Colombians always get puzzled when they found out that I have an English name.. After informing them that my name is Jessica, the response I get is always, ‘But this is an English name!’, or ‘Do you have Chinese names?’, and worse ‘er, so is this your “real” name?’.
To them, it’s totally strange to have an English name since I don’t have blonde hair and pale skin. So then I have to start explaining how I acquired my English name when I was eleven, when I entered an English school and needed an English name for the teachers. Then I also have to explain that it’s common for HK people to have English names, although less so for the young kids who grew up during China’s rule of HK..
To them, I seem to be losing my identity by adopting a western name. The truth is that it’s much more convenient to have a name that people can immediately pronounce, without having to spell it out to them, or repeat it a few more times, and even after having done that they forget anyway. Here, so very often I find myself having a Spanish class to pronounce names upon the first time I meet someone. Like today, I had a 10 minute lesson on ‘E-De-Mi-Ra’. It is especially difficult when Spanish is spoken in a way that the syllables are all mashed up, and when ‘B’ and ‘V’ can sound like they are inter-changeable (no joke)..
Another problem I have is that foreign names in this country are the choices of the lower class (here I am quoting a local! Don’t blame me for being classist!). Since I am foreign I don’t really fall into the predicament of class struggle but the potential misunderstandings of the reasons behind the choice of my name is a problem. Class consciousness here is worse than some of the countries with royal and aristocratic presence like Europe. It’s simply difficult to mix. People don’t talk to others in restaurants or clubs. So it’s hard to climb the social ladder when you don’t have a chance to venture outside your social circle.
Perhaps I should start introducing myself with my Chinese name to make myself special!