After lashing into Japanese men a couple of days ago, I guess it's only fair to turn my attention to the ladies. As I mentioned before, I teach all girls - which can be a challenge sometimes. They are sweet and polite, in line with the stereotype. For the most part, they're a pleasure to teach, as long as you keep it all happy bubbly skippy perky sparkly pink Hello Kitty fun.
What can be frustrating is the lack of individual thought and opinion. Perhaps it's because I come from teaching in Spain, where all you have to do is mention cheese or socks or a football team and your students are up in arms, arguing with each other, and as a teacher, you can just sit back and watch. As long as they're speaking English eh?
Here, the girls are squeaky clean. The legal age for drinking alcohol is 20 and the average age of my students is 19. In Ireland, it goes without saying that the legal age doesn't mean much to a lot of people. Here, mention drinking underage and cue shocked faces, shaking heads, tutting noises..they just about restrain themselves from going into full blown shock. Ditto smoking, at any age. (I've seen only one woman smoking in four weeks)
It's nice, in a way, to see that there's still some innocence, but slightly alarming when it crosses the line into a lack of individuality, or opinion, or even strong ambition. If I throw out a question any more demanding than 'what's your favourite colour?', something requiring an opinion, and tumbleweed starts blowing around the classroom. Ask where they want to travel, what they want to do in the future, what they think about politics, the media, money... it goes down like the proverbial lead balloon. Even knowledge of other cultures, or their own culture, is practically non-existent.
Disclaimer alert - I'm speaking generally and from my experience. I don't want to seem like I'm being unfair but there's something discouraging about seeing a country which is so developed in so many ways, yet the girls still act like Stepford Wives. When I want to guarantee a reaction, I mention getting married, getting pregnant, going shopping, make-up or Arashi - the notorious devilishly handsome boy-band. Haven't you heard of them?
They're not completely different to girls from other countries of course. There are the cooler ones and the less cool ones, and ones who like reading and some who like rock music. It's not like we're dealing with an army of clones. Although you wouldn't know it when you see them at university - all perfectly made up, four-inch heels, tiny skirts, shorts and dresses (apparently here it's okay to have lots of leg showing as long as your chest is all covered up) and sitting around curling or straightening their hair between classes. Or taking pictures of themselves or each other. For 80 minutes straight. No lie.
On the whole, they're pleasant and lovely to teach. It just feels a little strange when you still have girls declaring that what they want to do after university is get married. They plot and plan how to get a boyfriend, going to different open days of mens' universities in the hopes of finding someone. That's what's weird about this country - it's a completely advanced, first-world, modern country, with amazing infrastructure, technology and business but when it comes to women's thinking, it's back in the 1950s.