Should I change my Chinese first name into something more American?

I took the liberty and checked out your profile. Looks like you live in the US, and work in the hospitality industry. You are providing face-to-face services to a lot of customers, many of those you’ll not meet again or have any personal relationship beyond being your customers.

Here’s what I learned living in the US, using a somewhat confusing Chinese name.

  • Most Americans will not bother to learn to pronounce your name correctly.
    • As you can see from some of the answers here. they could be living in China for decades, never bothered to pronounce people’s names right, let alone learn the language. (You know it’s unimaginable, really. I could not imagine any Chinese person living in the US for decades, holding a teaching job, teaching American history no less, never learn English, never even bother to pronounce the names of his students, and think nothing of it.)
    • Some more “open-minded” Americans will acknowledge that and apologize. They’ll say “I’ll botch your name, LOL, sorry.” And that’s the end of it. They will not put in the effort to learn to pronounce your name properly, ever.
  • A majority of Americans will expect you to change your name to make their lives easier.
    • Some will resent you for NOT having a “common” name, and they had to struggle with your name every time they see you.
  • some Americans will make fun of your name if your name sounds weird or similar to a curse word.
  • Some companies, especially costumer-care related companies, will require you to pick a “common” name because it is easier for the customer.

Bottom line, it’s your name. You should do whatever makes you feel comfortable or help you with your career.

So don’t let people tell you that you must change it. And don’t let people tell you that your name is somehow “sacred” and you can’t change it.

Anecdote time:

When I first came to the US, people have difficulty pronouncing my name. My name pronounced Feifei, with “ei” pounced like “a” in “lake”. I got people calling me “fifi”, “fafa”, “fefe”…

I got tired of teaching people how to pronounce my name and changed my name to Faye when I naturalized and use Feifei as my middle name. (Yes, my full name is Faye Feifei Wang).

And for a decade, I used Faye, both with my friends and professionally.

I never relate to that name. It sounds weird to me, even it’s actually pretty close to my actual name. I came to resent that name.

So back in 2016 when I got my current job, I changed it back to Feifei with my new company. And everything worked well since then. People I work with all got my name right (it wasn’t that hard, people!) And yeah, occasionally people mispronounce my name, but it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as before.

Anecdote number 2:

I once had some computer problem and called customer care. I forgot what the problem was exactly, but it was one of those things I have to call back again and again. And as I turn the PC off and on and waiting for the software to install, I started chatting with the customer care agent. We started with weather, and our current location, I learned he’s in someplace in India.

And after a few backs and forth, I asked “you don’t sound like a Danny”.

He laughed and said every customer care agent must pick a westernized name, instead of using their own names. I did ask about his real name, but he didn’t tell me.

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