Teaching English in Japan

Would You Date One of Your Students?

Every unmarried female ESL teacher who’s under 50 and teachers adults has been asked out by a student at least once. It’s inevitable.

It’s always awkward when this happens because due to the cultural and language barriers you’re never entirely sure how to interpret it.

Does “Do you want to go out for a drink with me?” mean…?

A. I want you to be my token (insert name of English speaking country) friend

B. I want to practice my English but don’t have the money for private lessons

C. I want to date you, you hot thing you

D. All of the above

I’ve always assumed that other teachers thought as I did, that it was unprofessional (adult students or not) to see a student outside of class, even if just on a ‘just friends’ basis.

But then I moved to Japanland, a country where “ESL class” appears to be synonymous with “Match-making Service” because I’ve met quite a few ESL teachers who’ve dated a student. One of my friends even married one!

And the same goes for Japanese language teachers as well.

Last week, during one of my Japanese lessons, the other student in my class casually asked my Japanese teacher out.

The dude had been heavily coming on to her, touching her hand and inquiring as to whether she was married or had a boyfriend. At one point, he even winked at her. But it still came as a surprise when he (in the middle of the class!) asked her to ‘go out to dinner’ with him. I just stared down at my text book in uncomfortable silence, feeling embarrassed for them both and wondering how’d she go about turning him down gently.

But then she smiled and gave him this wide-eyed look and said yes! I about fell off my chair.

Is it really that easy? Is this the latest in dating trends and I’ve been missing out?

It’ll be interesting to see what transpires. Next thing I know, they’ll probably be married and pregnant and I’ll have to find a new teacher.

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7 thoughts on “Would You Date One of Your Students?

  1. I will be back in Tokyo for two weeks in February and I’m looking forward to it, believe it or not, but this blog posting quickly reminded me of why I left.

    The student/teacher relationship in Japan is less professional than I think it should be. Regardless, I’m glad you found a job that you like and I’m glad you’re still blogging!

  2. I think your teacher’s Japanese passive-aggressiveness (very much a female specialty in their culture) wouldn’t allow her to reject her student outright in front of the class. It would have made him lose face. So she said yes.

    Sure, they could end up together, but even if she wasn’t interested, I don’t think it’s their style to outright reject anybody. Of course I haven’t lived there, so it’s just my take on things.

    Your classmate sounds like a moron, BTW. ūüôā

  3. >Is this the latest in dating trends and I've been missing out?

    Been here for a while, and as far as I know, it's how it's always been…

  4. I think Japan has a totally different climate to it in this regard, too. Like, it’s not illegal for teacher-student relationships to occur at high schools, y’know? Section 33 says something about teachers not behaving in unprofessional or shameful ways, and often these relationships are seen that way, but if they’re above the age of majority, then hey – fair game. And if their parents sign off on it, they can marry a teacher at 16, I think? Maybe 18.

    So… Totally different from North America in approach to those kind of things.

  5. I actually did come to Japan w/2 friends! It was still an adjustment, but much less so b/c I had 2 friends to rely on.
    In terms of teachers dating students…I have a story for you.
    In Nova aside from teaching students in the classroom we also taught students in something called the “the voice room” or “voice” for short. This was a room on the bottom floor of the building(seperate from the cubicles/classrooms) where you could have anywhere from 1-25 students who did not want an actual lesson but just wanted free talk. Anyways one time in voice I had only one male student. He was a little bit older than me(late 20’s) and he was going to be traveling to Europe soon for a few weeks. I told him that I’d been to Europe, so he asked me for my email in case he had any questions while he was there. I gave it to him and he emailed me a few times in Europe, then when he came back. He said he had a gift for me so could we meet up? I agreed and we decided to meet and play tennis. I had fun and he gave me about 1lb of good chocolate from all over Europe. At this point I figured we were just friends b/c he didn’t act even remotely flirtacious around me or give any sign that he wanted anything more than friendship (except the gift but everyone gives gifts in Japan so I didn’t think much of it). A few weeks later he called and asked if I’d like to meet him for dinner, so we ended up going out for Indian food. After dinner he asked if I wanted to drive to some bridge to take pictures at night b/c it had a great view. I was in no mood to go home yet so I said yes. We drove to the bridge then as we were driving home I spotted a building with large day-glow palm trees outside of it, as he pulled in the driveway I figured he was taking me to a casino or some sort of weird night time theme park, oh no it was a love hotel. I was in shock as I realized where we were. He parked in the front and was like “so, do you want to go in”? I said “no, please take me home”. Luckily he did but I was soo freaked out after that incident. I gave him no indication that I wanted to be anything but friends and neither did he to me. So to wrap up the story, that was my one and only encounter with a male student outside of the classroom.

  6. I think that the comment by Alsace was exactly right. She said yes in front of the class because she didn’t want to humiliate him (regardless of whether he would have actually been humiliated or not).

    Japanese people have a very, very, VERY hard time saying no. This is a fact that a lot of less scrupulous foreign people use to their advantage.

  7. I think that’s pretty cool, it also happens in Taiwan a lot. Why would anyone be upset about this is beyond my understanding. Sometimes you gotta take things lightly. Dating is something positive, so is learning a language. A combination of both seems delighttful to me.

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