21 Things You Have To Deal With When You Have A "Foreign" Name

When in America.

1. You constantly have to translate and spell your name out phonetically.

Because if you’ve had to deal with immigration, it only takes one person to fuck it up on all your documents.

2. Especially during introductions. Wait for it…

3. Smiling politely as they tell you just how “beautiful” and “exotic” it is and just how much they “loooove” it.

4. Being asked what your name means in your native language.

“Very little. What does ‘Joe’ mean in English?”

5. The oversensitivity and struggle that someone goes through trying to pronounce it.

6. When they give you a nickname you never asked for.


“What’s your name?”
“Tianyi.” [The author’s official first name]
“I’m just gonna call you T.”

7. New teachers at school and roll call.

When the substitute teacher pronounce ur name wrong

— Casey (@thebieberarmour)

8. Because there will be a pause, and there will be an absolute massacre of your name.

Divine artwork by Heaven “Heben” Nigatu

9. You notice people will avoid saying your name when addressing you.


10. People assume your name is the most unique name in all of the world, when really, a billion other people have your name in your home country.

“What’s your name?”
“What a special name.”

11. You’ve had to create your own unique mnemonic devices to make it easier for everyone else.

how to pronounce my name: a story by me

— tania (@punksivan)

12. You’ve accepted that there are just some vowels folks can’t pronounce, and created an alternate pronunciation for your native name.

Foreign Friend Be Like... "Achmed....Ahmet...Amaaaad. Achmen..." when trying to pronounce my name.

— Ahmed Shihab-Eldin (@ASE)

13. Personalized souvenirs with your name isn’t just “hard to find.” It doesn’t exist.

14. [Starbucks cup]

View this embed ›

People have stopped trying.

15. If you also have an “unofficial”/Westernized first name, having to give more than one name each time.

Def Jam

Especially for Customer Service. “What’s my name? Uh, well, the name I go by is Tanya but you should probably write down TIanyi.”

16. Filling out a job application and not knowing whether you should give your “official” or “unofficial” first name.

Like, your official name corresponds with all your legal info, but you want your potential employer to refer to you by your “other” name. When you can’t decide, you end up including the other in (parenthesis).

17. So you’re extra grateful when forms have space to include a “nickname.”

18. Your legal and social network identities seem like two very different people.


19. Which is why you’re constantly having to explain the situation to your friends and co-workers.

Fox / Via

20. When people realize you have two names, they ask why on Earth you’d go by another name when your official one is so “beautiful” and “exotic.”

21. Why? Because:


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Tanya Chen is a senior editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.
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