Architect with 'Missing You' name goes from burden to boon

By Ngoc Ngan   January 21, 2024 | 05:00 pm PT
Nguyen Nho Em (“Nho Em” means “missing you”), doesn’t even respond when he hears someone calling his name on the street.

That’s because his name Nho Em, which means "I miss you," is such a common phrase among lovers that he’s tired of turning around only to see a couple saying hello or goodbye to each other.

The 30-year-old director of an architectural company in District 10 said he has always had issues with his name, and it’s caused him some hardships in life.

When Nho Em appeared on a TV show about LGBTQ lifestyles a week ago, a clip of his segment posted on social media garnered over 2,000 comments related to his name.

Many were inquiries about the veracity of the name he used on the show (which is in fact his legal name), and some people even direct-messaged him to ask about it.

Nguyen Nho Em is the youngest of three children from a Mekong Delta family in Ca Mau Province, the southernmost point of Vietnam.

His father is a veteran who fought on Mekong Delta battlefield during Vietnam War. When the war ended, he wanted to honor his fallen comrades. So named his children Nguyen Nho, Nguyen Nho Anh, and the youngest son Nguyen Nho Em, combining them into the phrase Nho – Anh – Em, meaning "Remembering my comrades."

Such lyrical naming of one’s children to create poetic meaning is not uncommon some more rural parts of the delta. However, those who don’t’ know the specific story of father and children being told in these particular names often mistakenly think names like Nho Anh – Nho Em refer to the common phrase used in romantic relationships.

Nguyen Nho Em at his company office in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo provided by Em.

Nguyen Nho Em at his company office in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo courtesy of Em

When he was growing up, Nho Em was a shy student due to constant harassment from his peers. When his name was called during roll call, in front of whole classes and sometimes in front of whole schools, everybody would roar in laughter, leaving him humiliated each time.

However, due to his name, he was also frequently picked by his teachers to answer questions, which motivated him to always study and become the top student in his class.

After high school graduation, Nho Em was accepted to the prestigious University of Architecture Ho Chi Minh City, and he then graduated with excellence.

But the trauma of being laughed at because of his name still deterred him from social interactions and group activities.

"I was unhappy that my name is not normal," Nho Em told VnExpress.

Nho Em said he only used his real name when necessary, like at a hospital or during administrative processes. He used to introduce himself as Hoang upon meeting someone new. He thought about legally changing his name, but hesitated in consideration of his father’s feelings.

However, 5 years ago, his insecurity was resolved when he got a new job at an architecture firm. Everyone was kind and friendly with him about his name. Upon learning his real name through legal contracts and banking transactions, his business partners expressed interest in learning the meaning behind it.

"I realized my name would not be a burden if I’m good at the things that I do," Nho Em said. "Moreover, this name also conveys my father's feelings and memories."

His siblings always try to make their father proud as well. Nguyen Nho, 36 years old, runs his own company in the seafood industry and Nguyen Nho Anh, 34 years old, is involved in successful businesses.

During the TV program in which Nho Anh revealed his sexual orientation, he received conflicting feedback regarding his name.

Some people still think that by giving their children a peculiar name, the parents are setting them up for hardship in life.

However, Nho Em has responded to such comments by defending his father. "I'm proud of my name," he now says.

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