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Culture Baby Blog
  • Cross Culture Baby Naming
  • Monica Dreger
  • baby namesraising bilingual kidsraising global citizens
Cross Culture Baby Naming
Everyone can probably agree that the naming process of a newborn is one of the most challenging decisions in adulthood. Studies show that the name of your child can effect her social standing, level of confidence and overall demeanor. That's a lot of responsibility folks!
Couples who praise sweet nothings in each other ears all day long suddenly question their marital choice when they realize that they drastically differ in name preferences. Family members who were care-free and not that involved in your marital relationship are suddenly calling and emailing you with all their favorite names in what seems like every five minutes! 
Instead of enjoying the first days of baby's new life, we agonize over finding "the one perfect name". And then, sometimes, we have to do it again and again and again....Eek.
The "don'ts" are written in stone...
It can't be someone you or your partner had a relationship in the past with. Any relationship.
It can't be too unique or too common.
It can't be a name chosen recently by a friend for her/his baby.
It can't be the name of your best friend/sister/brother's child.
It can't be a name easily manipulated into a silly song, tease, or joke.
The list goes on and on. No wonder couples find their first "true" disagreement stems from this process. Now add pregnancy hormones and parental anxiety and it's a true family drama.
But I have more.....
Now put in the mix cultural associations. Yours. 
And now add another cultural association. Either the country you live in or your partner's cultural background.
Now we are talking.
When our baby girl was born we were living in Athens, Greece. My husband's heritage is Greek and we knew we wanted to incorporate that influence. We also knew that we were planning on living in various countries throughout our lives and wanted to include my German-American background.
It seemed easy. Thank goodness in Greece you don't have to name your baby at the hospital! Although we are pretty laid back people, it took us three months to name our first-born. For the first three months of her life, she was referred to as Baby Strawberry" (it sounds cuter in Greek!).
We had a very difficult time finding a name that embraced both cultures yet could be pronounced in various languages or at least wasn't offensive or silly! 
Here's an example of some girl names that quickly went off the list:
Stella - a beer from Belgium (a country we considered living in); that would be the equivalent of naming our baby "Coors"....oohhhh
Ariel - a detergent in Greece. "Baby Tide come eat..." noooooo
Xara (joy in Greek) - definitely a no-no because it means 'feces' (the less polite word of this too)
 
After three months, we did have our a-ha moment since we couldn't find a single person that we disliked with the name, none of friends had discovered it,  it wasn't too unique and was easily pronounced in most of the languages we would have in contact with. Phew. 
These are some tips we discovered along the way:
- Model the correct  pronunciation to strangers politely. Although not entirely unique, her name is not too common so we have heard many versions along the way. We realized that by watching us politely correct people with the right pronunciation she was able to handle it in a mature, kind manner
- Teach your child from an early age the meaning and importance of the name. It will definitely be a conversations starter so the earlier she can get into the conversation and own it, the prouder she will be of her name.
- Casually point out other "unusual" or other "foreign" names you come in contact with - desensitize the uniqueness of her own name. My daughter is now nine years old and sometimes wants a more common name, Ann, Beth, Maria all sound appealing to her because they aren't particular. Once we started to see how many actors, singers, friends have 'different' names in any country, her own name became a badge of coolness.
- Work with your child if the name becomes bigger than who she is.  A name should help build your confidence, exemplify who you are and should make a statement of where you come from. If your child is feeling uneasy, or overwhelmed by their name, let them chose a nickname. They will probably revert back to their real name when they feel secure and stable with who they are. If you find one together, the nickname might have more meaning to you too so you will be less hesitant to use it. Sometimes as parents we just have to know when to let go of something. 
- Use the middle name as a source of creativity! In Greece it is customary to use grandparent's names as a way to secure the family legacy. Now it all makes sense why they are millions of Georges and Nicks right? I love my in-laws and of course my own mother but not their names. Thank goodness for middle names. I felt we embraced our 'goodness-factor' without compromising our chance to name this little peapod with our hearts content! Don't tell them.... 
We have since had to do this exercise two more times with boys names. Little did I know how "easy" finding a girls name would be! 
  • Monica Dreger
  • baby namesraising bilingual kidsraising global citizens

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