When I was at Food – a fact of life many years ago, one of those fun projects was to create some ‘Learn with…’ thematic food stories which the food levy boards. It was in one of these stories that featured my own meme (not my idea), one about The Exciting Guests, exchange students from China who also brought with them aspects of Chinese food culture.
Since my parents’ generation , many people in the crown colony of Hong Kong had started to adopt an English name in addition to their Chinese birth names. Both my mum and dad were ‘given’ English first names by their English teachers important especially in faith schools where a lot of them used English as a medium of instruction.
It then became commonplace to have both a Chinese name, not only in an anglicised form, but also an additional ‘English name’. A very similar situation happened in Singapore too – exactly because of colonialism. I don’t think it was us trying to be westernised, but shows a complicated history of these places which went through quite a huge cultural shift due to colonialism.
So when our generation came along in the 1980s, even more of us would have both names at birth. In Chinese, our surname comes first. Like many from large families (my father was one of nine), I took the character of my generation which is 「植」’Chik – to nurture’ that’s why all my cousins have the same middle character too. The last letter of my Chinese name is really my given name which is 「芝」’Chi – also means Lingzhi‘, a precious Chinese plant with traditional medicinal properties.
My friends from school have always only referred to me as ‘Georgine’ as I went to an English school so Chinese name was only used during Chinese lessons. But it was only in university, that I used my Chinese name more often. Only looking back now that I appreciated the meaning of my name as my elders must have foreseen my future career in the world of food and health.
That’s why I made a decision to combine my English and Chinese names when I started blogging and having social media accounts to reflect my cultural background. Just wanted to share this little story of mine!