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After finishing my PhD in the US, I am now working in a university in an Asian country where I studied for my master. All of my colleagues are 20 years senior than me and are full professors except one. I am wondering what I should call my colleagues. Should I address them as "Teacher" if I've ever taken a class from them? (One of them is my master advisor which is especially awkward for me to call his name.) Or should I address them by their "First Name" to emphasise that our current relationship is not teacher and student anymore? (They usually call each other by First name since they are all in similar age group, seniority, and male?)

By the way, I've been in this position for 1.5 years but I never call them by their first name, it's usually ‘Teacher’ if they previously taught me; or "Teacher xx(Last name)" if they never taught me. Would that be awkward if I just change how I call them now?

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    Please specify your location. .I think the answer depends on the culture/location. – scaaahu Mar 16 at 4:52
  • I am in Asian country. – Ying Mar 16 at 5:33
  • OK. Now, I see you just added a note saying that you already got your Ph. D. Congratulations. :-) Maybe, it is still a good idea to call your former teachers "Professor" because they have more seniority (or older) than you. I know that in my Asian country, one of my University professor still call his former teacher "Professor" to show respect and gratitudes, and they both teach at the same college and get along very well. :-) Best of luck with your career. – Job_September_2020 Mar 16 at 6:08
  • I would say in the last way it was used unless something intervened. – Alchimista Mar 16 at 10:37
  • I am not sure we can answer without knowing the country/language. Saying "Teacher LastName" sounds very odd in English, but I suspect it makes sense in Japanese (sensei). Even within Asia, I imagine that the linguistics and "politeness culture" of Vladivostok, Tokyo, and Islamabad vary widely. (It's fine if you don't want to specify, but I would take the answers with a grain of salt in this case). – cag51 Mar 16 at 22:16
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[ My updated answer after the OP updated his location and more info. ]


First, congratulations on your Ph.D. That is wonderful. :-)


In Asia, in generally, you probably should always call people, who once were your professors, with the title "Professor/Teacher/Doctor" at colleges, at commercial companies, or even in general social settings.

Note: Even if they are no longer your professors now, and they are working either at the same colleges or in the business environment with you as co-workers, perhaps, it is still a good idea to call them "Professor".

Generally speaking, that shows the respect and gratitude toward your former teachers/professors in Asian culture.

In my country in Asia, I have seen one University professor calls his former college instructor "Professor/Doctor" all the time. They are both teaching at the same college now, and getting along very well as both co-workers and former teacher/student.


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  • Thanks for providing your experience. I'm currently working in a university in Asia. I remembered my pHD advisor in US always call his colleagues by first name. I heard my master advisor now my colleagues also call his colleagues by first name. (I wasn't sure gender would make any difference here.) Two of my previous professor now my colleagues with research relationship start to sign their first name (instead of teacher) at the end of the email once I got this position. This makes me think whether I should call them first name both in person and in email. – Ying Mar 16 at 5:29
  • @Ying: You asked "I wasn't sure gender would make any difference here". My answer is "No, it does not make any difference". – Job_September_2020 Mar 16 at 5:52
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Perhaps the best method would be to start with the most formal phrasing that makes sense, and keep using that unless or until someone suggests less formal phrasing. I imagine different people feel differently, so you may end up addressing different people differently.

You could also just ask, if you feel comfortable in doing so. I assume that a former supervisor would be happy to help you by explaining the best choice.

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This seems extremely culturally dependent. I don't think that "Asia" is a tight enough classification to make a general statement. It is also, within the standards of the culture, dependent on the desires of individuals.

If you aren't familiar with the local culture then ask those who are. You will get better answers. I think the general level of expected formality differs greatly over a region as vast as Asia. It might possibly even differ between regions of a single country.

In the US, informality is generally expected among colleagues. Sometimes even between doctoral students and the faculty. But, even here, some individuals want an exception to the general rule.

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  • That's true. I am in Mandarin Speaking Country. I guess it is tight enough classification : ) – Ying Mar 18 at 2:15

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