China Culture Shock #4: We Don’t Hire Boys

Welcome to my latest series: China Culture Shock!

Part of the reason I was interested in moving to China in the first place was to explore a culture completely different from my own. I wanted to experience “culture shock” and challenge myself. I’ve been living in China for almost two years now, and I’m still constantly experiencing things that shock me, or just don’t make sense. Here is a collection of my crazy stories and cultural insights as I explore this mystifying nation.

China Culture Shock

In America, almost all primary teachers are female. It’s not until you reach middle school or high school that a significant portion of teachers are male. It’s sexist (towards women and men who want to teach young children), but it’s common practice in the USA. I think it has something to do with the idea that women are more “motherly” to younger children.

Last year I taught English in a Chinese high school. I actually really enjoyed teaching older children, and the rapport I had with a lot of my students. This year there’s a new girl that’s teaching at the school (hi Daphne!). Since we live in the same city, sometimes we meet up and swap crazy teaching stories.

A few weeks ago Daphne and I were talking, and she told me the school mentioned they would never hire a foreign male teacher. When she asked why, they told her the girls would go crazy and wouldn’t be able to pay attention in class.

teach abroad China

Crazy girls!

Really? I went to an all-girls school so trust me, I know how “crazy” a group of girls can be towards a cute male teacher. But is that really reason not to hire a male teacher? Usually it’s the other way around. Female teachers in America need to worry about covering up and not being too “sexy” for their impressionable male students.

Last year my male (and female) students called me sexy all the time, which I reminded them was completely inappropriate, but it still didn’t stop them. The boys definitely weren’t little angels. One of them even said “sexyyy” as I walked in the room mimicking large boobs. But for some reason that’s okay?

Why is it that my old high school administration thinks that boys can control themselves but girls can’t? Boys can focus with a young, foreign female teacher, but the girls are somehow unable to do so? I really want to take one of my guy friends to the school just to see what happens. Will they swarm him like Justin Beiber fans?

What do you think? Is it fair to discriminate against male teachers in this way? 

Weekend Wanderlust



About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I've spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

7 comments on “China Culture Shock #4: We Don’t Hire Boys

  1. Definitely not fair, but I have learned from living and teaching in Korea that some things just aren’t fair, but thats the way they are! I have found that the girls here are definitely a little gaga over my boyfriend, always telling him how handsome he is. Not sure if it would be the same in China!

  2. Both my husband and I are English teachers at a high school in China–we know plenty of other male high school teachers so I’m guessing this is more a decision of this particular school or area than widespread throughout China, though that is an interesting problem to come across! I wonder if they once had a bad experience with a male teacher and now they extrapolated that into a policy? Both our male and female students often comment on how handsome my husband is, though the students tend to go a little more crazy over me (I often hear the “I love you! You are so beautiful!”) and my theory as to why I hear it more is because I’m Caucasian while my husband isn’t–he’s Mexican, and blends in a little better.
    Comments on your appearance are definitely a part of life here, which takes some getting used to. Thankfully, I’ve never heard “sexy”…my students are quite affectionate, but also rather respectful, considering that they are high school students!

    • I’m actually the first foreign teacher my school has ever had, so it must just be a decision they came up with based on how they feel about their own students. I didn’t know any guys teaching high school last year, but i did have one friend teaching middle school and another one teaching college, so I agree, it’s not super widespread. I also got the “I love you, you’re beautiful” comments as well. I just also had a bunch of rowdy boys who thought the word “sexy” was funny.

  3. I think it’s less fair to the girls than to foreign males who wish to teach! It sounds like they tolerate the bad behavior from males, but don’t even allow girls to make those same mistakes, just assume that they can’t control themselves and need more restrictions. True that it does seem to be a bit of reverse of the United States! That being said, we have a male friend teaching English in Thailand whose female students are definitely infatuated and our female friends don’t get the same reaction from the little boys!

    • I definitely agree. It’s like saying the girls can’t behave themselves and act like capable (almost) adults. There’s a professor at my university right now that has his own fan club but the girls still focus in class!

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