In brief...

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
My interests vary from conservation to education to heritage to Nature (biodiversity & wildlife) to outdoor activities to life in general.
They occupy most of my waking moment.
Do read my blogs, follow me on Twitter (@jocelynesze) and friend me on Facebook (subject to my discretion). Visit my Nature blog, Nature Rambles, at

UPDATE 2 Apr 2017 - This site is no longer maintained, please visit if you're interested in more recent writing.

Monday, August 17, 2015

On Names and Going to (other) English-speaking Countries.

As a long-time blogger (almost 10 years! D:), I have long realised coming up with titles (which was only available in the last x years, cos most of my early blog posts had no titles) isn't easy. With this personal blog it's still not too bad, cos it's just me writing crap about myself usually, but it's a real struggle with my nature blog, coming up with a sensible and informative but catchy title. I initially wanted to go with a Buzzfeed-like title of "Five things every Singaporean goes through when going overseas" but realised it just wouldn't be accurate, cos not every Singaporean goes through what I describe (cos it's specifically what I experienced as a Catholic Singaporean Chinese), though most people probably do experience something similar. Coming up with these kind of titles involve massive amounts of generalisation though, and I can't deal with all the caveats and disclaimers popping up in my head as I try to phrase a title, so I just decided to go with the kind of titles scientists wrote in the 19th century ("On the Origin of Species" Darwin 1859; "On the Age of the Sun's Heat" Kelvin 1862; "On the Physical Basis of Life" Huxley 1869 etc., you get the idea).

1. My Chinese name becoming my family/last/surname

Simply handing over your passport/NRIC to an official (usually at the airport) is almost never a good idea, cos you just end up in a mild panic when they tell you "I'm sorry I can't find you on our database". Then you realised it's because they tried to search "Shimin" for family name instead of "Sze". Potentially even worse for people who only have Chinese names like "Tan Ah Long".

2. Trouble with filling up forms

This isn't much of a problem for me, since I do have a Christian/English name, but for those who don't, the institution is always screwing your name up. You'd be Mr Long, Tan A. Long, Tan Long etc. Some people with names like mine try to be 'clever' and get it written 'the way it is on your passport' and write "Jocelyne" under first/given name and "Sze Shimin" under family/last/surname, and I guess that could work out but it's just weird. And when I fill in my emergency next-of-kin details, I always fear someday, someone will ring up my dad and ask for "Kim", and he'll say "sorry wrong number".

3. Having your name wrangled when pronounced

It's not exclusive to Chinese names, it's probably the same with every other name that isn't of English origin. But still, being announced to everyone as "Miss Jeng" (or something similar sounding) at my graduation wasn't very nice. Though to be fair, "Sze" is weird.

4. "What's your real name?"

Kind of like "Where are you really from?" questions I guess, cos you know, "Jocelyne" is actually a fake name. Okay maybe that was a bit of a harsh comparison since not everyone has a Christian/English name from birth, and I can't really think of anyone who's asked that worded exactly like that. Had a few "What's your... Do you have other names?"

5. Not recognising friends' names on Facebook

When you've got friends whom you knew by their Chinese names in school, then they went overseas and become "Amanda Tan" or "Benjamin Lee" (not trying to finger point anyone, but these were the most generic English/Chinese names I could think of)... And I'd be scrolling through my Facebook feed wondering who these people are...

It's probably way easier if we all just adopted the "English" way of naming, but then where's the cultural exchange and broadening of minds and all that stuff right. It's only with exposure that one learns.

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