How to Choose the Best Name for Your International Child

June 05, 2013 By Catriona Black 3 Comments

Are you searching to find a name that works both in Dutch and English? Never fear, the Mamas are to the rescue! Check out our essential list of names that are easy to pronounce for both Dutch and English speakers, and some names to avoid! Let us help you work out how to choose the best name for your international child.

When we named our baby “Calum”, we were keeping it simple. There were so many Calums (or Callums) in every Scottish playpark, that to shout his name meant 10 little heads looking up expectantly. It was almost embarrassingly common, but even before he was born, we couldn’t imagine him with any other name.

Who knew that four years later, we would pack up our bags and head to the Netherlands, where suddenly our wee man would have the most exotic name in the class? And for some reason (which has no apparent connection with Dutch spelling rules), everybody would henceforth call him Caylem.

We’re not alone. “My son Angus gets called ‘Ungoose’”, says one Amsterdam Mama, “which drives me nuts, but I wouldn't change it for the world.”

Many ostensibly simple names turn out to be cross-cultural headaches, like Lara, which is pronounced more like Laura here, according to one mother. “I started off pretentiously saying ‘like Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak’”, she says, “and now it's just ‘Yup, like Lara Croft...’” Deliberately choosing the name of a well-known celebrity is actually one way to improve your chances of pronunciation success.

However, if you or your kids’ name includes a prominent G, it’s best just not to move to the Netherlands at all. “I must confess we did ban Margot from our girls' names list,” says Margot, “because of its pronunciation in Dutch.” Margot doesn’t volunteer a written description of the sound, but another mama hits the mark with “Mar-rhfhghghhfh-o”.

And then there are the spelling issues. “Finlay gets his name written ending “-ey” on everything”, says another Scottish mother. “It seems Dutch people think I have just made a spelling mistake and are helpfully correcting it.”

There’s not a lot you can do about it if you move to the Netherlands unexpectedly after naming your children. But there are also parents who have taken great care to choose a name which would work cross-culturally, only to hit problems they’d never imagined.

“We picked Raina,” explains one mother, “as we thought it was easy for everyone. We thought it was simple and different, and impossible to get wrong. Until the nurse signed her out of the hospital when she was born as "Rihanna". We then spent days correcting the Kraamzorg and the consultatiebureau. Now at day care she gets called "Rhina" and every time I hear it I grind my teeth and chew the inside of my mouth.”

So, if you’re one of the lucky ones who haven’t picked a name yet, this list is for you. There’s nothing like the benefit of experience, and as mothers in and around Amsterdam, we can tell you what names work, and what names… don’t.

We have also thrown in some Dutch names we like, although many of these will, equally, suffer a mangling at the hands of English-speakers. “Jeroen has been called 'urine' so many times he just switches to Jerome when we're abroad”, says one despairing mother.

You can find the country’s top Dutch names here

And then there are the Dutch names we really don’t recommend, such as Fokje, Focko, Sikko, Joke, Freek, Floor and Ego. More on those here.

A note of caution about our survey – it’s entirely anecdotal, based on personal experiences, so there are inconsistencies – one mama finds Evan works no problem, while another is driven nuts by its pronunciation. But hopefully you’ll find plenty food for thought.

Or, you could just ignore the cross-cultural complications, and throw caution to the wind. As one wise mama says, “You never know where you will wind up, so choose what works for you and your family, and forget about the rest.”  

International Names That Work in the Netherlands

Adam "I'm American and my husband is Arabic and we chose two names that seem like they can go anywhere in the western world and Middle East: Sami and Adam. I'm very happy that they can travel anywhere and still have the same name!"
Alastair "My husband is Alastair, and most of his own (English) relations spell it wrong (Alistair). He says he's never had any problems with it over here."
Alex "We decided to go for safe names worldwide...so the first Alex has no problem so far. Sometimes he's called Alexander and I correct them, saying it's only Alex."
Alexander "A good international boys name is Alexander. It was my maiden name and wherever I travelled it was easy and rarely mispronounced."
Alexandra "Ours are Alexandra and Anna-Sofia, both easy to pronounce in Portuguese, Dutch and English. But the Dutch teachers at the creche insist in calling Anna-Sofia - Anne-Sophie. Go figure..."
Archie "They pronounce it fine, just lengthen it. I think they think it is funny. It gets lengthened to Archie Bunker by the older Dutchies we know, and this is a 1970 sit com character, then called Archie Parchie by younger Dutch."
Charlie "That is just Charlie with a slightly 'sharlie' sound at times."
Clara "We were conscious when selecting names and tried to pick 'international' names. They're Clara and Mia which seem to be easy and haven't been mispronounced yet."
Elisa "Elisa has never been a problem so far."
Emma "Can I throw in a VERY internationally unchallenged name? EMMA. Works great in ANY language, spelling; you cannot go wrong." "Emma is a fantastic, universal and lovely name."
Evan "Evan seems be working well here so far."
Gabriel "I find that the schools, etc. respect that I don't pronounce it the Dutch way with the cough-throat clearing 'G'."
Hannah "My daughter is an international Hannah (and the midwife said the final -h was "chic", haha)."
Harmony "Harmony is a pretty good international name - it's almost the same in many languages, and I haven't minded being called by the French and Spanish variants either. And it's the same pronunciation in Dutch - I just have to remind them to use the English spelling (not ie). The only place it wasn't great was when I was teaching English in Korea, especially the first year when I taught kids - Halmoni means grandmother in Korean - and it's also how my name is pronounced in the language - imagine going into a new classroom full of kids and saying "Hello, my name is Grandmother", especially when you're in your 20s! Teaching university it wasn't as bad because then they knew the English word and didn't make the connection as quickly."
Hayley "Since we realized how Dutch have difficulties with pronouncing our names, we picked 'easy' names that will be easy in all languages and not mistaken female/male. So, Hayley and Roy. Except for the spelling of Hayley - no problem."
Ines "We are safe with our daughter Ines."
Isabella "I'm originally Australian and my husband is Dutch and we have two girls. We'd thought this through a lot about the pronunciations....I also have Italian heritage so we wanted to try and bring that in somehow too - and ended up with Isabella. It's pronounced almost the same in English, Dutch and Italian."
Jacob "Picked one that works. Picking a name with a Dutch father and a kiwi mother was impossible. In the end father calls the son a different name to mother. Though the name I chose works in both countries. One of the few."
Kaya "No issues with Kaya at all."
Kimaya "Kimaya - no problems usually."
Leo "I picked Leo's name because it's easy to spell and easy to say. You can't mess up too much. Nice and short and most importantly international, at least in the western world. It's quite funny, when I was telling people the name we picked people from almost every culture said, oh you picked a traditional name from MY country."
Lola "My daughter's name is Lola, short and sweet. The pronunciation has held up well in all languages we've come across so far."
Luca "We have a Luca and no problems."
Lucas "If we'd had a boy, we were going to go with Lucas, pronounced fairly clearly in English, Dutch and Italian." "We went for names that could be pronounced in Swedish and English (and dutch) and fairly easy to spell since they will have to spell our their surname so we went for Lucas (with c) and Matilda (without the h)."
Maia "Our daughter Maia (often written Maya here though...) got lucky with a kind of international name."
Mia "We were conscious when selecting names and tried to pick 'international' names. They're Clara and Mia which seem to be easy and haven't been mispronounced yet."
Myra "Myra - no problems usually… it sometimes does get pronounced as M-e-e-r-a...but everyone tends to get it right most often!"
Natalie "We have a Natalie and no problems. I just chose to spell it without the h."
Nicolas/Nico "My boy is Nicolas but we call him Nico which, I've been told, is a very Dutch name. That said my Dutch neighbors have gotten in the habit of calling him Nic which drives me nuts. There's also a slight difference in how Nico is pronounced here and in the UK. Uk pronunciation kind of drives me nuts too but c'est la vie."
Oliver "We chose Oliver. No problem really. Sometimes he gets called Olivier, no problem with that since it is the same name just the Dutch version." "Our son's called Oliver and the Dutch are able to pronounce it correctly, even when shortened to Oli."
Pippi Marie "We tried to choose names that were not too different in English and Dutch. Daughter, Pippi Marie gets called Pip by everyone including us."
Poppy "Poppy gets pronounced as we do here."
Rafael "I chose, the indestructible in any language, say it however you like. Rafael. Rafi. Raf. Rafje. Dragon. And as from today he goes by his self appointed name. Fafa."
Rhona "When I told the nurse at the hospital what we were naming our daughter (Rhona), and how to spell it she said "met een 'h', wat chic". Still amuses me. No problems with pronunciation."
Riya "Our daughter is called Riya and the Dutch are able to say it perfectly as the letters in her name sound just like the letters from the Dutch alphabet She was born here in Holland and we choose an indo-western name for her."
Roy "Since we realized how Dutch have difficulties with pronouncing our names, we picked 'easy' names that will be easy in all languages and not mistaken female/male (you cannot imagine how many think I am Mr. Einat). So, Hayley and Roy. Except for the spelling of Hayley - no problem."
Sabrina "I asked the midwife while she was stitching me up how she would pronounce Sabrina. She pronounced it right and I was so happy, she totally would have had another name otherwise."
Sami "I'm American and my husband is Arabic and we chose two names that seem like they can go anywhere in the western world and Middle East: Sami and Adam. I'm very happy that they can travel anywhere and still have the same name!"
Scarlett "My daughter's name is Scarlett and it works here in Holland as well as the US, where my husband is from. People spell it with one T though."
Sebastian "Sebastian is easy in most languages."
Sophia "I'm originally Australian and my husband is Dutch and we have two girls. We'd thought this through a lot about the pronunciations....I also have Italian heritage so we wanted to try and bring that in somehow too - and ended up with Sophia. It's pronounced almost the same in English, Dutch and Italian."
Teàrlach "Good old Scots Gaelic but the Dutch are better at pronouncing it than the Scots!! !"
Tess "Our daughter Tess got lucky with a kind of international name."
Thomas/Tom "Thomas/ Tom gets pronounced as we do here. I have more of a problem at home in the UK with Thomas, he gets called Thomaaas with the West Country drawl!"
Una "Our daughter is Una which seems to work great in both languages. We figured that this spelling was much safer than the Oonagh version!"

Names With Issues

Addison "My son Addison is always pronounced "Edison". He even introduces himself to people with that pronunciation if they are Dutch. It doesn't bother me. Tommy Edison did some good things when he wasn't trying to sabotage Tesla."
Agata "My name is like Agatha Cristie but without "h" but they pronounce it with this terrible "gggggg" it drives me nuts!"
Aidan "My son Aidan was called Eden for a year and a half at Peuterspeelzaal. Apparently they thought we were trying to say Eden in the Dutch way, and wanted to show us they could pronounce like we do." "I insist that my kids names are said and spelt correctly. It makes me mental because the kids also started pronouncing their names differently. Aidan become Iidan and they spell it Aiden. I once had an argument with a teacher in his school who put it spelt with an 'e' on his coat rack & table. I asked her to change it, she told me it didn't matter. I told her it bloody did! She refused so I made new labels and put then on... that made her really mad "because the labels weren't the same". So she has respect for labels and not peoples names. Anyway, I have lots of conversations about this in my house. I insist my kids don't change how they pronounce their names and they in turn ask people to pronounce their names the correct way."
Ailsa "The Dutch variations on my name are endless which is why I tried to avoid complicated (to Dutch people) vowel combinations in my kids' names. I always correct Dutch people who try to call me Ails. It's only 1 more letter for goodness sake! They do love their single syllables. My kids get Han and Bro, which they don't seem to mind."
Aljosa "My sons name is Aljosa. It's a real tongue twister. He decided on a nickname Ali. Works much better."
Amelia "if you go with Amelia, everyone here will call here Amalia or A-may-lia .. The English pronunciation of A-mee-lia is just too difficult. Amilia would fix the pronunciation issue."
Amelie "I get a bit angry when our Amelie gets called Emily (also pretty but a completely different name!)"
Anabel "After a lifetime of people mis-spelling my name, I was determined that my daughters wouldn't suffer the same fate, so simplified the spelling of Anabel and Scarlet with no double letters anywhere. It was only later that I realized that Annabel (with double n) is more common in the Dutch language and she will have to fight the opposite battle (are you sure your name doesn't have a double N?). We thought we'd found names that would be pronounced in the same way everywhere but so far I've heard AN-NAbel (as if it had double N anyway), and Ana-BELL (emphasis on the second syllable). You can't win."
Angus "My son Angus gets called 'Ungoose' which drives me nuts but I wouldn't change it for the world."
Anjolina "My daughter's name is Anjolina (engoliena) but people call her Anjeliena or Anjelien. Very irritating, especially people at daycare who see her regularly."
Anna "I named my daughter Anna to avoid this issue. there's still a long A / short A problem." "Anna does ok (once we get past the "is it Anna or Anne?" queries)."
Annabelle "Annabelle is always pronounces 'Onnabel'!" "Annabelle does often get a funny accent to it! I'm used to it now."
Anna-Sofia "Ours are Alexandra and Anna-Sofia, both easy to pronounce in Portuguese, Dutch and English. But the Dutch teachers at the creche insist in calling Anna-Sofia - Anne-Sophie. Go figure.."
Anne "Anne is Fris boy's name btw."
Aodhan "My boy is Aodhan and they call him oidan... With an i!!!"
Aoibhinn "My girl is Aoibhinn and they call her Evien or Evelien."
Aoife "My daugjhter is Aoife.. EEFA.. And she gets Eve or Eva... Drives me mad." "Aoife gets Eva."
Ariana "We thought Ariana was simple to pronounce in the languages we use (Dutch, Spanish, English and French) but sometimes she becomes Ariane or Adriana. If that happens, I'm there to correct it over and over."
Ashleigh "Just don't call your kid Ashleigh. My name gets changed to Arse-ley."
Ava "I know a girl called Ava and the Dutch have huge problems with this..."
Brody "We chose a Scottish name that would be pronounced the same in both languages: Brody. Turns out with the Dutch r and the Scottish r it's not quite the same but close enough."
Cal "My son's name is Cal, and the Dutch find the English/US 'A' pretty hard. He's Cul, Kyle or Carl.."
Calum "Calum (totally bog-standard in Scotland) gets called Cay-lem."
Cameron "They pronounce the errr in my sons name, Camerrron. Although it is spelt Cameron, we would pronounce it camron. Does that make sense?"
Caoimhe "NO ONE can even pronounce Caoimhe!!! I get what a pretty name........how do you say it??"
Cato "My husband is Cato which is a girls name here..."
Catriona "My name has always caused problems and it gets the exact same ones here - over-pronunciation of the "o" bit when it's really pretty-much silent."
Cian "We chose Cian because we thought that would work here, but turns out dutch say seejan..."
Clara "My daughter's name is Clara, pronounced Claire-eh in the US, but here it is Klah-rah. When we meet new (Dutch) people, she introduces herself with the Dutch pronunciation. I asked her once why she did that, and she said, 'In Dutch my name is Klah-rah, but in English it is Clara. They just don't speak English is all.' It cracks me up. She sees it as a translation of her name into Dutch instead of them mispronouncing it."
Clelia "We are Italian and German and thought to give our daughter an Italian name that will work well for a German, too (and we thought for a Dutch as well). The name is Clelia - easy because Italian and German read it in the same way. No one blinks in Italy about it (it is a very old name but not strange or anything), in Germany they pronounce it perfectly, even if we get asked where we got the name from. And here? well, here I heard, Cylia, Clylaya, Clylya....and do not let me start with my name....but I won't change my daughter's name. It fits her perfectly."
Cohen "My daughter's first name is Cohen which is consistently pronounced as two distinct syllables by dutchies. Still, plenty of english speakers have misheard it as 'colon' (yep, I named my kid colon but only because 'anus' was taken, sigh)."
Craig "Just don't call your boys Craig as they shall say & spell graig ha!"
Daniel "We have a spelling issue rather than a pronunciation issue. Ok, we picked Daniel because we felt it would work in just about any language (also a family name), I can live with the pronunciation dan-ee-ell instead of dan-yell. What does drive me nuts though is at daycare every label with his name on is spelt Daniël with two dots over the e. I have corrected it so many times and still all his paperwork, daycare documentation, everything has superfluous dots. I totally did not foresee that one!"
Deirdre "My own first name is Gaelic and often not correctly pronounced or spelled."
Donchadh "Donchadh get donuch or Donout."
Edith "My daughter's middle name was never going to be upgraded to first name because I knew that would be a problem: Edith = Eedit."
Eric "I thought that our Eric will have no problems here, but no, they can pronounce it but not write it. It is always Erik and we always have to add "Eric with c"." "Took me a while in a conversation about "earache" to discover the topic was Eric ...."
Ethan "Big E's name was spelled "Itin" by the Dutch lady at the library, pronounced "Ee-fan" by Opa, pronounced "Eat-ing" by most of our neighbours."
Euan "Iona and Euan were possibly the worst names for two children being brought up in NL. Iona has become EEEE-ona or Jona and Euan is EEEE-UWaaaaan. Their names cause confusion everywhere we go. And dont get me started on spelling them in Dutch - aaarrggghhh..."
Evan "Evan is always pronounced Eeeeeevan. Kinda like Wall-Eeeeeeee and Eeeeeeeeve. Drives me nuts."
Ewan "My husband has Scottish origins...and if Scarlett had to be a boy she would be EWAN... we both love it, but we were so thinking...are we putting him into a life where he needs to spell out every single time and repeat at least 1000 times? Glad it was a girl! "
Ewoud "My husband's name is Ewoud, old school Dutch name pronounced Ayvowd. For some reason my family (northern English) think there is an L in there somewhere, so it's Evold, Ayvold, and my nanna has been known to call him Ewok..."
Felia "Was sitting in the verloskundigen waiting room looking at all the name cards, wondering what to call our daughter, when I saw a card saying Felia. My husband explained it was from Ophelia, which I thought was really nice, until I realised how Felia is pronounced in Dutch, and what that would mean in English."
Finlay "Finlay gets his name written ending ey on everything - it seems Dutch people think I have just made a spelling mistake and are helpfully correcting it."
Francoise "I have had Franswaase or Franswas. So even though I tried to find some common ground, I did not find a name I liked so these were the names we chose. My parents chose my name when we were living in South America and although they had trouble saying it, people could never come up with anything different."
Gage "My nephew came to visit last summer and his name is Gage. We went to Starbucks and nearly keeled over laughing when they called him to pick up his order. That is one name that does NOT translate well to Dutch!"
Germana "No words about my name Germana. You can image the strong pronunciation about the G (ghhhhhhhh)???? For many people I'm hermana (Spanish) and for others GHHHHH-ermana."
Giulia "Giulia's name gets pronounced "Iulia" at a point that even her was saying it like that. So I told her to correct / show her teacher at nursery the right pronunciation (which she did). End of story."
Ian "For our third boy, we went with Ian figuring it is purely an English name so they can't mess it up. But helaas, at the hospital, the way they write capital I's and capital J's look the same so they thought his name was Jan. And most Dutch people seem to say something that sounds like "E-jan" they stretch out the name. So I guess you can't win."
Imogen "My daughter is Imogen... I hate the way they say im-oh-gheeen... Bah! At least at daycare they've been practicing." "My name gets mangled by most countries except England."
Iona "Iona and Euan were possibly the worst names for two children being brought up in NL. Iona has become EEEE-ona or Jona and Euan is EEEE-UWaaaaan. Their names cause confusion everywhere we go. And dont get me started on spelling them in Dutch - aaarrggghhh..."
Isabela "My daughter, Isabela (yes with one L because two LLs doesn't exist in Portuguese), the Dutch ask me how to say her name, and even though I told them to say it as if it's Isabella, they say Isabel and Isabayla."
Ivo "My husband is Ivo, and it gets butchered in English. If they've seen it written first they call him eye-vo, if they've heard it first and then try to spell it, they write it Evo."
Jack "My eldest Jack came home and told me his name in Dutch is Jekk, with a real guttural 'kk' on the end, he corrected me until i got it exactly right! I love how he feels he has a Dutch identity!" "My in-laws call my son Jack, Yack. Sigh."
Jakub "We are both Slovaks and named our son Jakub, which is a Slovak version of Jacob. Dutch or non-Dutch, nobody gets it right."
Jax "My son's name is Jax and I have to tell people (ok, dutchies) how to pronounce it. They say something like Yax. I love his name and don't regret it at all. To me, he's a Jax."
Jeroen "Jeroen has been called 'urine' so many times he just switches to Jerome when we're abroad."
Joachim "Joachim is impossible for English speakers."
Joanna "I get called Yo-Un a lot which drives me nuts but I try to ignore it."
Joaquim "And then you have my sons name, Joaquim, not easy for many. In NL they say 'yoakim' but it should be 'choakim'."
Jody "I named my son Jody but the dutch pronunciation is very bad (IODI). I have always to correct them sigh!"
Joost "My ex used to say 'my name is Joost as in "toast" but with a J'. And people would remember him as "toast-guy"."
Joy "A Dutch colleague named one of his daughter Joy, his own father (girl's grandfather) continues to call her 'Yoy'."
Kalle "Our son Kalle, a drama. Only scandinavians get it even close."
Karol "My boy is Karol but everybody mixes it with Karel pfff."
Keira "Our Kraamzorg spent the entire week mispronouncing all 3 of our kid's names . Keira was pronounced Kira, Killian was Gillian and Sheehan was some variation on Shane..."
Killian "Our Kraamzorg spent the entire week mispronouncing all 3 of our kid's names . Keira was pronounced Kira, Killian was Gillian and Sheehan was some variation on Shane..."
Krystian "My sons name is Krystian Arkadiusz, his second name even his Dutch father can't properly pronnounce..he actually liked it because in his way of pronouncing it sounds Latin..lol. I love the English pronunciation of Krystian (Christian) so I never correct anyone on it, but in Dutch the end bit can sound harsh like Kryst-y-aN ...never mind the spelling he will be spelling his name here his whole life probably, even in the hospital they wrote it "Christiaan" on his babybed label."
Lane "My son's name is Lane, and they have a HORRENDOUS time trying to pronounce his name. It cracks him up to see them fumble over such a seemingly basic name."
Lara "Lara = Laura here. I started off pretentiously saying "like Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak" and now it's just "Yup, like Lara Croft..." Now she's old enough to spell it to people, she has no hesitation in putting them right." "I'm half Brazilian, half Dutch, and my husband is Belgian, and we both have many international friends. So we really looked for a name that would be easily pronounced in all 3 languages (Dutch, Portuguese and English) and would fit right with his surname (Vindevogel). We chose Lara. It is pronounced slightly different in all 3 languages but I like all of them."
Layla "When we were trying to find a name we liked Layla for a girl but were told it was to close to the Dutch word lelijk (UGLY)."
Liam "Liam get called Lyam." "We picked Liam because we thought it would work well in both languages, but get Lyam a lot. My theory is that Dutch people overthink it - they know it's a name from an English-speaking place so they try to use what they think is the English i. Most people just need one correction - took my mother-in-law about a year though to stop calling him Lyam."
Lois "My daughter Lois has been pronounced quite differently to how I intended on quite a few occasions. I think it's because we don't use the two dots above the i. It comes out like loys quite often..."
Luke "We went for the name Luke. Figured that would be straight forward in both languages. Was disappointed when people started asking, "is it Luuk, or Luc?" which apparently have a different pronunciation - I can't hear the difference!"
Maebh "I threw caution to the wind and called my daugher Maebh. Wrote on the birth announcement that it rhymes with "wave" and know it will haunt me forever She will hate me for having to spell both her first, middle (Lorelei) and last name for the rest of her life just like I loathe the Dutch who can't be arsed to diphtong the "ae" or voice the 'bh'. Tough."
Mairead "My name always gets a giggle from Dutch boys between the ages of 6 and 40... As it sounds when pronounced in Dutch like my ass… But I have met or heard of more Maireads here than I ever knew in Ireland.."
Mairtin "Although it has a Gaelic spelling, I often think it was a lucky break we called our kid Mairtin."
Maja "Maja is pronounced Maja though most often spelled Maya by other parents."
Margot "I must confess we did ban Margot from our girls' names list because of its pronunciation in Dutch! [Another mama volunteers the pronunciation: mar-rhfhghghhfh-o]"
Matilda "We went for names that could be pronounced in Swedish and English (and dutch) and fairly easy to spell since they will have to spell our their surname so we went for Lucas (with c) and Matilda (without the h)."
Max "Max is pronounced 'Mox' which is ironic as we chose the name partly because it was the ONLY name, or so we thought, that my husband (Dutch) and I pronounced the same."
Milo "I have a Milo which gets a lot of, oh you mean Mee-Low... but his teachers etc ar very good at trying to pronounce it properly."
Molly "I wanted to call Caitlyn "Molly" but was politely informed by Dutch relatives its very close to the Dutch word for chubby."
Octavia "Our daughter's name Octavia ("octayvia") is always pronounced "octarvia" in Amsterdam."
Olga "To my Dutch friends I am Olga, with the phleghm-in-throat-G, but to my international friends I am Ollie. THEY pronounce my name Ol-kha, that puts ME right off. Little did I know at the time that in English, Ollie is the MALE abbreviation for Oliver, so.... Help!!!!"
Ollie "My Ollie (Oliver) is called Olie, like oil, here. When I pronounce it like American "Ollie" (very popular nickname in the early and mid 20th century), they think it's spelled Ali, like Ali Baba. Also the teachers always write "Olly" on his art instead of 'Ollie.'"
Paulina "I'm always called Paulien or Pauline, my mother in law called me the latter for 5 long years.."
Penelope "My daughter's middle name is Penelope and you should see people try to tackle that one."
Quinten "We've spent a lot of time choosing names. So that they'll be pronounceable for English and Dutch speakers alike. We've done the same for this bump due in a few months. I would have loved to use Quinten/Quinn ... but Kvinten/Kvinn just doesn't do it for me."
Raina "We picked Raina as we thought it was easy for everyone. We thought it was simple and different, and impossible to get wrong. Until the nurse signed her out of the hospital when she was born as "Rihanna". We then spent days correcting the Kraamzorg and the consultatiebureau. Now at day care she gets called "Rhina" and every time I hear it I grind my teeth and chew the inside of my mouth."
Romain "OMG these Dutch can't pronounce the (French) name of our son Romain whom they called "Romine" when he's lucky (we did kind of expect it and we are/he is used to it by now; even his older sister calls him differently when she switches to Dutch!)"
Rosalie "With the second girl, the twist was given to the Dutch side and I named our daughter Rosalie. Too bad the Dutch here stress the "Ro" instead of the "lie", then her name sounds too weird to me."
Ruth "We were gonna call her Ruth, but then went to a church service where the pastor (Dutch) pronouced it "Rut" and I was like Rut Roets is a terrible name!" "I get called Rutt by the Dutch."
Saoirse "We took the road less traveled.....I am American and my husband is dutch we chose an Irish name and decided to go for the original Gaelic spelling. Our daughters name is Saoirse (pronounced seer-sha) which means freedom. We decided to go for a name NO one can pronounce or write but a name we loved! Family and friends have mastered it and little kids do really well with it but it remains to be seen how it will all go down when she heads to peeuterspeelzal and school. YIKES! There are no regrets from our side but I do recall when she was born looking at my husband and asking "so we are really going to go with "the" name. She is a special little lady with a special name."
Sebastian "Dutch speakers pronounce Sebastian either in the French or Dutch ways, but never English."
Sheehan "Our Kraamzorg spent the entire week mispronouncing all 3 of our kid's names . Keira was pronounced Kira, Killian was Gillian and Sheehan was some variation on Shane..."
Simon "My husband is Simon, mostly the Dutch call him Simon, but some call him See-mon."
Sofia "We decided to choose a compound name that can work in both languages (Spanish and Dutch) but at the end we gave a slight twist. For my eldest daughter I chose a Mediterranean second name: Anna Sofia and everybody had problems here calling her by her name, they called her Sofie, Sophie, Sofia and Fia! It was magically fixed at the peuterspeelzaal, there the teacher called by her real name with no problems, the children at school do not have any problems either. I only get nuts when her Dutch grandfather comes to visit and calls her Sophie and then my copycat husband starts calling her Anne Sophie." "We decided to give our daughter a simple name: Sofia. (I wanted the Spanish one with an í but knew that would be too confusing) She is 1 now and I still need to correct my MIL who keeps calling her Sofie!!!!!!! Or people shorten it to Soof, that makes me want to punch them in the face...hard...with my fist(s)!!!"
Stephanie "Stay-fan-knee, although when at the hospital the paediatrician came out with that version and then remembered I was English, so then added "or Stephanie"."
Steven "My son Steven....his name is pronounced Stefan. So I correct them right on the spot. I've been corrected so many times while trying to pronounce Dutch and Frisian (northern part of the Netherlands) names that I have just been 'Dutch' about it and correct them back. However, they don't really expect me to do it."
Tate "My son is Tate which is occasionally mispronounced as "Tata" but for the most part no problems! His first airline ticket was misspelled as Pâté so we tried to change it on the phone and when we went to fly, the airline thought we had twins Tate and Pâté! I hope there are more Tate's born in Amsterdam:-)"
Thijs "We also tried to go for names that were pronounced the same in both languages. Went for Thijs for the first boy, liked the name, figured it would be pronounced the same in English and it is, once you tell them how. Just really funny to see at passport control in the States when they look at his name and don't even try to say it."
Tom "My son Tom is consistently called Tum by Dutchies and it drives me demented! He was called after his Grandfather and I hate how it has been changed and whats worse he sometimes says it like that when asked by a Dutch kid or their parent."
Torin "With the Irish dad and last name, I pushed for Irish first names, at the same time, finding one that people could spell AND pronounce correctly proved more than difficult. Plus I wanted names for my child that have no relation to christianity, whatsover. I found "Torin", which my German sister pronounces "Torrin" (ugh) and the Dutch don't bother going for the English "r". I was laughing when some thought his name was Thorn, from that soap or, cooler, "Thorin Oakenshield" from The Hobbit."
Tristan "If you pronounce Tristan the English way, the Dutch assume the name is Christian. We've learned to pronounce it the Dutch way when we speak to a Dutch person now. In English the emphasis is pretty similar on both syllables, but in Dutch it's on the first syllable. Plus the rolled r (wish we had thought of that - I can't roll my r to save my life) and a longer vowel sound. Kinda like Triest-ahn."
Verena "What grinds my gears is the Dutch tendency to shorten (and thus butcher) ANY name to one (mostly the first) syllable, so 'Rogier' (row-gh-eer) turns to 'Roog', 'Saskia' to 'Sas', etc. So I cringe when people call me 'Veer' (rhyming with bear). Because the V gets rarely voiced , the short version turns my name into the Dutch equivalent of 'ferry', instead of 'weather'. Well, booooh! to that. And: Don't. Call. Me. 'Vereen'. Ugh. If you feel entitled to nickname me, why not use the one my family used since I was little? "Nena". Like the singer with the 99 red balloons."
Victor "Next will be Victor! Hope he never has to explain his name as I do here sometimes with name and surname."
Vikki "I love how I'm more often than not called 'Wikki' - always makes me giggle!"

Dutch Names We Like

"ke" diminutive names "I really like the 'ke' diminutive names because they sound so cute, like Maaike, Hanneke, Lienneke, which I believe actually are more influence of Belgian names, which are Flemmish versions of the French '-que' endings. We sometimes call ours Elleke just because it sounds so cute."
Annemijn  
Anouk  
Eef "I love Eef, it's so cute and simple."
Femke  
Lodewijk "The really old fashioned Dutch names are awesome. We were seriously considering Lodewijk had ours been a boy. Such a cool ancient name, very sing-songy in Dutch, and 'Lodi' is an cool nickname."
Madelief "I love the name Madelief - it means daisy and lief on its own means sweet."
Sander  
Saskia  
Sven "Not Dutch, but very common here."
Taco "I think the name Taco is adorable."
Tijs  
Willem  
Willem combos "I like the Willem combos - Wim-jan and Wim-Lex, for Willem-Alexander etc."


Catrìona Black is an artist, writer and film-maker. She makes original handmade prints under the name Black Prints, and writes and illustrates picture books. She has made several short Scottish Gaelic films for the BBC, and was Sunday Herald art critic until leaving Scotland for the Netherlands in 2011. She has also worked in politics and PR. You can see more of her work at her Etsy shop, on her website, and on her Facebook page.


photo credit: jason_one via photopin cc

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