Jul 23, 2015

So the thing about Chinese Singaporean names

When you have an English name, your surname / last name typically comes last. Right? But when you have a Chinese name, your last name comes first. Like Xi Jinping or Mao Zedong. Many Chinese Singaporeans have both an English name and a Chinese name, so when your surname comes after your English name and before your Chinese name, it ends up in the middle. My name is Karen Ho Wen Ee, and Wen Ee is my cantonese name (the Mandarin name is Yun Yi). So I usually say I'm Karen Ho, or if I'm in Chinese class, He Yun Yi (何韵怡). And my surname brings both together neatly! It's like a Venn diagram. I like it this way. It ties together both my names while staying true to how both are supposed to be.

Some people don't like the last name in the middle 'cos that's messy, so they just put it in front, in which case my name would be Ho Wen Ee Karen. But anyway mine is in the middle, and it can be confusing if you're not a Singaporean or Chinese or...I don't know. So Western Union, if you're reading this, hey guess what Asians use your services too! And when you don't underline or bold someone's last name on the receipt but automatically shift it to the back where you expect everyone's surnames to be, it can get quite confusing for the bank teller because my name on the passport is Karen Ho Wen Ee but it's Karen Wen Ee Ho on the receipt, and my mum is Kam Wai Kuen but on the receipt it's Wai Kuen Kam. Poor bank tellers struggle with deciding whether or not I can be trusted, or whether perhaps Karen Wen Ee is a common name somewhere in the world and I'm a fraud who's trying my luck.

Well, I guess it's my fault though. Because it's Western Union, not Global Union, so it's not in their aim to cater to non-Westerners.

In Sec 4 I had a friend called Janey Yanting Lim, and she didn't like how her name was ordered because it wasn't like anyone else's. But I definitely see the utility of that, man. She won't have to struggle with the bank telling her that her name is not her name because Western Union didn't know how to order her surname.


Yeahhh, so that's my luck with the bank. Fortunately the ladies were very nice, they just made me sign my signature like six times, and they scrutinised it very carefully. Yesterday, though, I tried to make a trip to the bank with a bicycle because it was just 4km away. But the bicycle seat was too high and I couldn't adjust it because the screw had rusted over, so my feet couldn't touch the ground and my hands could barely reach the handlebars. Riding there was painful. With the strong afternoon sun and my low blood sugar thing (Dylan would know), and my struggling to reach the handlebars, and struggling to change lanes and doing a whole lot of standing and waiting by the roadside 'cos I was such a coward, and making a wrong turn, with that bloody sun, I felt quite faint by the time I got near the bank. Locked my bike and just sat on the curb for a while, waiting for my head to stop spinning. When I felt better I got a drink and asked where the bank was, and when I arrived I was six minutes late. (That's why I had to go again today.)

I was so miserable ok. So I got myself an ice-cream.

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