Awkward Expat Moments

This is a little post about something I have noticed since moving to the United States that causes me great amusement and social discomfort all in one. It is something that I get a little shy about correcting and start to giggle uncontrollably – I should be more mature about it, but I am unable to!

My name is Molly – fairly uncomplicated and simple with most people knowing that it rhymes with dolly, brolly, lolly etc. No confusion thus far … however, there have been a few funny moments when I am introducing myself to someone new, and because of my accent, they mishear what I have said – cue me repeating myself and getting more and more embarrassed. I usually end up just going with whatever they think my name is to avoid the clumsy social interaction of me laughing out of my own awkwardness.

I have been called – and I have made up some of the spellings so you get the idea of how it is being pronounced – Mo-nay, Mow-lay, Mull-lay, Mowleen and Moo-hay (my personal favourite)!

awkward expat moments 2

I appreciate that English and American vowel sounds are different, and I know that it will slightly change how my name is pronounced, but the aforementioned attempts at figuring out what I am called bear no resemblance to what I am actually saying, and the conversation goes something like this:

Me: I’m Molly

Person: Mo-nay?

Me: (sounding it out) No, Moll-lee

Person: Mowleen?

Me: (starting to giggle) No, Moll-lee

Person: Mow-lay?

Me: (snorting) No, Moll-lee

Person: Moo-hay?

Me: (dying inside and wanting this awkward moment to end) … Yes

Have you ever experienced anything like this? How do you cope, or are you like me, and just blunder your way through moments like these? I would love to hear about them!


25 thoughts on “Awkward Expat Moments

  1. Elizabeth says:

    That can be really frustrating and funny at the same time! My boss has been spelling my name EliSabeth (when it is actually spelled with a z) for the past 4 or so months. It is like he can’t notice that I sign my name with a z. I finally went ahead and said something. So even an accent isn’t just the problem!


    • Molly @ The Move to America says:

      Well done you for saying something – I have not been able to do that yet as I have yet to get over the amused embarrassment! I will think of something to say to them to make it obvious how to pronounce my name … still thinking about what would work and not make the misunderstanding worse! Haha!


  2. jlhilleary says:

    Dear “Moohay,”
    As one who suffers through this on a daily basis (truly), I’ll tell you what has worked for me. .. mostly.

    Just last night we went to a housewarming (welcome to the neighborhood) for an online friend who moved about 50 miles from us. .. so no-one knew anyone. It was hilarious all the versions of “Jonelle” that I got!

    Most errors were based on my husband introducing us as a couple- Joe &Jonelle. My name was repeated back as Angela, or as Jill if I was lucky.

    To counter that I’ve found 2 things that seem to help.

    I find that if I make eye contact first, before I say my name, they either read my lips or pay better attention. Second, I give them a story- some humorous key to remember. You might say, “I’m Molly, it’s short for molybdenum, but most people think I was named after the drug. .. you know everyone’s party favorite? ”

    I say, “I’m Jonelle, like the perfume. .. you know, Chanel, Jonelle? ” (I used to have a colleague who always called me Jonelle #5 after that).

    Granted, the perfume is better known than the metal, but from my retired cop hubby, many more know the party Molly! It may work or at least make you the most interesting woman in the room! 😉


  3. Zeta says:

    Oh dear, that had me giggling. Usually, if I’m not going to be seeing the people I’m meeting all the time, I’ll usually just pretend my name is whatever they thought it was (Sarah, Data, Sadie, etc. 😛 ) I have a friend whose name is Jaleh. She keeps a photo record of all the different names people think she says (and write on her coffee cup, receipt, etc.). The others had some good suggestions–I only want to add–just enjoy getting a good chuckle out of it sometimes. It’s bound to happen, we might as well enjoy it!


  4. Susan says:

    That’s funny. I’m glad you can laugh at it and not be offended. Some people get offended if I don’t remember their name or remember meeting them previously (I am bad, if you see where this is going, lol). I don’t mean anything by it. I once called a woman I worked with (who later became a friend) Kat for months when her name was Pat. I heard it wrong when we first met, and we laughed about it later. Nice post, Susan


  5. Dana Newman says:

    I never considered this, but now that you mention it, I can see how it could pose a problem! I’m an American and my name is Dana, but it’s not pronounced as most people think. My heritage is Czech, so my name is said like “Done-a.” I spent my whole life correcting people in America, and I thought that when I moved to the Czech Republic people would finally say it right, but they don’t! They think “Oh, she’s American–I’m going to be smart and pronounce her name the ‘right way.'” And so then they call me Day-na, and I have to correct them too!!! haha oh well, keeps things interesting 😀


  6. Mary says:

    Hahahaha love this! I’m glad that the embarrassment was embellished with a bit of humour so that it was more tolerable. Something like that has never to me…but one of my first memories in America was when my 3rd grade peer at the time found I was born in Africa and asked if I rode on the back of cheetahs. *facepalm*


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