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Should migrant children keep their 'exotic' names?

(81 Posts)
Fiona2011231 Sun 11-Aug-13 13:35:59

Recently I met a lady of Indian origin in a birthday party. She told me that her children has European names (like Lisa, Michael, etc). I saw nothing unusual about that.

However, later on, she and some other friends had a discussion. She insisted that non-European children (from Africa or Asia, etc), born in the UK, should have Western names rather than keeping their original names.

The reason, she said, is that they would have more chance to succeed in life if people heard their names. And I myself remember reading an article which said those job applicants, who adopted Western names, were more likely to be given an interview.

What do you think about this issue? Do you think it is true that non-European children should have Western names if they want to succeed here?


insancerre Sun 11-Aug-13 13:39:50


insancerre Sun 11-Aug-13 13:40:45

no, they shouldn't have to change their names

LynetteScavo Sun 11-Aug-13 13:47:16

I went to school with several Chinese people.

They had all chosen "Enlgish" names especially to come to this country. The names they chose tended to be slightly out of the ordinary. Think Eustace, and Violet. This was back in the '80's when the rest of us were called Sarah and Kate.

I don't think these names helped them get on at all. Although I remember we all laughed when we asked one girl what her real name was, and what she told us sounded like "shit fan" blush. (She is now incredibly successful, in a jaw dropping way. Obviously neither name ever held her back).

LynetteScavo Sun 11-Aug-13 13:49:18

And no, I really don't think children should change their names when moving country.

And that includes within Europe, where names are pronounced differently, or America, where names which are considered MC here are considered something quite different there.

PoppyWearer Sun 11-Aug-13 13:51:23

I worked with a few people of Chinese/Korean ethnicity in other countries (USA, Singapore, Australia), and many seemed to have a Chinese name and an "English" equivalent.

A colleague had a baby and introduced him with both Chinese and English names. This seemed to be the "normal" thing to do in that country/context (Singapore).

tumbletumble Sun 11-Aug-13 13:55:56

I have an Indian friend called Jaideep, Jai for short. I've noticed that he sometimes spells it Jay and sometimes Jai. I guess he finds it useful to have a more Western persona at certain times!

impecuniousmarmoset Sun 11-Aug-13 14:04:19

No, they shouldn't. But I know a man, very high-flying successful career, who v. early on changed his name from Mohammed to something extremely English-sounding (think David or Brian). He also has a cut-glass English accent. I often wonder if he was right in his assumption that changing his name would make his life easier - I fear he might have beensad

JustBecauseICan Sun 11-Aug-13 14:06:27

I think it should be up to them. But sadly, I do think your friend may be right in people's assumptions.

I teach lots of non-British students and as others have said, almost all Chinese/Taiwanese students will adopt a western name.

LynetteScavo Sun 11-Aug-13 14:15:41

Well, James Caan was born Nazim Khan.

Changing his name doesn't seem to have harmed him. But it was his choice when he was about 20yo.

Longdistance Sun 11-Aug-13 14:28:08

<raises hand as someone with a foreign funky name>

I never flt the need to change my name. However, my name is spelt with a C and in my parents country it is spelt with a K. No issue, as people always said my name wrong regardless.

I've kept my name, and mixed with dh surname, my name sounds Irish now, as dh's surname is of Irish origin, and my first name is popular in Ireland too.

I do think its up to the individual as an adult to choose to change their name, as from experience it was rather frustrating when people couldn't pronounce or spell my name.

MyNameIsSuz Sun 11-Aug-13 14:38:11

I think a lot of Chinese people adopt a western name because it's a tonal language and the same word pronounced slightly differently can mean something else entirely. So it's more to do with us not being able to pronounce their name correctly than them trying to fit in.

enderwoman Sun 11-Aug-13 15:00:00

I've met many Chinese people who pick a Western name because their names are hard to say correctly for English speakers.

The Asian families I know pick traditional names that can be said easily by Westerners.

I am dual nationality and my parents picked names that are easy to say by both cultures.

LynetteScavo Sun 11-Aug-13 15:01:00

I can imagine having your name constantly being pronounced incorrectly would be annoying. In that case, I would pick a new name. grin

Gingerandcocoa Sun 11-Aug-13 15:05:06

I just think that they should try to pick names that work in their mother language but also that don't sound too odd in English. I am not British but live in the UK and am likely to continue here. So when I have children I'll do my best to pick a name that works in both my mother tongue and in English.

SirChenjin Sun 11-Aug-13 15:11:01

I don't think anyone should have to change their names according to the country they live in.

That being said, I do wonder at what point it becomes appropriate to stop referring back to the 'mother country', eg friend of mine is Scottish, married to a 4th generation Italian (none of the family speak Italian or visit Italy, but the surname is obviously Italian). Her sons both have Italian names, no reference to their UK heritage, despite the fact that they have no ties to Italy.

garlicagain Sun 11-Aug-13 15:11:02

I take the Indian mother's point. I feel her thinking is a lot like some branches of my family, who traditionally give children easily internationalised names.

It's not important, though, afaics, because people in the UK generally modify their names as required; I understand names have more significance in some other countries. There are loads of Brits called Kaz, Naz, Taz, Shen, Chan, Jai, Kai, etc, etc, which are easy contractions of names that would be hard to pronounce in English. It's not unusual to meet an Andy whose given name is Androula or Andropoulos, either, for example.

eddiemairswife Sun 11-Aug-13 15:12:25

Most of the children I taught kept their own names, but 2 chinese children started called Raymond and Sarah. However, we learnt that at their previous school they were called Jesus and Mary!!

garlicagain Sun 11-Aug-13 15:13:09

Lynette, I lived in a country where my name is hard to pronounce, so I just translated it smile

garlicagain Sun 11-Aug-13 15:14:16

at their previous school they were called Jesus and Mary!!

Hah grin Now, had you been teaching in Mexico, half your class might have been called those!

LynetteScavo Sun 11-Aug-13 15:19:35

eddiemairswife, were they Christian, or just trying desperately to fit in?


Bakingnovice Sun 11-Aug-13 15:33:05

James caan is a tit. Yes he did well and maybe his change of name helped, but I personally think its lovely to hear different names with different origins.

GoodtoBetter Sun 11-Aug-13 15:41:16

Intrigued by this: America, where names which are considered MC here are considered something quite different there. For example?

LynetteScavo Sun 11-Aug-13 15:41:37

Well, I like James Caan, and the name James. For ages I'd presumed it was James Khan , though.

LynetteScavo Sun 11-Aug-13 15:42:57

GoodtoBetter I'm thinking of Otis, and probably Oscar.

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