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I agree that it depends a lot on the country and even region. In some places I have seen "cariño" used among close frinds, mostly women. Also I have it seen used to mark distance (a superior woman calling an inferior "cariño" as a sign of superiority like the one has over her children).


In Mexico is not a word a man would use for anybody but a spouse or daughter, not even a son. For women is different, they would use it way more often and also depends on the socioeconomic level (amongst high-middle class it would be acceptable) (copy & pasted from above)


it depends also on the context, for example in Spain between friends, or in a relaxed environment, is OK and pretty common, but in a (formal) work environment it can be seen as a sexist comment, pretty much like your boss saying "honey" or "princess" to a girl in a meeting.


It depends highly on Country (e.g. in Chile it would be acceptable, in Argentina the word is not very much used in this sense) Socioeconomic level (amongst high-middle class it would be acceptable) Sexism awareness So I'd ask directly if the use would be OK among your group.

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