Dear is a commonly used endearment in the UK. At any point in the day a woman may find herself called ‘dear’ by a postman, a delivery man, a ticket collector, a shop assistant. These people don’t normally apply the endearment to men and actually look quite affronted if answered in the same vein.
Dear also means expensive and ‘Oh, dear’ is an expression of dismay.
So, if you go shopping with a woman friend of very mature years or an elderly relative, you might expect to hear, ‘Oh, dear, it’s very dear, dear.’