New Zealand

Understanding the Practice of Name Changes Among Chinese Emigrants

Many individuals, upon reaching adulthood, opt to revert to their Chinese names after previously changing them. Ke-Xin, a reporter for the Waikato Times, experienced this journey firsthand, going through multiple name changes before returning to her Chinese name.

Her first English name, Betty, was chosen during third grade English lessons when she found it similar to her Chinese nickname, meaning “precious baby.” Subsequently, circumstances in her environment led to further changes; encountering another Betty in an English tutorial class prompted her to adopt the name Alice. Later, to avoid confusion with her cousin who shared the same name, Ke-Xin selected Sleeping Beauty after her favorite Disney princess, unaware of its English meaning.

Upon moving to New Zealand, she found the name embarrassing and opted for Lina, suggested by her mother. However, over time, she felt disconnected from it, finding it lacking in personal significance compared to names with familial or cultural ties.

As Ke-Xin reconnected with her Chinese heritage and cultural identity, she sought a name with a meaningful story behind it, leading her back to her Chinese name, Ke-Xin. Embracing her Chinese identity, she began teaching others to pronounce her name correctly, finding that people were generally receptive to learning new sounds, although challenges arose, such as mispronunciations in places like Starbucks.

Ke-Xin’s journey reflects a common experience among individuals of Chinese heritage navigating the complexities of identity and cultural assimilation, ultimately finding pride and resonance in their original names.

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