changing names in Sweden

7,000 people changed their last name in Sweden last year, according to our local weekly paper.  And most of them seem to be immigrants or people with immigrant backgrounds choosing more “Swedish” names in order to fit in.

Sweden has a great immigration policy.  One city has taken more Iraqis than the entire US.  Something like 20 percent of Swedes are either immigrants or children of immigrants.

But it is still not OK to be different.  Hence the name changes.  It is like Ellis Island in the 1910s with immigrants Anglicizing their names.  Or when I lived in Croatia in the 1990s and Serbs took Croatian names to avoid the taint of the war there.

Even E has kept her maiden name, along with Hegedus, so potential employers and the like won’t automatically reject her.  This is also why our children absolutely have to have Swedish-friendly first names (we also want them to, of course).

And writing this makes me think of the music video set  to Obama’s convention speech.  And it makes me believe in America.  It makes me happy that my daughter will never have to think about her name in America (even if she will have to worry about health care, parental leave and college tuition).  It makes me proud that she has a Hungarian last name, though she is, like, 13 percent Hungarian.  Both to challenge the Swedish norm and celebrate the American one.

I hope and think Sweden is working through all this, coming to terms with a multicultural society.  But on this level America has worked it out, at least for now.

And this is good.  Because NK knows her last name.  She also thinks everyone has her last name.  So Hegedus better work.


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