These days, when is she a Madame and not a Mademoiselle? Since this comes up many times a day (every time the traveler has an conversation with a French woman), I thought I'd ask what others do.
In a greeting situation (e.g., "Bonjour madame" or "bonjour mademoiselle"), if a woman's age doesn't make the correct word obvious, what is the proper linguistic etiquette? If there is doubt, does one err on the side of using "mademoiselle" or "madame"?
Last time I was in Paris, which was a few years ago, I think I got it right most of the time because most times it was obvious. But I do remember getting a couple of strange looks after I said "Bonjour Madame", only to realize she wasn't use to being addressed as "Madame".
My understanding (confirmed by several visits) is that French etiquette is distinctly different from American etiquette, as to these issues; and I want to be a polite visitor, as their culture defines politeness.
And the language tapes I've been using don't address this subject.