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I noticed Italians saying "Ciao ragazzo/a/i/e" in bars and restaurants in Rome. When is it appropriate to use this greeting? Is it a regional/Roman greeting? How informal is it? Is it commonly only a bar, restaurant, or food service construction?

Finally, age didn't seem to matter. Younger bartenders would say it to a group of older customers. Did I read that right? I ask because in English if you said "Hi kids" to a group of people that were clearly your elders I think they may think you're being disrespectful.

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    Think "Hey guys", not "Hey kids". However, it would be really strange if the younger bartenders were greeting a group of very older customers. Arguably, it might be ok until middle age or something. – Vincenzo Oliva Aug 25 '17 at 16:51
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    It's all in the degree of familiarity between the person who says “Ciao ragazzi” and the addressees. The two parties are either good friends or, at least, the “ragazzi” will be habitués of the joint, people who come every day and are well known to the bartender, with whom they'll exchange remarks about football teams and other quips. – DaG Aug 25 '17 at 18:13
  • Is this a regional phrase? – Jed Anderson Aug 26 '17 at 2:41
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    @JedAnderson. Not at all: Both ciao and ragazzo (and their combination) are completely standard Italian. – DaG Aug 26 '17 at 7:12
  • I have heard this expression said to customers by barmen in Lucca, Tuscany. – Richard Beasley May 24 at 12:08
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The Zingarelli 2017 reports for the word ragazzo also the following meaning:

(fam.) uomo adulto (spec. come appellativo rivolto ai membri di un gruppo, oppure con tono di familiarità).

Similar meaning can be found from the Treccani, meaning c:

In usi affettivi o scherz., può essere riferito anche a un adulto, e, al plur., ai componenti di un gruppo organico, come i membri di una classe, di una squadra, di un reparto

This is the meaning in which "ragazzo/a/i" are used in the expressions "Ciao ragazzo/a/i/e".

I cannot quote other sources, but in my experience the expressions "Ciao ragazzo/a/i/e" are fairly widespread in Italy, and their usage is definitely not limited to bar, restaurants and such. Those expressions are very informal and sometimes are used humorously. They denote familiarity and, possibly, friendship or affection between the parties, regardless of the age (e.g. I am commonly greeted with a "Ciao ragazzo!" by some of my closest friends, and I'm almost 50).

You can also hear abbreviated forms like "Ciao raga/Hey raga/Oh raga".

Definitely avoid using such kind of expressions when you first meet someone and be careful in using them at the workplace: a "Ciao ragazzo/a" said with the wrong tone to a younger colleague might sound condescending if the relationship is not so friendly.

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    I feel “raga” to be regional (Northern?): you don't hear it in Rome, for instance, and definitely not in the same social situations where you hear “Ciao ragazzi”. – DaG Aug 29 '17 at 18:08
  • I agree that ciao raga is used in different situations. Usually involving real friends and perhaps with a vein of self irony. – Alchimista Dec 27 '17 at 11:57

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