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I love my name. I want to use it everywhere and want people to remember me by my real name.

However, my native first name sounds a little 'weird' in English: 'Phuc'. It is also difficult to pronounce.

In your experience, will this first name cause a negative impression (for example, when you look at it in email address or CV) or have negative effect in communication?

Is adopting an English alias (like many Asian people did) really beneficial? Is there another way to mitigate the awkwardness that may arise from my name being mispronounced?

Update: The context of this question is typical American workplaces.

  • One thing to keep in mind is that Anglo names get more responses to job applications (report). So even if you're fresh off the boat, being "John Minh Tran Smith" and applying as "John Smith" will get you more interviews. If you have an american phone voice you'll likely get to the face to face bit before they discover that they have to make a decision about your ethnicity being a "good cultural fit". – Móż Oct 5 '14 at 22:35
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    I think you can use your name no problem as long as you can introduce yourself pronouncing the name in a way that is memorable, e.g. "Hi, I'm Florida, like the state" or "Hi I'm Phuc, rhymes with look" etc – Raystafarian Oct 6 '14 at 12:18
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    I think that how can you mitigate any issues involving your name in the workplace is on topic. How ever what should you do is not something we can help with. I also think that what are the benefits of adopting a more native sounding name when applying for a job in a culture that is seperate from my heritage is also a good question. I think your best course is to focus this question on one of those two and then ask the other in a seperate question with out ever asking what to do. You can make that decision yourself after seeing the answers to your questions. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 6 '14 at 19:02
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If you love your name, but you're worried about how it will look in the workplace, you could consider using an alias or nickname just for work environments, and use your real name elsewhere with friends and family. It may help introductions feel smoother on both sides.

The advice comes from personal experience - I maintain a work persona nickname, because my full first name - Yochannah - stymies an average English speaker. It's spelled reasonably phonetically, with a gutteral "ch" similar to the way a Scottish person might pronounce "loch" (as in lake, e.g. loch ness).

My work nickname, "Yo" is still odd, but it works slightly better in a professional context because there is no possible way to say it wrong. The important bit to remember is that the nickname makes people feel less uncomfortable. Sometimes work colleagues who know me well will use my full name too, if they feel comfortable with it - but I don't try to force the issue, I just feel pleased they're trying to be nice.

Like the others say, you'll still need to be careful to provide a full name on any official documents.

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    Your point about people feeling uncomfortable is absolutely valid. I realize that even if I really want to keep using my native name at the workplace, it won't be correctly remembered by others anyway + a (slight) uncomfortable feeling will be introduced in every conversation. Thanks for your sharing! – P N Oct 6 '14 at 6:44
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As A Vietnamese American, I can say say that there are a few Vietnamese names that are great in the Vietnamese language but that may cause your kid's day at school to be a fighting day. Examples: Phuc, Phuoc, Dung, Hung, Bich. Other Vietnamese names may be a challenge for others to pronounce including the ubiquitous Nguyen, which my father turned into my middle name for that reason - it is both hard to pronounce AND ubiquitous.

At the end, as overseas Vietnamese, we have three choices:

  • stick it out. I never dropped my first name despite pressure from my father and the only aliases I will accept are whatever barrack names are used to refer to those make unpopular decisions :) In some places, as a school kid, my name was an open invitation to a fight. Not everyone likes Vietnamese, and some will target you just because that's what you are. Maria, Sean, Megan, Omar are names that became American names because their owners stuck it out. The names are not controversial but at one time, they made their owners into a target because of their ethnicity.

  • use an alias. However, the alias has no legal weight and you will have to constantly explain yourself in any venue where you have to produce a legal document. You can choose a Vietnamese name that's easier to pronounce or go all the way and use an indigenous name for an alias. Whatever you do, stay away from say "Billy the Kid" or "Baby Face Nelson" :)

  • Legally add or substitute an indigenous name to your name. Just don't pick an indigenous first name that gets you into the same hot water with the natives e.g. Satan or Lucifer :) I'll note that "Adolf Hitler" was a somewhat common name in Germany until after World War II, when the German authorities allowed the bearers of this name to change it for obvious reasons.

While I use "Vietnamese" in my answer, I am conscious that other Asians, Africans and quite a few Europeans share our predicament. I have a couple of native-born American friends whose parents - shall we say, were American originals, and stuck their offspring with first names that were way out of the mainstream. One of these off-springs is a close friend of mine and every day at school was a fighting day, even though his family had been settled in the United States for five generations :)

Your name is a very important piece of your identity and in my case, it is the essence of who I am. No decision involving your name should be made lightly, because you and your descendants may be stuck with it for the rest of your natural lives.

  • I totally agree with your last paragraph. Will put more thought into this decision. Thanks for your sharing! – P N Oct 5 '14 at 16:09
  • Not to mention the first-middle-last pattern that isn't necessarily the same as Vietnamese naming. All the women in my partner's family are called "Thi Le" in Australian, and are known by one or other of their middle names. Which confuses a lot of authorities. That one you just have to decide whether you want to inflict on your kids or not. Most locals have chosen no, so we have kids called "Angela Phuong Thi Le" or similar. – Móż Oct 5 '14 at 22:19
  • In Australia it's pretty common for non-English immigrants to just add an anglo first name to whatever their name is once it's transliterated into latin (preferably without accented characters). "ادى" becomes Azadi (rather than the translation "Freedom") and adds the anglo "Roxanne" to become Roxy Azadi Rakhsha. – Móż Oct 5 '14 at 22:26
  • I don't know how you pronounce your name correctly, but insisting that it is pronounced with a letter P and that the h is silent might be helping (like the hockey puck). Even if it's wrong, it would be less of a change than a full name change. – gnasher729 Oct 6 '14 at 13:28
  • @gnasher Those who know me have little trouble with my name - Hint: I tell them how to say it. However, the way I have them say it is a necessary compromise because I can't have them say it in the Vietnamese style - nobody should be tortured for not speaking Vietnamese :) As I was born in France, I have them say my name in the French style. – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 6 '14 at 13:37
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You did not mention where you are working because this will differ from culture and region, but I can offer you some advice based on my experience:

  1. In some companies, on the job application you have to put your legal name, which is the name that is written on your government issued identification. In these same applications, there is a place to put a "preferred" name; you can (if you so chose), write your preferred name here.

  2. As far as working with your colleagues, the first time someone mispronounces your name, you can correct them and they should pick it up from there on. It is similar to how you want to address your boss, as "Mr. Last Name" or "John", the first time it is always best to error on the side of caution.

  3. In some cultures and companies a pseudonym is common; and people preferred to be called by their pseudonym or "nick name". They will often let you know this by addressing their email as First "Nick" Last, for example Richard "Dick" Clark - you can use the same if this is the norm in your country/workplace.

  4. Finally, some names are just hard to pronounce for non-native speakers. In my experience this is usually the case for Asian names although I have heard some Eastern European names that were a real tongue twister. I have faced this when working with a Thai colleague. In these scenarios, the person usually offers a shortened version of their name.

Now is all this beneficial? Well, it depends entirely on your colleagues. If all your colleagues are able to pronounce your name correctly - then you adopting an English name might just be something that no one uses (ie, they just ignore it).

However, if you sense that there is a hesitation in pronouncing your name and people start addressing you by your last name; you might want to consider adopting a pseudonym.

There is no "yes/no" answer here, it is highly subjective to your work environment and company culture.

  • As you may have guessed, I was referring to a typical American workplace. Your answer gave me a lot of useful insights. Thank you! – P N Oct 5 '14 at 15:54
  • The problem is that some names just can't be pronounced easily by English speakers, and they'll never read them correctly. So you're constantly embarrassing people and it's a hassle every time you meet someone new. It's is also a promotion hurdle - your new potential boss is thinking "That guy Phuck is good... no, Fook... oh, Foo-uck or maybe I could promote Dave... sheesh, easier just to promote Dave". – Móż Oct 5 '14 at 22:30
  • +1 for nicknames. Speaking as a native, when someone non-native whose name is very unlikely to be 'Henry' introduces himself as 'Henry', I might feel like I'm being lied to. I probably wouldn't recognise or be able to pronounce his real name but neither do I believe that it's likely his name is 'Henry'. However if he told me his name was 'Foo' or the first one or two of syllables of his full 'native' name, I can remember and believe that. I've been on the phone to a call center in another country, and the clerk answers as Hamish, with a thick accent. They probably weren't Hamish. – nurgle Oct 9 '14 at 13:26
  • In some countries (the USA is one), it is widely acceptable to use a localized equivalent (etymologically) of a foreign name, at least for first names. For example, Yitzhak becomes Isaac, Evgeny becomes Eugene, François Etienne becomes Frank Steven, Liesel becomes Elsie, and Karoly becomes Karl. – Robert Columbia Jul 19 '17 at 17:40

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