Backwards Is Forwards And Forwards Is Backwards

“Hi my name is First Name Last Name.”

“Hello First Name Last Name, my name is Last Name First Name.”

This is an average example of me meeting someone in Hungary.  I know I’ve already mentioned that the Hungarian way is to state a name in the reverse order of how I’m used to it, but I can’t stop thinking about it.


I’ll tell you why.  I noticed today that I’ve become so used to it that I don’t think about it.  When I hear a name, it doesn’t matter what order it’s in.  I hear the two names, and my brain processes them in whatever order it feels like.

The difficult part is how to address people.  Many people know that I come from a place of the opposite order, so they reverse their name before telling it to me.  It seems handy, but eventually I forget who has put which name where.  It just adds to the confusion.

“Hello Last Name,” I say, “Wait, no, First Name.  Or Last Name.  Or…  First Name Last Name, or Last Name First Name.  Hello.”

I’ve noticed that Hungarians commonly introduce themselves with their full name.  Maybe it’s just the situations that I’ve been in, but I come from a place where both names are typically only used in formal occasions.

The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t take it personally if I call you by your last name.  I’m not trying to act like an army officer or a football coach, I’m just confused.

It happens a lot – confusion that is.  It comes with the territory.


Hungarian word of the day:


Pronounced Nave (like Navy without the Y).  It means “name”.  First name or last name?  Don’t push your luck, I only know that it means name.  You have to start somewhere.