Many Indonesians only have one name. Deal with it.

I have grown tired of many articles on Indonesia written by foreign journalist which often uses the cliche statement, “xxx, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name“. Two recent examples are WSJ quoting Vice President Boediono and AP on a story about Evie/Turdi, Obama’s transgender nanny. Yes, like many Indonesians they only have one name.

Why are these foreign journalists so amused by Indonesia’s one-name-ness?

On another note, a friend of mine, who only have a single name, had difficulties going for Umrah. Apparently for the visa application, the applicant must have three names. So he had to used his name, his father’s name, and his grandfather’s name (all of them only have one name!) in order to qualify for the visa.

Perhaps this is a measure of soft power. I reckon that at times people outside of East Asia (i.e. China, Korea, Japan) find it difficult to distinguish family names and first names, which are written in the order of family name first followed by their first name. But now it’s not much of a problem anymore.

I am waiting for the day when I won’t find any article written on Indonesia and pointing out the fascination with our single name. Either that or we need to tell Indonesian parents to prepare at least three names for their children.


2 thoughts on “Many Indonesians only have one name. Deal with it.”

  1. Yeah, but…

    Going abroad what usually strikes the eye is the superficial difference. Food, colour of the skin, outfits. So, don’t blame the journalists who usually are employed in a superficial branch..

    And to me the name-phenomenon was confusing too ( a hundred years ago). And it’s even worse for authorities in my homeland. My two Indonesian daughters in law, applying for permanent stay, were also confronted with the Dutch registration system. Fortunately both of them have three names, so without further ado the ( pragmatic) registration office officers in both cases promoted their third one into a family name ( much to ladies’ surprise by the way – amazement often is mutual 🙂 ).

  2. I rather like it actually. Let me give you an example. I was recently silently cheering for one of the candidates for KPU commissioner. I thought this character deserved not only to be selected, but also to be appointed ketua on the spot. His name: Bossman

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