Asian students said their high school rules were more strict than American ones, such having to wear certain colors of socks, having a clean hairstyle, and asking permission from the teacher before doing just about anything.
Dress and grooming checks
Crystal Chan, a freshman majoring in TESOL education said in her hometown, Hong Kong, students couldn’t dye their hair. For boys, bangs cannot reach the eyebrows, and they are not allowed to use hair gel. Girls cannot wear any makeup and are required to tie their hair in a ponytail.
Chan explained, “Wearing uniforms is the most basic requirement. The style of our socks is limited by the school too. It's plain white or gray in most high schools in Hong Kong. Students are called to a morning assembly once a week. During the assembly, teachers check all students' clothing and hair one by one.”
Yu Sato, a freshman from Japan majoring in accounting, also shared a story about dress and grooming checks in his high school. “There was one girl in my class who had long bangs. Our teacher saw it and told her to cut about 2 inches of her bangs. Then the girl really cut it for 2 inches. The next day our teacher saw her and told her, ‘You cut too much! It’s weird.’ The girl got so angry.”
Bryce Yang, a freshman majoring in hospitality and tourism management from China, shared, “Our teachers would always tell us, ‘Tomorrow is the grooming check, go fix your hair!’ If we didn’t pass the check, they’d take us to their office and do a haircut for us.”
Yang continued, “When they cut it for us, they always just buzzed our heads without any negotiation. But at least it was free.”
Other rules for dressing
Madoka Yamauchi, a freshman majoring in hospitality and tourism management from Japan, explained other rules for dressing. “No earrings, bracelets, … etc. Basically, just no accessories!”
Young-Ho Shin, a freshman majoring in hospitality and tourism management from South Korea, recalled how there were student leaders who stood at the gate and stopped students who didn’t meet the dress and grooming standards.
“The school recommends students not to stand out in their looks. For example, if you use hair gel to make your hair outstanding, you will be asked to go the bathroom and wash your hair. Also, you will get caught if you have any noticeable accessories.”
Rules during class
Aside from appearance restrictions, students also elaborated on the strict classroom rules.
Honoka Karube, a freshman from Japan majoring in hospitality and tourism management, explained, “We are required to be in the classroom before the class started, even if the teacher will be late. If you are late to class, you knock on the door, go in and then you need to explain to the teacher why you’re late.”
Shin said students need to sit straight during class in South Korea. “We don’t place our legs on another chair, and we don’t cross or shake our legs. In Korean culture, learners show their attitudes of humility and respect to teachers.”
Ray Xu, a Chinese sophomore majoring in computer science, explained it's a bit impolite in China to speak in class without raising a hand and wait for the teacher’s indication. “Before you ask the teacher a question, answer his question, go to the toilet or leave your seat for any reason, you have to raise your hand and ask for the teacher’s approval.”
It’s common for students in Asia to receive punishment for disrespectful actions. Jen Yao Kuo, a freshman majoring in business management from Taiwan, said eating in class is not tolerated, even chewing a gum. Kuo said there are point systems in Taiwanese high schools and students can receive a demerit for eating in class.
Feelings toward American classroom
Those interviewed described their first impressions of American classrooms as surprised because of the extra freedom you received.
Jun Hak Kim, a freshman majoring in computer science from South Korea, said, “American classrooms are very free. Since there are less rules to bind me, I’m feeling more independent now. I don’t even need to raise my hand before going to the toilet.”