Our little boy has already been exposed to five languages – Swedish, Spanish, English, French and yesterday Flemish. He is also a true international when it comes to his name:
Some of you might remember my posts about Spanish surnames (here and here)? Well, if that was confusing, wait for this one – our son will have three different versions of his full name! One version in Belgium, which is the only country where he is registered so far. However as O and I of course want to make sure that little V has all his options covered, he will also be registered in Spain and in Sweden which means two other versions of his name. The reason for these different ways of registering the complete name is of course bureaucratic, the three European countries have various administrative rules for names.
As a true half-Spaniard, little V has both our surnames; first his father’s [first] surname and then my family name. I didn’t change my surname when O and I got married, as it is not the tradition in Spain, and as a matter of fact most (?) Belgian women also keep their maiden name when they marry. V also has three first names as is the tradition in my [father’s] family. The first first name is his own, the second one is after his father’s maternal grandfather and the third one after my paternal grandfather who is the only great-grandparent still alive.
However, depending on which country you are dealing with this combination of 3 first names + 2 family names will change:
Belgium: V’s three first names are on his birth certificate but in most contacts with the Belgian authorities only his first two names will be used. His two family names are sometimes written with a hyphen, which I think is a good idea as O’s family name could be thought to be a first name.
Spain: We are not entirely sure what is going to happen with V’s three first names when registering at the Spanish consulate. Fingers crossed that they will be accepted and they won’t drop the third one. The two family names will be written without a hyphen and there will be an accent on the i in O’s family name. In everyday life, it will be his first family name (i.e O’s) that will be used as the father’s name takes precedence over the mother’s.
Sweden: O was told when registering V’s birth and names in Anderlecht, the municipality where he was born (the location of the hospital determines this, not where the parents live, which is the rule in Sweden) that we might have problems with the two surnames for the Swedish administration. I knew this already, as in Sweden you can only have one family name. If you have two names, the first one will be considered a middle name. In other words, V’s official family name in Sweden will be my surname!
In conclusion: In Belgium V will have two first names + two family names with a hyphen, in Spain he might have two or three first names, two family names without a hyphen and the “most important” family name will be the first one. In Sweden he will have three first names, a middle name and his last family name will be the official one. Phew! You might ask yourself why we complicate things so much, but I guess both O and I feel strongly about the different name traditions in our families and countries.
And at least we didn’t opt for:
- Not putting his “first” name (V) first. For example in my family I am the only one who has my given name (tilltalsnamn) first. In Sweden it happens quite often that parents think that it sounds better with a different order of the names regardless of which one will be used as the given name. My sister ended up being called Anna during her year as a pupil in an English school as it is the name that comes first out of her three names, and I have a few Swedish friends here in Brussels whose official mail (bank, insurance etc) is always addressed to their second names that happen to come first!
- O was really tempted to give his two family names to V, i.e both O’s mother’s and father’s surnames. It can be done in Spain, you just add a hyphen between the two names! Fortunately he decided that it would just be a little over the top to give our son three first names and three surnames…
Little V has received his first official letter, I find it so funny that he already gets addressed as “Monsieur”, at 3 weeks old!