Friday, September 3, 2010

A rose is a rose


I have an identity issue. And I don't mean this in an existential, "who am I" kind of way. I mean this quite literally.

See, when I lived in the US, I always went by "Jules" (not really, but close enough). I went to school as Jules, I opened (and closed) several bank accounts as Jules, and I voted as Jules. Technically, I suppose you could consider me an identity thief, as in the official world of bureaucratic whatsits, there is no Jules. There is only *two Chinese characters of my given name*, as I was born in Taiwan. I didn't get to be Jules until I was 3-4 years old, when my parents moved to the US. There, they appended an English name to my Chinese one, but apparently failed to officially register it at any office that matters, as I would find out 23 years later.

When I applied for residence in the Netherlands, therefore, it was under my Chinese name again. I didn't think too much of it--after all, according to the US government I am also *my Chinese name*, and I could still be Jules to everybody else. However, this was not to be: when I found my first job, the people in Human Resources literally could not wrap their heads around the fact that I prefer to go by my very-easy-to-pronounce English name, rather than the easily-botched-pronunciation-attempts of my Chinese name. So I am employed under my Chinese name, which again, wouldn't be such a big deal, except that my work emails are also given by my Chinese name.

This creates issues, to put it mildly, when I need to give my email out. My work emails are usually some permutation of "last name and first letter of first name". Needless to say, the first letter of the English transliteration of my Chinese name is not "J", which causes some hard-core bafflement if I've introduced myself as Jules, as I am still wont to do, because it's easier to say and nobody can screw it up. It is even more confusing over the phone, as in Dutch, the pronunciation of the letter "J" can sound surprisingly similar to the way an English speaker would pronounce the letter "Y" (my Chinese name). On top of everything else, in Dutch, the letter "J" is often pronounced as a "Y" would be in English. Several people have given up trying to figure out which name I go by altogether (in spite of me always signing my emails with the same name) and have just started randomly mashing together bits and pieces of my Chinese name and Jules. It makes for an interesting collection of greetings.

However, all of this could be chalked up to stiff-necked bureaucrats from hell if it weren't for one thing: I sign everything as "Jules". There is no way you could possibly mistake my signature as anything even remotely close to my Chinese name, and if anybody bothered to glance at my signature they'd see that it does not match the name printed on the form. Clearly, then, nobody gives a rat's ass what my name actually is--so then why can't I be Jules?


  1. I'll chime in with my own fun name... Erin. Yes, that's right, my first name means "to put in" in Dutch. Awesome.

  2. I think it'd be a bit more problematic if it meant "to put out" :-D