Calling Hours

A while back I met with a professor of East China Normal University to discuss my upcoming entrance exams for grad school (exams: modern Chinese, composition). He told me the exam would be administered at the end of May or beginning of June.

Well, the end of May is quickly approaching. He left me his phone number to contact him if I had any questions, so I’ve given him quite a few calls lately, but there’s never any answer. The phone number is not a cell phone number, so I figured it was his office number. Why is he never in his office? I concluded that he either isn’t in his office much or isn’t even at the university much these days.

When I mentioned the matter to my tutor the other day, she made everything clear. The professor had most likely given me his home phone number. It’s very common for university professors in China to give their home phone numbers out to their students. Furthermore, there’s sort of an unspoken rule: if students need to call their professors at home, they should call between 8pm and 9pm.

That explained a lot. It explained why I could never get an answer. It explained why I frequently got requests for my home phone number from my students when I taught university classes in Hangzhou (I wouldn’t give out my number, though). It also possibly explains why so few students would show up to office hours. Maybe they’re just used to calling instead of visiting the teacher’s office.

I’m not going to call the professor on the weekend, so I’ll have to wait until Monday to finally talk to him about the date of my entrance exams.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. It also used to be common that professors rarely hung around school when not in class because they were out working. Their pay was so low that they simply had to moonlight in order to care for their families. Is that still the case?

  2. I don’t think their pay is low at all nowadays, but still it’s not easy for you to find them in their office:D They are busy teaching (or whatever who knows) everywhere, especially those professors from famous universities, like Beijing University:P

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