I was watching “Cops” once and they nabbed this kid stealing bikes. The kid gave the name “John Smith” and the cop was like, “Don’t you think its a bit weird that you happen to have to give me the most generic and common male name the the western world?”
The kid said, “No its actually super likely.”
When I arrived for basic training in the Canadian Army many years ago, the first thing they did in our barracks was line us all up and have us sign some documents. Every time someone stepped up to the table, the Sergeant in charge would say “Just put your John Henry here” and point to the signature line at the bottom of the page.
One steps up, the Sergeant delivers his line, and the guy signs “John Henry”. The Sergeant blows up on him, figuring he’s found a wise ass – until the stunned recruit says, “no, my name actually is John Henry” and shows him his driver’s license.
Jan is Polish for John, kowal means blacksmith, and “-ski” is just a generic suffix for surnames, so Jan Kowalski literally means John Smith. Jan Kowalski.
Ivan Kuznetsov is John Smith in Russian, and just about as common.
“Ivan Kovačević”: Ivan is the Croatian John and Kovač means blacksmith and both Ivan and Kovačević are some of the most common names and surnames here, we can also include Kovač and Kovačić as surnames here. I guess there were many blacksmiths or something before everywhere haha.
Nguyen is the most common Vietnamese name.
There was a San Francisco based band called the Nguyens. They were a cover band that played all Smiths songs.
Every single person in my neighborhood who is Indian has the last name Patel.
Juan Perez, Jose Lopez… You can find TONS of Rodriguez, Gonzalez and so on as well
In Brazil it’s José da Silva. Maria da Silva is the female version.
Because these names are so common, no one is named simply José or Maria in Brazil, there’s always a second name attached to it. Like José Luiz da Silva or Maria de Fátima da Silva.
Any name + Jones
I don’t know if it is, but when I was in Portgual I met at least 10 guys named Joao Ferreira.
Pekka Virtanen on Finland.
Taro Yamada or Ichiro Tanaka.
Male: Giannis/Giorgos/Dimitris/Kostas Papadopoulos
Female: Eleni/Maria Papadopoulou
For anyone wondering, Giannis = John, Giorgos = George, Dimitris = Jimmy, Eleni = Helen and Maria = Mary.
Jānis Kalniņš/Liepiņš/Bērziņš in Latvia. Basically ‘Jānis’ is an equivalent to ‘John’. Most common surnames are names of something you can see in nature, for example, Liepiņš (linden tree).
Andrei and Ana
When I was living in Beijing, my fiance ordered a wedding dress from an online dressmaker on Alibaba. A few weeks past when it was supposed to arrive, we got worried. We online chatted and then called the dressmaker, who confirmed it had been sent and gave us a DHL tracking number. We logged onto the site to check the shipping updates.
Turns out, they had transposed our unit number and our street number. And somebody had signed for it at this other address.
Not a big deal – but it was late at night, so I wandered over to the address to see if I recognized the house the wedding dress was shipped to. Oh and it was signed for by someone named 张三 (Zhang San). 张, is a common last name. And 三 (san), just means three, but I figured it could be a name or nickname.
The address was associated with two businesses, one of which I was familiar and another of which I had never been: 1: A dumpling shop which I went to often 2: A barbershop – which was basically a whore house, which I hadn’t frequented.
The next morning, I wandered over, ordered some dumplings and then asked if anyone was named 张三 there or if a package had arrived. My Chinese isn’t great, but I was able to tell them it was a wedding dress and it was really important. They laughed and told me they hadn’t seen anything, but they suggested I try “the chicken coop” next door.
I walked into the barber shop and asked them if anyone named 张三 lived there and if a package had arrived. They said no. I asked if anyone named 张 lived there, “no”. By then, a bunch of “employees” had gathered, snickering. Then I told them it was a wedding dress and it was really important. They all laughed and the matriarch told me that they had no use for wedding dresses.
I then realized that an entire apartment block next door had the same address, so I knocked on doors and asked around. Again, laughter or nothing.
Disheartened, I stopped by the office of my building to ask the superintendent if he had seen or signed for it. He said of course and handed me the package. I noticed that his name was not 张三 and told him I spent all day looking for 张三. He laughed and laughed and called in some other maintenance staff and told me to repeat it to them. “I looked all day and couldn’t find 张三”. More laughter.
And that is how this all ties into the question.
TLDR: 张三 (Zhang San) is John Doe / John Smith in Mainland China. And I made an ass of myself looking around for 张三 at dumpling shops, whorehouses and apartment compleses all day.
Aram Hakobyan is pretty popular in Armenia.
Moseh Cohen (משה כהן), Moseh Levi (משה לוי)
27. South Korea
About 20% of all South Koreans have the surname “Kim”.
For comparison “Smith” is a hair under 1% for America.