Updated: Jan 9
Calling to reserve a table or set up a haircut appointment is a fairly typical interaction in my life. Making online reservations and appointments is not so common here as people tend to prefer to call or just stop by to make appointments. The aversion to technology is a bit comical, but I digress.
Pardon me? Your name is?
Without fail, if I am calling somewhere where we are not regular customers, I am asked to repeat and spell my name. I have become accustomed to saying, “April, like the month and Remfrey “Frey” like the chocolate brand”. After repeating my name numerous times, there is one of three reactions: please repeat, giggles, or dumbfoundedness. When I am asked to repeat my name, I give them the same line, April, wie die Monat, Remfrey, “Frey” wie die Schokolade. These hints usually help the person on the other end of the phone better visualize the name and we can conclude the conversation. But with those special individuals, I get to endure the “Really? That’s your name?” questions or the laughter. With yet another population of individuals, there is just no way to help them understand this crazy name of mine. Trying to repeat Remfrey becomes a chore that cannot be done and at that point, I often tell them to write down a completely new name.
Hoover or Huber?
When we first arrived in Switzerland, I started to look into my Johnson family roots. The Johnson line led me to visiting Norway with my parents one summer (only to be told that we should probably be looking for our family line in Sweden) and the Hoover side found me in the bowels of the internet. After much searching on many genealogy websites, I learned that Hoover was often an American invention. When the Swiss and Germans named Huber arrived in America, the pronunciation of Huber must have landed on inflexible ears and was written down as Hoover. To right a 300 year wrong, I decided to take Huber as my new Swiss last name.
But what was I going to do about this laughter inducing first name? Growing up, my best friend and I were inseparable. So much so, that I always ate dinner at her house on Tuesday evenings because her mother was serving my favorite, tuna noodle casserole. I was enamored by a family that ate the same meals on certain days of the week. Clearly Tuesdays were the best days to be at Heidi’s. I’ve always had fond memories of Heidi and she has been someone I’ve stayed in contact with through the ages. So what would be more perfect than the Swiss mountain name, Heidi?
My Swiss Identity
When I tell my Swiss friends this story, they are appalled that I would choose to change my identity by using an alternative name. In reality, I see this as a way to make everyone’s lives easier! I can quickly make a phone reservation without enduring giggles or requests to repeat my name which includes silly spelling hints. I am also helping the person on the other end of the line that is nervous about writing down the wrong name or offending me.
It is now a well known fact among my friends and those I interact with through many local organizations that I go by two different names. When I am being introduced to someone new and the person is struggling to understand my name, my friend will crack a smile and tell the new acquaintance, “Just call her Heidi.”