Monday, April 26, 2010

Chinese people and Anglo names

Australia is a multi-cultural country. You come across people from many different cultural backgrounds here.

We of course have the Europeans, which comprised originally of peoples from Anglo backgrounds, followed later by Continental Europeans.

More recently we have had an influx of Asians, comprising primarily of Indians and Chinese, amongst others.

What I find suprising is that even though the Indians share a common history with the English, when it comes to first names, almost all the Indian Australians that I have come into contact with choose to keep their original Indian name, rather than use an English name, which is the more common practice amongst migrants.

In fact I don't think I have come across any Indians with an Anglo first name, not even Christian Indians, who tend to adopt Christian surnames.

Conversely, this is not the case with Chinese Australians. It is very rare indeed when I come across a Chinese person, whether they be an adult who emigrated to Australia or a child born in Australia, who are known by their Chinese first name.

I don't know what it is about the Chinese, but they place a lot of importance on selecting a novel Anglo first name for themselves and their children.

And these are not standard Anglo names like John or Sharon. They are names with a distinctly Victorian flair about them, almost as if the names were chosen directly from an English novel straight out of the 19th century.

In fact I can often pick out a Chinese child simply from a list of names, simply by looking at their first name only, because the Chinese Australians tend to out-British the British when it comes to choosing names with that certain Brittanic feel to it.

When it came to our child, my wife insisted on choosing his name alone.

She naturally gave the child a Chinese middle name, although she let her mother choose the middle name.

With regard to our child's first name, my wife laboured over this choice for many many years, long before she was even pregnant.

Even as close as a few days before she gave birth, she had still not settled on a name, even though she consulted with people far and wide, and read novel after novel, in order to find the name that she felt was just right.

Finally she chose a name after a previous English Prime Minister, because she felt the name represented strength and resilience, qualities that she wanted in our son.

Anyway, this is how our son was named, and both she and I expected this name to be a rarity today, but nonetheless a familiar name amongst English speakers.

To our suprise, when our son started school, we found out that 4 other boys in his year also had the same name, and, well you guessed it, they were all Chinese.


Anonymous said...

Hi, there is a lot you don't know about Asian cultures, particular Chinese cultures.

The Chinese wish to have their names represent something upper class, elite, wealthy, righteous, or something respected. Even poor Chinese families, name their child representing something of a particular significance.

In regards to your marriage, contemporary marriages of today are seen not through love but through economic means. The husband supports the wife in every way, in every form, in every shape, regardless. This is why, many Chinese women want to marry a rich man, because they can support not only her, but her entire family. The Chinese culture holds family as vital importance and is deeply rooted in the culture.

Huang said...

I am a Chinese Malaysian, and I do NOT have an anglo name. Most of the (young) chinese I know in areas outside of their countries have taken Western names out of frustration of consistently hearing their names enounciated wrongly by those not familiar with the chinese tongue.

Most non-Chinese can't pronounce my name properly either, but I am unwilling to give up my Chinese name, therefore I'd rather take the time to teach them to say my name properly, or just put up with the wrong enounciation....

.... Which is something many others won't do, because it can be insulting. In the Chinese tongue, every word has a different meaning with different intonations, and our names are a combination of two separate words. Therefore saying a Chinese name wrongly could be horrendously insulting!

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?