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First Name / Second Name confusion

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AsiaOilDude View Drop Down
Legal Guru
Legal Guru


Joined: 17/February/2011
Location: Singapore
Posts: 2495
  Quote AsiaOilDude Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: First Name / Second Name confusion
    Posted: 27/January/2012 at 15:00
In Singaore - I am known legally on documents as SMITH, John Andrew (Surname, First Name, Second Name).

In Australia generally on legal documents I am known as John Andrew Smith.

My children (to add confusion) in Singapore are legally known as Mark Daniel Smith and Mia Joy Smith. (Names altered).

My wife of 5 years - a US citizen - is known in Singapore by Ruth Elizabeth DEAN. In the US it's the same.

When I was a kid growing up in PNG in the 60's I was known at school as SMITH, John.

It's incredibly confusing. Somewhere along the way the convention has changed. To add difficulties most Chinese prefer to be addressed by Family Name, First Name order on documents and verbally depending on your level of friendship by Family name only, or First name only.

Are there any legal implications apart from the possibility of confusion in identification? Did somewhere the convention in Commonwealth countries change?
Not legal advice. Personal opinion only. Seek legal advice from qualified personnel only.

khon View Drop Down
Senior Member
Senior Member


Joined: 18/August/2010
Location: Australia
Posts: 741
  Quote khon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27/January/2012 at 18:23
I don't think there is any legal implication as along as you fill in your surname, first name and second name correctly.

I have noticed that in the last years, all documents in Australia are following the path of having to fill in the surname and follows by the first name. Many years ago, most documents were on the first name and then surname. You are correct that in Australia, people are still known on the first name and follows by the surname, may be something to do with the culture and attitudes as Australians have a very relaxing and casual culture.

In most parts of Asia, as you are very familiar with. Unless it is a formal occasion, the person is addressed as sister, uncle, aunty even there is no relationship between the parties, just a sign of respect.

On the contrary, the British are very formal, they always address as Mr. Smith or Mrs. Smith. I love this bit, when I fly in the first class on BA, the crews must address you by Mr./ Mrs/Miss with surname,by the time they managed to pronounce my name properly, the plane was about to land.

As long as you remember your name and surname, don't worry about the confusion, they won't put you on a straight jacket.
Personal opinion only, should not take it as legal advice

boony View Drop Down
Senior Member
Senior Member


Joined: 15/April/2009
Location: Australia
Posts: 502
  Quote boony Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30/January/2012 at 13:59
I had a similar problem in Singapore. I made a transfer to my landlord and despite using the correct account number the transfer was rejected because I put his surname last (as per rental contract) while his bank account had his surname first.

Then there is the obligation to use every part of a name. Surname, first name, second name, third name, etc as required. I've always wondered how a member of European royalty would get by in Singapore. Most of them have the name of every ancestor in their name!

How do you write a cheque to those people?!!

AsiaOilDude View Drop Down
Legal Guru
Legal Guru


Joined: 17/February/2011
Location: Singapore
Posts: 2495
  Quote AsiaOilDude Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30/January/2012 at 14:58
Cheques in Singapore are routinely kicked back by banks for various irregularities (handwriting illegible, corrections, name not exactly correct). And yet, I never had a cheque issued to me correctly bounce in Singapore. That's because the banks are required, by law, to cancel the payees account on the third cheque they bounce as well as report the payee to the police = no bouncing cheques.
Not legal advice. Personal opinion only. Seek legal advice from qualified personnel only.

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