Vietnam Spandau, Berlin ?? years old
German order is the precision of only wishing someone happy birthday strictly after midnight or throwing your Christmas trees onto the streets no later than 20 January. In addition to such cultural nuances, the German order trickles down to something as personal as how you present yourself and write your name.
“I have German order,” Dat begins, an expression that seems to exemplify German language exactness. He’s a young entrepreneur and data scientist working in Kreuzberg, Berlin. “So the German order is Dat Duc Tran,” he continues, the reverse of what he calls his Vietnamese order, Tran Duc Dat.
Dat was born in Vietnam, but moved to Berlin with his family when he was four years old. According to Vietnamese naming traditions, the family name is presented and written first, then the middle name, then the first name––making a simple introduction in Germany, complicated.
Dat explains that dropping the Vietnamese order in lieu of the German one just makes things easier. “If I say my name is Tran Duc Dat, they always call me Tran,” Dat explains. “It’s not my name, right?”
We are sitting at his work desk in a loft space on the east side of the river Spree, a border that once divided East and West Berlin into Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg respectively. Now officially dubbed the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg borough, it’s become extremely trendy in Berlin––known for its clubs, international residents, food culture, building-high streetart murals and historical monuments such as the East Side Gallery and the Oberbaumbrücke. The loft space where Dat works is right in the centre of it all. It’s open, bright and communal, with his co-workers passing by frequently speaking both German and English.
“You have a lot of foreigners in this area, almost everyone speaks English,” Dat explains, a sharp contrast to where he lives in Spandau. He says that even if you go to a restaurant in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg that it’s likely that the waiter only speaks English. “This a totally different world. Especially if you think this is Berlin; this is Germany!”
Before Dat came to that totally different world, his Grandmother in Vietnam encouraged this transition by giving him his middle name, and subsequently the full meaning. Dat calls it a combination of a word pun.
He explains that Tran Dat or rather “Tang Dat” means success and that Duc, the name his Grandmother gave him, is the Vietnamese word for Germany––ultimately wishing him and his family success in Germany through his namesake. “But if you call everyone Duc, it doesn’t mean Germany or something like this. Everyone has a different meaning,” Dat explains referring to his unique name combination.
Vietnamese names are typically chosen from Vietnamese words with Chinese origins. When combined, the name is distinct from person to person because of the order, word and origin.