The story of a young Shanghainese woman who broke up with her boyfriend after witnessing for herself the low living standard of his rural family has gone viral on Chinese social media. On Sina Weibo alone, the episode has collected over 170,000 comments.
During the Chinese New Year holidays, the man brought his girlfriend back to his home village in the impoverished Jiangxi Province to meet his family for the first time.
Appalled by the unappetizing appearance of the meal prepared for her by the hosts, she took pictures of the food, posted the details of her story online, and, after seeking advice, made up her mind to end the relationship.
“This is what we were served when we arrived today,” she wrote. “I wanted to throw up.”
Many netizens castigated the 27-year-old human resources worker, saying that she was materialistic and self-centered. Others sympathized with her decision, but said that her actions had brought her boyfriend and his family massive loss of face.
“The chopsticks on the table are made of wood,” one comment said. “The only steel ones are the ones in her bowl, because they wanted her to have the best ones.”
“There is fish and meat, your mother-in-law must have worked really hard to prepare this for you,” another said.
To drive the point further, some comments pointed out that the photo was taken in bad lighting, making the meal look especially unsavory. They then took the trouble to brighten the image, showing that it looked, in the words of one netizen, like a “tasty countryside meal.”
Exacerbating the woman’s behavior, another user said, that the boyfriend will become the laughingstock of the entire village. Yet another predicted the nationwide attention his case would receive.
“The whole family welcomed their son’s girlfriend with great excitement,” another critic said, “only to be rejected by her sudden wish to leave. Not only will the family be hurt, but their story become an online sensation the next day: ‘Son dumped because his family is too poor.’ Girl, this is really too much.”
The woman said she had dated her boyfriend for about a year. She was aware of his economic background but gave it little thought since he was good-looking and industrious. Her middle-class parents, on the other hand, did not approve of the relationship in the least.
“My parents don’t agree with my coming here [to my boyfriend’s family,]” the woman wrote. “My mom told me to never come home if I go to his.”
But the reality of her potential husband’s life hit her before she even got to his home. To get to where the family lived, she had to ride on a tractor through a bumpy road, which made her carsick. She said that conditions in the countryside were “a hundred times worse” than she had imagined.
Her boyfriend sent her off in a taxi that took her back to a city in Jiangxi. There she was picked up by a cousin who made a six-hour trip from Shanghai.
Part of the woman’s concern is that even with a hard-working but poor husband, they will not be able to afford a home for years. In China, having a home and in some cases a car is virtually a prerequisite for marriage. On top of that, betrothal gifts can cost the groom’s family tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.