English names in Hong Kong

Sticking with the subject of names after my post about how I think my boyfriend’s name may be affecting his ability to get a job interview, I’ve been thinking about the English names people from Hong Kong give to their children. People in Hong Kong generally have a Chinese and an English name, due to the fact Hong Kong used to be owned by the UK. The reason that this has interested me is because of how strange some of the names are.

My boyfriend has a pretty uncommon name. I think it’s more popular in America, but i’ve never heard of anyone with his name in the UK. His brother and his parents have extremely old fashioned names, to the point where I am sure only 90 year olds would be called the same. It’s also common to find people with names you would never hear in the UK (unless the baby belonged to a celebrity); things like Angel, Apple, Coco and Bunny (and these are some of the more normal ones!)

You only have to look at some Hong Kong celebrities to see the strange names they come up with. (I don’t know who most of these people are or why they are famous, i’ve just been googling names)

There are old fashioned names such as:

  • Ada Choi
  • Winston Chu
  • Herman Li
  • Josephine Koo
  • Stanley Kwan
  • Raymond Kwok
  • Walter Kwok
  • Betty Loh
  • Kenneth Tsang
  • Elsie Leung
  • Albert Chan
  • Neville Poy

There are also names that are random words such as:

  • Fruit Chan (Food)
  • Hilton Cheong-Leen (Hotel)
  • York Chow (UK City)
  • Butterfly Hu (Insect)
  • Athena Chu (Goddess)
  • King Hu (Nobility)
  • Ringo Lam Leng-tung (Member of the Beatles)
  • Hacken Lee (Football team)
  • Gigi Leung (Film)
  • Race Wong (Sporting event)
  • Run Run Shaw (Action)
  • Teddy Wong (Cuddly toy)
  • Griffin Yue Feng (Mythical Creature)
  • Ekin Cheng (River)
  • Oxide Pang Chun (Chemical Compound)

…and of course…

  • Jet Li (Aeroplane)

3 (1)Jet may be an uncommon name, but it definitely makes him sound tougher.

It’s not just the celebrities making up names. You can see some more interesting names in this blog post by HK Girl Talk. The people of Hong Kong are not crazy though! There are reasons that they give their children names like these.

One reason is that the people of Hong Kong want to be unique. It’s very unlikely you would find more than one person in the world called “Steel Tong” and for them, this is a good thing. It’s also much more memorable than “Dave Smith” and in this competitive country, you need to stand out. In the UK however, a name like this probably wouldn’t have a positive effect.

Another reason is that some people do not 100% understand English names. In Hong Kong, Chinese names have a meaning – for example the name “Li Yong” means brave, so they may think that naming their child “Pretty” or “Strong” is a normal think, though of course it isn’t. It’s just a cultural difference that doesn’t translate. This also can refer to the old fashioned names – it’s not surprising that people in Hong Kong might not know which English names are currently popular.

I’ve always disliked strange names. I don’t think you should force something like that on a child. I can only see it as a selfish act and it can make their lives very hard! This is coming from a UK point of view though. A child in the UK would get horrifically bullied if they were called “Fish”, but maybe that wouldn’t happen in Hong Kong and maybe it really will help them get further in life when they are older. Not everyone has an odd name, but it is the norm rather than a rarity. If the reason for the strange names is because the parents don’t understand how English names work, however, I think that’s kind of endearing. (I still feel very sorry for the children though!)

What are your thoughts? Do you know any Asians with an “interesting” English name?


What’s in a name?

I had my very first job interview today. I don’t think it went too badly, it’s hard to tell.

I have only applied for 4 jobs so far. One had ignored me, one sent me a letter telling me they didn’t want me, one phoned me to tell me they’d just hired someone and the other gave me an interview. My boyfriend has now applied for between 20-30 jobs and he has had 2 replies, both telling him the job he applied for isn’t in the same city he lives in. (He knows this or he wouldn’t have applied!!!)

His CV is in perfect English; I have checked it many times and also asked my family to check it too. I think it looks quite good, so there is no obvious reason to ignore it. We also changed his CV to include my home address (we are applying to jobs near where I live and his home address is the other side of the country) in the hope that there will be no more issues with location, though location shouldn’t really be that much of a problem anyway. Surely when you finish University, you’re going to consider relocating? He has applied to a variety of jobs, but nothing seems to make a difference.

So why is he not getting any replies? Is it a coincidence? Is he applying for really popular jobs? Do they not want to risk an interview with someone who lives so far away? Is he actually under qualified and they can’t be bothered to reply to tell him he doesn’t have an interview? Or is it because he has an Asian surname?


Are names effecting job applications?

I don’t want to come out and say he is a victim of racial discrimination, but I find it so strange that he is being ignored like this. I thought companies would actively want to hire people of a Chinese ethnicity, with the stereotype that they are hard working and intelligent. However, a report from Parliament.uk states that between July 2011 and June 2012, the percentage of unemployment was 7% for whites and 12% for Asians. It seems like it really is harder for Asian’s to get a job.

There is evidence behind the idea that his name could be the problem. Earlier this year, an African man applied for a job under his real name and was rejected. He then simplified his CV, re-submitted it under an English name and got an interview (You can read the full story here).

I’m sure many places would have no issue with hiring foreign people, especially places like London, but where I am from there are few Asian’s, just a lot of eastern Europeans, so it might seem like more of a risk to some companies to hire them. It’s also possible that any discrimination isn’t intentional. Employers flick through CVs so quickly that they could subconsciously dismiss someone with a foreign name.

With mixed race couples these days, there must be so many women married to foreign men, and many adults who have a British mother and a foreign father, giving them a foreign sounding name. A name shouldn’t make any difference. Britain is becoming a multi-cultural country and just because you name sounds foreign, it doesn’t mean you are. Are people going to have to start writing that they are British citizens to stop being ignored, or even go as far as to change their names by deed poll?

It would be pretty drastic for my boyfriend to change his name legally just to get a job, so we’ll just have to see what happens. Keep your fingers crossed that we both manage to get jobs! I’ll keep you updated on what happens.

Has anyone had any experience of possible race discrimination at work?

Image: flickrhivemind.net