• Hello! I'm Alex!

    So… It’s not always easy to live in a country where no one can pronounce your name properly. Many Chinese choose a logical solution. Simply change it!

    The joke of Stone

    ‘I’m thinking of getting a new name’, ponders Zhiyong. ‘Then again, too many people here know me already, so it won’t work. But if I ever move, I’ll become John or Jack.’

    L.L.M. Zhiyong, a 26-year-old Chinese student, is known to most people as ‘Stone’. Like many other Chinese students, he chose a different name here than the one his parents gave him. ‘It’s more convenient. For people here, Chinese names are hard to pronounce.’

    Zhiyong got his name from a joke he made in secondary school. ‘The emperor told the soldier, “My name is Stone”. The soldier replied: “My name is Stone-breaker.”’

    Only last year he realized that ‘Stone’ was unusual. English exchange students in Shanghai were shocked. ‘But they said that if I liked it, I should just keep it.’

    Interestingly, he says that most of his fellow Chinese students don’t even know his other name. ‘We only use our real names when we’re with each other.’ He laughs. ‘Some Chinese students have really funny English names.’

    Hurricane Katrina

    Zhang Xiaoyao, or Katrina, defends both her names enthusiastically. ‘When I tell people I’m Katrina and they ask me what my real name is, I get frustrated. Katrina’s not a fake name, I just have two names.’

    The 22-year-old International Economics and Business student got her English name from a TV series. The lead role was played by Katrina, whose character she greatly admired. Moreover, it stands out. ‘I like it because it’s unusual. Many girls in China pick English names like Mary, Karen or Serena.’

    It’s a seemingly harmless name, but it once made people afraid of her. A couple of years ago she met a group of Americans who immediately associated her with Hurricane Katrina. ‘They thought I picked the name because I wanted to destroy America!’

    Prince ‘Alex’

    In Groningen he started out as ‘Alex’, a prince in a Japanese animation movie. To the 21-year-old student of International Business and Economics, though, the name is nothing special and it works. He knows people named ‘Dream’ and ‘Vivid’ in China. ‘In China there are no typical names like Jake, Jason or John in English. Most names are unique. So when Chinese people choose their English names, they want them to stand out.’

    He himself stuck with Alex, although that name is now less popular. His friends pressured him to use his Chinese name. ‘It’s Xy Yimin – easy to pronounce, unlike most Chinese names. And people will ask me what it is anyway if I tell them I’m called Alex.’