Lim Yoong Kang

Name order

Just a little something about the first name, last name ordering.

In most of Asia, it’s more common to use the surname first, and then the given name. That’s obviously different in the West. Sometimes there are historical reasons why the order is flipped only in English, such as Japanese names. There’s an ongoing discussion to change that in Japan, so we can expect even that to change in the future (and in fact, it’s already changing now).

Back when I lived in Asia, it was normal to call me “Lim Yoong Kang”, where “Lim” is my surname, and “Yoong Kang” my given name. However, when I arrived in Australia, for various reasons it made things easier to reverse the order – making it “Yoong Kang Lim”.

At first that was because I filled in some forms, and then most IT systems automatically assigned the default ordering. Later, it became more convenient to just use that order everywhere, otherwise weird things start to happen (like people assuming “Lim” is my given name). After a while I kind of just accepted that, and it became natural.

I told myself it was a far better compromise than, for example, giving myself an Anglicised name so that people don’t bin my resume. No judgement to those who did end up doing that, as it’s a perfectly understandable decision, but it was something I didn’t want to do.

Anyway, long story short, it kind of stuck after a while and I never really felt right about it, although it wasn’t something I worried about too much.

Well, in 2021, I’ve decided to make more of an effort to change that. The Western ordering is simply that, it’s just Western. I’d probably even call it Eurocentric. The assumption that everyone follows that name order in a culturally diverse society like Australia is clearly invalid. So why keep using it? I’ve decided I don’t have to pander to other people, and I especially don’t want to pander to people who ignore these aspects of my culture. It’s my own name, I should get to decide which order is appropriate.

With that said, starting from this blog I want the ordering of my name to better reflect the conventions of my heritage. I’m hoping I could change that in other places too, where practical.