Eastern Name Order
In our very first post, we mentioned that we were quite ignorant about some things regarding each other’s cultures. However, one thing I (Christine) did learn before meeting Junwen was that many Asian cultures give their name as “Family Name + Given Name”, instead of what I am used to (in the West), “Given Name + Family Name”. For example, “Lin Junwen” instead of “Junwen Lin”. If you ever watched Disney’s Mulan, you may have noticed that the Matchmaker calls her “Fa Mulan” instead of “Mulan Fa”.
To be honest, when I originally watched Mulan I did not think much of it, because even here in America we typically alphabetize people by their surnames. It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles for grad school and got to know some of my Chinese classmates that I learned the name order is swapped. (Actually, I might have first learned about it by watching and reading Fruits Basket: The Complete Series (Classic) and Fruits Basket, Vol. 1, my first and only dabble in manga–such an awesome series! But I guess the knowledge was cemented after I met my Chinese friends.)
My classmates further taught me that if a person’s first name was only one character/syllable, you would almost always call them by their family name + first name, even in colloquial settings. (E.g., if your family name is Lin and your given name is Wei, you would frequently be called “Lin Wei” even by your friends.) Calling someone by their family name + first name is also expected to show respect and formality, and I have noticed that amongst themselves the younger students would address the senior students in this fashion.
Western Name Order
In America (and most if not all of the West), we introduce ourselves and write our names as “Given Name + Family Name”, and because we present the names in that order, many forms and documents call the Given Name your “First Name”, and the Family Name your “Last Name”. Having grown up with that order, we don’t think twice about it. However, you can see that for people coming from a culture in which the Family Name is listed FIRST and the Given Name is listed LAST, when asked to provide your “first” and “last” name for documentation purposes, confusion may ensue… [Read more…]