Sunday, 13 November 2011

Name as identity

I have two names. Yes you heard correctly, I have two names. There are two names in my passport, driving license and all other papers. Also I need to clarify I don't mean two names as in a first name and a surname.  I have two given names which is a common practice in my culture but to add confusion to non-Finns I go by my second name. I have never been called Emma by my parents even though it appears first in my name in all my ID. Sometimes when I'm sitting in a doctor's waiting room in Finland I actually have to remind myself that Emma is a part of my name. In Finland it's easy, they read out your name at school and you put up your hand and ask to be called by your second name and the teacher will make a little note without flinching and move on. Easy. Uncomplicated and most of all normal. But change the location of this little episode into the UK and this seems incomprehensible to people. The thing that gets to me most is that people actually argue with me on what my name is, even after I explain it's common in Finland to be called by your second name. I think I know what my name is thanks.

My name has proved to cause so much headache in the last couple of years that I am seriously considering going to deed pole and changing it permanently. This is the conversation I have almost every time I meet new people. Other indicates new person I have met. This is your basic name calling situation that happens at new jobs or schools.

Other: "Emma?"
Me: "Actually could you call me Annina?"
Other:"Oh do we have your name wrong?"
Me: "Well not really I just go by Annina"
Other: "...."
Me: "I have two names. It's a cultural thing."
Other: "So Annina is your nickname?"
Me: "No, it's my second name."
Other: "Your surname?"
Me: "No my name is Emma Annina"
Other:"Is it a double-barreled name?"
Me: "No"
Other: "..."
"So really your name is Emma."
Me: "Yes, but could you call me Annina please."
Other: "But that's not your name."
Me: "Yes it is, I have two."
Other: "So, EMMA"

I do see the comedy in these exchanges but am also tired by years of having to defend my identity. For years people have tried to tell me who I am and what I should be by arguing over my name. A person's name is a major part of their identity and the fact that I have had to fight for mine has undoubtedly affected my identity and self image. Sometimes in these situations I can't help but be frustrated since I have gone through them a million times before. So I get labelled as a troublemaker or uppity. "Don't call her Emma, she'll go mental!"

The people who I end up making a connection with are the people who don't ask questions about my name or doubt me, they just accept. The relief I feel when I meet someone and I don't have to prove myself is almost overwhelming and breaks downs the barrier I build for other people. I will never stop feeling grateful when I meet those people. Skywalker was one of  them. That's not his real name either.

Just let me be Annina and I will have endless respect for you.

I'm Annina. Who are you?


  1. Passive Income congrats in your blog, I hope you enjoy your time with your blog. Cheers.

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