Tag Archives: family

To dash or not to dash

International family law can be complicated. When couples join up across borders cultures, norms and bureaucracy can get tangled up in the process. Some of it can be enlightening and charming but sometimes it’s just frustrating. This is a case of the latter where two countries with equally bureaucratic systems butt heads.

We got married this spring in Malta and wanted to change our name in the process. We figured there might be a bit of bureaucracy involved but figured we could work it out.

We wanted to join our two surnames so both of us would be called “Fenech Andersen”, so we could have the same name and Ann could have the same identity in Denmark and in Malta.

We got married in Malta where the husband doesn’t change his name. So after our marriage Michael kept his name and Ann changed hers to “Fenech Andersen”.

After arriving back in Denmark, Michael went and changed his surname to “Fenech-Andersen”. In Denmark you can change your name to a lot of things but you cannot have two surnames (a double name) without them being joined by a dash. Unless you are Spanish – or from a Spanish speaking country – then you can…

Although people often think Malta is a Spanish speaking country it is not. So when Ann came back to Denmark she went to the kommune to ask to have her new name registered. They sent her to the church (because in Sønderjylland the church handles all name changes (when they are not done within 3 months of the marriage)). The church disagreed and tried to send her back to the kommune but we ended up back at the church. At the end of that loop de loop we got the verdict that Denmark would not recognize Ann’s new double surname from Malta. Had she been double surnamed when she moved here it might have been a different story.

So Denmark has spoken: it had to be the dash. So now she is changing her name in Denmark to “Fenech-Andersen”. We contacted the embassy to hear if a name change made to a Maltese citizen in Denmark would be recognised and they came back and said a name change will be recognised but, no – in Malta you cannot have a dash in your last name.

Maybe it’s not a big deal – it is after all just a dash. But still it’s a strange realisation that Ann in essence will end up having two identities. In Malta, in her passport and when she books flights she will be Ann Fenech Andersen. In Denmark, on her health insurance card, at her bank and to her colleagues her name is Ann Fenech-Andersen. Her two “home” countries has diverging naming laws that can’t agree whether to dash or not.

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Talks at the library

Both of us are fairly regular library users and one of the first things Ann does when she arrives in a new city is to acquire a library card. Sonderborg was no exception and the staff here were really friendly and helpful so we both had access the second day we were in town.

Sønderborg Bibliotek

So far we have used the library to borrow books, DVDs and CDs, get internet (when our own failed) and then I have gone to two public talks. I haven’t really does this before but since I’m trying to stay on top of what’s going on in Sonderborg for this blog I’ve kept an eye on the library’s calendar and there are loads of really interesting topics.

Nikolaj Witte i Sønderborg om "Kina og jagten på udødeligheden"

First I went to a talk by Nikolaj Witte who presented “China and the search for immortality” about the religions and customs of China. A very inspiring talk and with Nikolaj’s background in philosophy we got a nice introduction to understanding the very different mentality and culture of China. This talk was part of the municipality’s week long celebrations of the Chinese New Year and I think that was why the event was free.

The second talk I went to was with Anders Høeg Nissen, one of the presenter of a weekly radio show about technology, robots and lasers. I’ve been a casual listener of the radio show since high school back in the late 90s so it was fun to put a face to the voice. Anders talked about trends in technology in general and some gadgets specifically. Most of the topics I had heard about in the show or read about elsewhere but still, it was good to take a step back and consider what these advances in technology mean for us in the bigger picture.

Signs, upcoming

Often topics are covered in themes so there will be series of talks about Iceland or this winter there are a lot of talks about WW1. All the talks I have read about has been by Danes and in Danish so you have to be able to comprehend spoken Danish to get something out of these talks. The prices are from free to 50/80DKK per talk, sometimes with discounts for students.

While we were living in London libraries were closing all around us. In our borough 6 out of 12 libraries got shut down during 2011. If you want to keep our library around you need to use it 🙂