Expat Names

spell my name wrongHere’s a question for expat readers, especially expats in France: how do you give your last name to people?

For me, there are a good number of ways it can go, depending on what I say, and depending on the person on the person I’m giving it to.

Option 1:

Me: Alors le nom c’est Fitzp*******. Donc F comme François, I, T comme Thomas, Z, P-A-T-R-I—
Other person: Attendez attendez! P… A…. T… comment?
Me: Putain c’est comme le prénom Patrick, arrêtez de rendre les choses difficiles!

(No really, I’ve never said that, but I always want to!)

Option 2:

Me: Alors le nom, c’est Fitzp*******. Donc F comme François, I, T comme Thomas, Z, et la suite c’est comme le prénom Patrick.

And a few days later I find I’ve been registered as Fitz, P*******. The person never bothered to ask for my first name because clearly the woman you’re talking to is named Patrick! Foreigners are capable of anything, why not give your daughter what’s clearly a boy’s name?

Recently I’ve tried specifiying and saying “le nom de famille, c’est Fitzp*******” but that has only yielded middling results. People still seem to think I’m called Patrick.

The reverse thing that happens is that people have my name written in front of them, see that consonant cluster, and panic. No one actually has trouble with my last name once they’ve heard it once. But that tzp, it almost gives them a heart attack.

Growing up in the States, Fitzp******* was pretty much understood everywhere, but sometimes in Texas you’d run into someone who’d never heard it, and I’d have to resist calling them a freak. “Fitzp*******, that’s a weird name, huh?” “No not really, have you heard of John Fitzgerald Kennedy? F Scott Fitzgerald? No? I did suspect you lived in a box.”

The only place it’s ever been truly easy with my last name was in Ireland. I remember at the hostel in Killarney, I rattled off my first + last names and without a blink, the girl wrote them down. Ahhh.

Anyone else have trouble getting their foreign name to be written correctly? And what solutions have you found?


12 thoughts on “Expat Names

  1. L says:

    At the risk of revealing my “anonymity”, my last name is a famous whisky brand in France. So I always say “C……., comme la marque de whisky”. That almost always works and usually gets a chuckle. I recently reserved rooms in England by phone, and it was such a treat to just say my last name once and not have to explain it!

  2. My last name has always been a problem in the United States, but almost never in France! (It’s pronounced Will-guess) and has Polish origins. What is a problem for me in France is my first name!

    Obviously in the United States, people know that my name is pronounced Day-na (although I get the occasional ‘Danna’ with a short ‘a’ sound.) However, in France, I am always “Dah-na” or the American equivalent of “Donna.” When I try to correct them, they usually look at me and say, “Ah, mais c’est Diana!?” Non!! LOL. I am now “Dah-nah” in France.

  3. I kind of have the opposite to “L” – people have trouble with my name in English for some reason, even though it’s actually really easy, but I can say “like [insert common term here]”. That doesn’t work in French, so I just spell it “A,B,C…” I also pronounce it differently to help them understand, same with my first name.

    Weirdly, when I got my bus pass here in Brussels, the woman only put half my last name on there, and when I pointed that out, she said the system didn’t take noms de famille composés. Except my last name is one word and she copied it down from my passport!

  4. I guess them thinking you might have a boys’ name as your first name isn’t so surprising when you think that Lawrence sounds like a girl in French, Jean-Marie would be a girl in English. And then there are all those American actresses like Cameron Diaz and Blake Lively who actually do have boys’ names for first names – no wonder it’s confusing!

    My name has a French equivalent with a different spelling and I usually end up with some mix of the English spelling and the French one, even when I spell it out. One thing I am always amazed by (and it’s not specific to the French) is people’s inability to listen, even when they think they are!

  5. They turn the Fs in my name to Ls all the time . . . So I’ve started saying “F comme France” hehe. And of course we decided that bébé’s first name doesn’t have an accent, when it normally does in French, so we kind of shot ourselves in the foot with that one, lol. But people tend to add an accent to my name, because of the pronunciation, so it’s just all sorts of confusing, haha.

    • That’ll be fun when he learns to write his name at school! I bet the teacher will screw it up. But way to be different!
      I think I’m going to stop saying “F comme…” and just spell it.

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