On Poetry and Culture Shock

A rose by any other name gets very annoyed

I'm reciclyng the blog's oldest posts now that I'm leaving the country to get an extra, final dose of American culture shock. So if you've been here for long enough, this will sound familiar. There it goes.

Sometimes it is a bureaucratic nightmare out of Asterix’s Maddening House to be a Spaniard in the US because the person behind the counter, who is supposed to give you money or an ID card or permission for something important, cannot take the concept of the Spanish double surname.

My name is Eugenia Andino Lucas. You would have thought that means Nia A. Lucas, right? Wrong. It’s more like Nia Andino (L). Everyone in Spain has two last names. If your father is called Juan Pérez Casas and your mother is called María López Nevado, you will be called José Pérez López. As you see women never, ever, take their husbands names. And that is exactly the way it should be in the rest of the world.

So. Since having so many names is a bit long, most people drop the second (the mother’s) especially if the first one is not very common. Like, if you were called Anna Morningstar Smith you’d informally forget about the Smith. If it was the other way around, you’d always be Anna Smith Morningstar, because there are too many Anna Smiths. In normal conditions, I would drop the Lucas like I always do in Spain. But here, I have to fill in so much official paperwork that asks very clearly that I don’t drop a name or put a hyphen where there isn’t one, that I end up confusing every bank clerk and University administrative.

The immigration papers. The student card. The discount cards at the supermarkets. The bank. The credit card. Social security. Each time I have to use them someone goes “no, you’re not in the list”. I sigh and say that maybe they have filed me under one of the other two or three possible combinations.

It isn’t as bad as trying to get a Social Security number in the UK… no that I think about it, I’ll tell that story some other day.

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