Sometimes working as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at a Japanese public school can be incredibly fulfilling. Most days though, it can be downright weird. This is especially true for female ALTs.
After sampling a pool of 63 female ALTs across Japan, here are seven of the most common weird questions they’ve been asked on the job.
1. Will you marry me?
This particular question is often asked by middle school and high school students. Chalk it up to those budding hormones, but many female ALTs said they’ve received melodramatic marriage proposals from male and female students alike. One ALT told us that some of her students have used these proposals to get out of boring responsibilities like cleaning time.
As an ALT, I think teenagers love to make these proposals because they feel comfortable around the foreigner occupying that strange position of being a “teacher” who isn’t really a teacher. If you’ve ever been an ALT in Japan who’s been reduced to a human tape recorder, you know what I mean. This question is usually harmless and just for laughs.
2. Do you have kids?
Several ALTs recounted stories of their elementary school students running up to them, rubbing their tummies and asking, “Akachan iru” which translates to “Is there a baby in there?”
Simply answering no doesn’t let the ALT off the hook either. It instead opens up the floodgates for overly personal follow-up questions to determine why her womb is unoccupied.
Why do they ask this? Younger students may still be in the mindset that all women must be mommies charged with taking care of them at home and at school. The Japanese teachers may ask because they’re just nosy or curious why a fertile woman would choose to work rather than make babies.
Because, you know, a woman’s worth lies solely in her ability as a baby maker.
3. Do you have a boyfriend?
This question is usually accompanied by such hits as, “What’s your type” and “Do you like Japanese men?”
If the ALT says she’s single, the students and teachers have a field day asking why. One ALT said some of her students went so far as asking whether she thought the students themselves were hot!
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