Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Campaign for Expat Name Reform

When you become a parent, you get a new name: Mom or Dad. You have a new role, a new identity, and this name helps you make the transition to parenthood as well as separate your old self from your new one.

expat life
Step off that plane with a new name
But when most people move abroad, they don’t take a new name for their new role as The Foreigner. 

If you were like the Frau, you didn’t change your name after changing countries, so your old and new identities collided like tectonic plates and the earthquake that shook your body was probably a 9.0 on the Richter scale.

That’s why the Frau is campaigning for Expat Name Reform in Switzerland. The new law would say that all foreigners should take a new name when moving to Switzerland in order to protect their old sense of self.

So what are you waiting for, expats? Let’s choose a nice Swiss name and let’s get going.

Regula? Perfect.

Ok. Let Regula get cut in front of at the cheese counter. Let Regula smile at people and let Regula feel defeated when they don’t smile back. Let Regula protect Jennifer or Katie or Cathy or whoever you are inside. Don’t let your two identities meet.

The Frau’s Campaign for Expat Name Reform was inspired by Peter Hessler’s book about living in China, River Town (great book for expats, by the way).

In China, expats usually take Chinese names. Hessler took one right away, and describes how his Chinese identity, Ho Wei was very different from Peter Hessler. In fact, he says, the two never really interacted. Ho Wei was passive, dumb, and a toddler in terms of dealing with his Chinese world. But he never collided with Peter, who was more assertive, Oxford-smart, and a world traveler.

Anyway, if you read this blog, you know Chantal eventually became “The Frau.” But looking back, Chantal wishes she had become The Frau right away.

Here’s why:

After moving to Switzerland, things happened to Chantal and she had no control over them. Chantal wasn’t used to being rendered mute but Swiss German had a funny way of doing that to her. She had trouble separating who she used to be (Ms. 4.0 Perfectionist Who Was Going to Conquer the World With Her Brilliance) with who she had become (Ms. I Failed At Buying Beef So We’ll Be Having Pork Stroganoff for Dinner).

So do yourself a favor, new expats, and find yourself a new name to go with your new country. Find your “Frau“ or your “Ho Wei” and preserve the smart, worldly you before it gets ripped apart by people who think you’ll automatically understand them if they talk louder.

If you agree with Expat Name Reform, please sign the petition otherwise known as the comment board and include your preferred Swiss name.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Frau's Love of English

The Frau loves English. She didn't realize this until six years ago when she moved to a place where Swiss German was spoken. Funny how being surrounded by a foreign language makes you love your own. It's a bit like moving to a desert and realizing, you know, I never really gave water the credit it deserves.

So let's take a moment, fellow yodelers, and give English some praise. Let's celebrate its short words. Its gender neutrality. Its lack of umlauts and accented vowels. Its lack of formal and informal you and instead its embracement of an all-emcompassing, "hey y'all."

That said, there is one thing the Frau loves even more than English. It's English spoken by non-native speakers. 

Oh, the joy that is a misplaced modifier. Oh, the excitement that is unfortunate verb choice. These little language lapses have no end in happiness for the Frau. So imagine her excitement to be in Paris two weeks ago (excitement also because it was her first weekend away from her baby ever and she planned on partying but in reality ended up sleeping) and to find this lovely note near the light switch at her bed and breakfast:

funny english
Please, switch of the light and radiators before living.
See what she means. One little Google-translated verb, one big fat laugh for the Frau. 

Anyone else love their native language even more after moving abroad?


Blog Widget by LinkWithin