A friend of mine is going to travel to Colombia and is afraid that the colombian people might have problems understanding his name. His name is "Henning", it's a german/european name which pretty much doesn't exist in Colombia. When we talked about this issue, we joked about different nicknames for him that he can use to make it easier for people.

So I wondered, should he try to use a nickname for first encounters? He could also tell them that it's a nickname and his real name is Henning. Later he could make his friends get used to his foreign name, but don't make it too difficult from the start :)

What might be good ways to tell people your name which they've a hard time to understand?

1 Answer 1


I'm not from Colombia, but from Spain. I can share you my experience with foreign people so you can decide. I think your friend should not worry about his name. I've met some people whose name was difficult for us to pronounce, specially some Chinese people. All of them just introduced themselves with their real names. Then many possibilities may arise:

  • We can say the name almost properly. No problem them.
  • We have difficulties with the name. We can try to pronounce the name as close as we can, we can substitute the name for a similar name in Spanish, or we can just give that person a nickname.

So your friend must not worry about searching for a nickname, we'll give him one. One case I remember, about a Chinese person named something like Hwang or so. We ended calling him Juan, as his real name was pronounced very similar to that Spanish name. From then on, he always introduces himself as Juan.

  • Thanks for your comment Carlos! I love your given examples and experiences, thanks for sharing. We will consider your advice :)
    – Henning
    Sep 10, 2016 at 12:00
  • @HenningB. You're welcome! The funny thing is, I don't think this is a Spanish question. My wife has a work colleague named Daniel Obregón that had to travel to Australia. The people there couldn't pronounce his name so they started calling him Danny O'Briggan. The best part was when they found that his second surname was Cano, so his initials were D.O.C. You've earned a nickname!
    – Charlie
    Sep 10, 2016 at 13:58
  • @HenningB. I agree with Carlos, my name (Dewey) has many variant pronunciations even in my own country never mind in Spain, France, the Netherlands, ....
    – mdewey
    Sep 10, 2016 at 14:24
  • 1
    This question belongs to Travel SE but since we're already here let me say that I'm from Colombia and I agree with @CarlosAlejo don't worry about coming up with a nickname. Here you will get one for free :-) Let me know later if I'm right but I think people here will call you Henry.
    – DGaleano
    Sep 10, 2016 at 19:47
  • In Spain, most of the chinese people I know choose a spanish name and introduce themselves with this name, usually a short and common name. Mostly they do to avoid excesive complication or explanations. The owner of the corner shop is "Juan" or "el chino Juan". It also happened with subsaharian peopleI know a couple of guys from Senegal that use "Iñaki" as his name (they live in north Spain) ;)
    – roetnig
    Jun 1, 2017 at 9:30

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