε/κυρία is fine and quite appropriate in Greek.
b) χαίρετε [note stress] is certainly acceptable if you do not know the name or do not wish to become involved with names.
c) As far as I know, μαντάμ (madame) is not generally used nowadays as a form of address. Instead, κυρία is used for mature women of almost any age, and certainly if they are or have been married.

As to the second:
The questions about μαντάμ and about η σύζηγος (spouse) vs. η γυναίκα (woman, wife) go to the second issue -- you will not only find local and regional differences in what is said and considered acceptable, but also generational differences as well, not to mention differences depending on level of education.

For example, you state that various Greeks have told you "different ways" to address someone whose name you don't know. In addition, the fact that an elderly village "matriarch" scolded you for referring to your spouse as η γυναίκα μου (my wife) rather than as η σύζηγός μου (my spouse) suggests to me in this instance a more formal or generational use that you would not find in younger people, or a local (i.e., village) custom that you may not find borne out in other more urban areas of Greece. Similarly, it is conceivable that you could find an older person, reared in a previous generation, who would respectfully address an older woman as Μαντάμ, even though this is not the norm nowadays.

Greg Brush