The problem with my name on it

I have a problem: The English can’t pronounce my name.

You see, my official name (Shen Qiaoyun) is written in hanyu pinyin, which is the English phonetic representation of Mandarin.

So the English would read it as Kiao Yoon because Q is supposed to be a hard K sound in English. Some of them even get stressed because Q is not supposed to come without a U.

“What on earth is this word?!” they’d be thinking to themselves. “It breaks all the rules of the English language!”

They’d make an attempt: “Kuh… Keeee… Kao… Keeeeowwww? Kiao Yoooon? The doctor will see you now.”

I don’t want to be called Kiao Yoon forever.


Wrong number!


So what am I going to do?

The most logical solution is to legally change my name.

But that is a massive pain in the behind. I have already done that. I changed my name once in November 2005 for feng shui reasons and had to go through the tedious process of updating records everywhere.

In fact, I only updated my driving license recently, which is exactly six years late.

I’ve also had to use a passport bearing my old name for more than five years because ICA refused to give me a new one. They just made an annotation in one of the pages in my passport showing that I have changed my name.

But no immigration officer in the world has ever thought to flip to that page on his/her own accord. I always have to spend a long time at the counter waiting for the officer to check my photo page against my arrival card, then look at me suspiciously, then allow me to turn the pages in my passport to show him the annotation.


Wrong number!


Once, a Hong Kong immigration officer even scolded me after I showed him the page. He said I should have written my old name in my arrival card since that was what was showing on the photo page.

So, now that I finally have a new passport with the right name, I never ever want to go through that process again.

In England, Piers usually introduces me as Shey for the sake of convenience because, even if the English hear Qiaoyun being said, they find it hard to say it themselves.

Piers has been practisig the pronunciation for nine months and he still says Chiao Yoon, which is close enough but not quite right.


Just call me Shey.


I’m not sure what to do about it. I don’t regret changing my name because it’s been good for me, overall. It has helped to somewhat change my personality, which has in turn altered the course of my life for the better. But I wish I’d had gotten a name that didn’t start with a stupid Q.

My feng shui master had actually given me a list of names to choose from and Qiaoyun was the nicest sounding one. Many of the ones on the list sounded male or ugly, for example, Yongkang. Wtf, right?

I was talking to Piers about this recently. I told him I didn’t want to be called Kiao Yoon because kiao means dead in Hokkien and he wtflol-ed.

Life is never easy, is it?





Just remembered a good example I should have given.

When I was in England, I was online shopping a lot. I received packages from postmen and courier service men probably 30 or 40 times in all my time there.

Each time I opened the door, they would read off the package: “Kiao Yoon?”

Because there are many different courier services in England, I was always getting different people, so I didn’t even try to educate them as to the pronunciation of my name.

I suppose I could use the name Sheylara for my online shopping from now on, but there will still be situations where I can’t use it (bank, insurance, clinic, etc) where people will have to try and read my name off a form. These are the ones I want to avoid!

21 thoughts on “The problem with my name on it

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    Remember the days when only the english-educated families were given English names at birth? Everyone else had some self-made (unofficial) English name. Thus Sheylara doesn’t HAVE to appear on all official documents, right? RIGHT? Right!


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    Yes I can call myself Sheylara, but I can’t very well use that when I, let’s say, apply for a bank account. Then, if, for some reason, the bank people have to phone me, they’d be calling me Kiao Yoon!

    I’ve been called that in England enough times by people who had never been introduced to me. :(

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    I hope you are willing to make a post going into detail about the benefits you experienced changing your name for feng shui purposes. Others change their names for Numerology reasons, but there are those who refute the rewards as imaginary.

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    I did think about doing a post on feng shui and my name change. But then, like you said, there are skeptics about and I don’t really like arguing with skeptics with regard to something so personal.

    I’ll think about it, though. I might in the future when more time has elapsed to allow a more rounded look as to the impact it’s made. :)

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    Hahaha, I think Qiaoyun is v pretty and unique. My cousin’s name was Huiting (v common) and a fengshui master gave her a list of names to choose from also, and she picked Shilin. So pretty also. Now her life really changed for the better. Makes me so tempted to go change mine, if not for the fact I’m Christian, lol!

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    Pinyin is not “…the English phonetic representation of Mandarin”. Pinyin is a sort of Romanization that represents the sounds of Mandarin Chinese. English does not own the Roman alphabet. Many languages around the world use the Roman alphabet.

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    Hi I’m very interested to know about your fengshui master and fortune teller experiences too.

    I chanced upon your blog when I was googling for my Korea and london trips and found myself back-reading through your other posts. It’s really inspiring and interesting (esp. on your career moves). If you don’t mind, could you share with me the fortune teller/fengshui master who you went to see? I figure I desperately need some divine help in this department!

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    @Pam: Heheh, thanks. I guess I quite like my new name even though it’s so troublesome and even Singaporeans (Chinese) always say it wrong cos my Yun is supposed to be 4th tone and not 2nd. Incidentally, my old name was Siling, which I never felt suited me at all.

    @Boyd: You’re right, of course. Thanks for pointing that out. :)

    @Faith: Thanks! :) My original name was Serena Sim. Chinese was Shen Siling.

    @Biopolymath: That is a problem. :P That’s why using hanyu pinyin is better cos it makes you stick your two names together. :P

    @sadf: Haha. Probably not. I don’t feel like a Lara. :P

    @ploinkypink: Thanks for your kind words! :) I don’t really recall blogging much about my career moves, though. Well, okay, if there’s enough interest in reading about my name change and feng shui, I’ll do a post about it some time. :)

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    I can really understand about not getting your name pronounced right. My primary school teacher used to pronounce my name like this (Par-meh-lar), which really irritated me.

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    I sort of feel you. I had 2 non-Chinese speaking teachers in primary school calling me LeeYaaarn. No kidding, they stretched the “a” that far. My name is Liyan, thank you very much. I’ve been using my English name since then. It’s funny though. :)

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    Hahahha ya, they never get my Chinese name right either. It’s En (1st sound) and Min (3rd sound). But they always pronounce it as Si Min.

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    I have Valarie on ALL my official documents right… but yet somehow it manages to be excluded from official documents still!

    IC & Passport: Valarie [surname] [hanyu pinyin name]
    Bank Account & healthcard card: [surname] [hanyu pinyin name]

    I have since given up.

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    Haha I love your cartoons the UK immigration one is really funny.
    Interesting to know rthat you changed your name, I dont yet fully understand how it works here in Singapore between the chinese name and the english name, Did you go by ur chinese name in school or did you have an english name which ur friends etc would use? Sheylara is more recent right

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    @Yoi: Whoa, rare spawn! Nice seeing you around here:)

    @Sheylara: I’d suggest QY, but then again, that’s more like for friends I suppose… anyway, I’m not faring much better either. People mangle my name all the time too:P

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