When some of the boys from my Logistics Management II class from Shunde Polytechnic, Guangdong, invited me to their dorm to watch Australia play Japan in the World Cup, I jumped at the chance, curious to learn what their living arrangements were like. Their dorm was quite a Spartan set-up, with eight students per room, and with no air conditioning. The night was oppressively hot and humid, so most of them had their shirts removed and were drinking warm beer from bottles they had bought from the campus store. Their dorm has no refrigerator or cooking facilities, so they are forced to patronise the campus eateries, but they do have a communal television and most of them also have their own individual computers, which of course they own themselves and which are all connected to the internet.

In China, it is the norm for students to be provided with sexually segregated dormitories and visiting rules are quite strict. The boys from this dorm all claimed to get along well with one another, with disputes and personality clashes occuring only very rarely. In the evenings they often gather together in their communal living room to play
dai wa sek, which is a popular dice game often referred to in the West as 'liar's dice.' It's a game based on bluff and is quite easy to learn.

The boys from this particular dorm appeared to me to have a very strong comradery and all of them assured me that they enjoyed their dorm life, which provides them with a space free of parental authority and which promotes the development of their social skills.

Once word had gotten out that I had been invited by the boys to visit their dorm, the girls in the class quickly followed suit. The experience was just as enjoyable, though quite different. The boys had planned for nothing, other than the providing of beer and cigarettes, and were thrilled to be able to simply sit around drinking and smoking and watching the football and playing
dai wa sek. The girls, by contrast, had decorated the walls of their dorm with colourful streamers and had made a 'welcome to our dorm' sign as a greeting. They prepared beer for me, as well as soft drinks for themselves, along with an impressive assortment of snack foods. The entire evening was structured, executed according to a schedule that involved various party games, singing performances, and even a choreographed dance.

Another striking difference was just how clean and neat and tidy the girl's dorm was compared to the boy's dorm, which had dirty clothes piled up everywhere and various other pieces of debris strewn across the floor. What surprised me the most though, about both the boy's and the girl's dorms, were the cheap bunk beds that they all somehow managed to sleep on - all, I noticed, had absolutely no mattresses or cushioned surfaces whatsoever, and most were merely lined with nothing other than a solitary bamboo mat.

The girls from this dorm also assured me that they all get along exceptionally well together and that disputes and personality clashes among them occur only rarely. At night, one girl told me, they all tend to lie in bed 'talking about boys' and sharing gossip.