A few nights ago, I ate a delicious home-cooked meal at my colleague Darren’s apartment. But it wasn’t cooked by Darren, who like me can barely operate a toaster. The multicourse feast was prepared by three of Darren’s female students, who turned his kitchen into a four-star restaurant.
At our school, it isn’t unusual for students to socialize with their foreign teachers. They get together for dinner, parties, shopping and visits to tourist sites. Sometimes, they even go out drinking together.
I know one male teacher who let several female students take a shower in his apartment. Students at our university don’t have showers in their dorms, so they have to walk to another building for communal cleansing. When the female students asked their teacher if they could use his shower to get more privacy, he agreed. Obviously, neither the teacher nor the students thought it was improper.
Nobody here thinks twice about this kind of interaction, which would get a teacher fired at a U.S. university. Socializing with foreign teachers is considered a normal – and positive – part of the student’s educational experience.
Students love to hang out with their foreign teachers because it gives them a chance to practice their English and learn about Western culture. By the same token, teachers can practice their Mandarin and learn about Chinese culture.
Sometimes, of course, the relationships get too close. I’ve heard lots of stories about foreign teachers sleeping with students, and even a few about them marrying students. One teacher had so many classroom affairs that his colleagues joked he graded on a curve: the girls with the biggest breasts got the highest marks.
This is a far cry from most U.S. schools, where teachers are warned never to touch a student under any circumstance because even an innocent pat on the head could be misinterpreted. If American protocol was followed in China, many foreign teachers would be in jail.