Whether to change or keep your name is a decision all women who want to get married have to make. Nowadays, in most countries (and certainly in Western European ones), all solutions are possible, including keeping the maiden name, taking the man's name, or having a double, or hyphenated name. But what if you’re marrying somebody from another culture?
Some fear that they will lose their national identity when changing their name. They feel that their name is the only thing that reminds them of their nationality, and this is especially the case when they already live in a different country and speak a different language.
Others, however, want to take their husband’s name…but can’t. The reason is simple. In some cultures, women have a female form of their surnames. This is the case with Polish. For example, if a man is called Kowalski, his wife and his daughter will be called Kowalska. It’s because the name is treated like an adjective, and the ending is adapted accordingly, like you would do in French (like for example petit and petite). In Polish, this only happens to names which end with –cki, or –ski in the masculine form, and the feminine form would be –ska or-cka.
In other countries, this is more complicated, because all female names have this ending. In Slovakia, I was very surprised to see Cindy Crawfordova or Julia Robertsova on the magazine covers. But let’s say, a Polish woman wants to get married in Germany to a Polish man called Kowalski. The authorities wouldn’t allow her to have the name “Kowalska” because technically, it’s not the same name. Also, Western cultures seem to understand this practice as a sign of women’s oppression: she is either seen somebody’s daughter or somebody’s wife. This is not the case. Seeing a woman called Kowalski might not only seem grammatically wrong to Polish people, but you could argue that she now has to take the man’s identity together with his name. And even though she might decide to do this, and be called Kowalski, she should be given a choice how she wants to be called, together with the appropriate feminine ending.
Some couples face more complicated problems. For example, while in Poland they allow for non-Polish spellings of names, in some other countries all names have to be changed to match the country’s spelling rules. This is the case in Latvia. My friend Ilze is Latvian, and even though she wanted to take her husband’s name, she faced the two problems mentioned above. For example, if she changed her name, she would have to get a new passport. In Latvia, however, her new name would have to be spelled accordingly to Latvian spelling rules (and rendered in the correct feminine form), and then the name in her passport wouldn’t match her husband’s- technically, of course).Then, they could have considered Daniel taking her name, except he would have to take the feminine form of the surname, so it would be seen as the same name in Germany. So, Ilze decided to keep her maiden name.
I took my husband’s last name. I didn’t think that my name is all left of my Polish identity, and I didn’t feel like losing anything when changing my name. It just went with the practical reason: I wanted the whole family, together with the children, to have the same name. But it was my choice and I could make it. I wish everybody could have that choice, and could keep their names or take their husband’s name with the correct grammatical form if they so desired.
What about you? Did you keep your maiden name or did you take your husband's name? Or maybe you went with both?