Bad China Week 2 – The Engagement Ring

Attachment to material items cultural difference China west
So, aside from my little run-in with the law, another factor that contributed to my Bad China Week (BCW) was my engagement ring.

I explained the history of the ring in a previous post, but in short my parents brought it over from Germany. Mr. Li proposed mid-November. And then, a month ago, after four almost blissful months of wearing it, my hamfisted self somehow managed to get it caught and one of the stones came out of its setting. I have to say, seriously disappointed by the infamous German quality that people in this country so adore. Luckily, the freak accident happened while I was at home and the stone, despite being about the size of a molecule, was found. I taped it to the ring box to make sure it would not get lost and then left it there for a month.

The reason was that I was in two minds as to whether it would be better to send it back home to Germany and get it fixed, or just find a local jeweller, pay a few kuai and not have to worry about an expensive piece of jewellery getting lost in the black hole that calls itself delivery service.

Then this weekend I decided it was time. I packed my ringbox in my back pack and ventured to the “jewellery street” of Nanjing, Taiping Nan Lu, which houses what is truly an army of stores selling everything from diamond rings to jade bracelets. I went there after I had been rock climbing in my sports gear looking like the world’s biggest schlub, a pair of dirty roller blades in tow, which probably explains the looks of disgust as I marched into some of the more glamorous establishments. I was a little tempted to scratch my non-existent testicles just for show.

All the bigger jewellers turned me away because the ring had not been bought at their store. Snobs.

All of the smaller jewellers were out for lunch, and as the staff informed me, might return at any random point in time but they couldn’t really say. Great, thanks for the help.

After an hour of dragging myself from one store to the other I finally walked into the right one, or so I thought. The “Shifu” did not ask any questions, immediately got to work and five minutes later after seemingly expertly have pressed and pushed the stone into place, handed it back to me. He did not even accept payment. I was so elated I asked for his business card and then posted this lovely story on WeChat (China’s number one social media app).

Then, half an hour later I met up with my roller blade date, and dramatically pulled out my hand sporting the engagement ring, just to find that the stone was again not in its casing. I had managed to lose it on the metro, confirming my suspicion that anything that’s free cannot truly be good. Of course the poor jeweller wasn’t to know this was going to happen and in all fairness, other stores had looked at the ring in wonder since the entire set-up seems to be different than they are used to in China.

Still, I was heartbroken. I had set out in the morning with the quest to fix my ring. Now, not only was my ring not fixed, I had also lost the stone. My emotions were on a serious roller coaster.

Calling Mr. Li did not help either, except giving both me and my friend another insight into the differences between our cultures. “Oh it’s just an engagement ring, it doesn’t matter, why even bother getting it fixed” was his reply to my request that he go look for the receipt.
Usually when I get angry I argue a lot. Yet, this time I was so livid, that I barely was able to speak. He sensed it and quickly asked me to put my friend on the phone.

She then had a very productive conversation with him in which she explained that the engagement ring is very important to us and we often wear it our whole lives. Whereas he said that in Chinese culture once you wear the wedding ring, you don’t tend to wear the engagement ring anymore (although I am fairly certain that my married friend is still wearing hers, sometimes I feel Mr. Li, having lived abroad for 6 years, is not very in touch with the China of today).

In a later conversation with another female Chinese, she was also very calm and nonchalant about the ring fiasco, leading me and my roller blade friend to theorise about Chinese and Western people’s different attachment to material items.

For us, it is all about the emotions. If a materialistic possession has an emotional meaning or a fond memory, we might keep it until it is completely destroyed, even if it looks and possibly smells disgusting, simply because it has a meaning attached to it.

In China, people tend to want the newest of the new, as a way of showing status and gaining face. There seems to be less of an emotional attachment with material items than a functionality to display wealth and success. Hence, if a ring breaks, it is not a big deal; you simply buy a new one. This is possibly a healthier attitude insofar as it keeps you from hoarding, in terms of financials though I definitely think the emotionally attached camp clinging on to their 20-year old teddy bear with only one eye and stuffing popping out of his bum, wins.

Long story short, I still am unsure as to what to do with the wedding ring. Mr.Li and MiL both were so kind as to look for the little red bag in which I was convinced the ring receipt was stowed away and while they managed to find the bag, the receipt is currently still successfully hiding away.

Part of me really wants to agree with Mr.Li and simply forget about it, as this ring is turning into just another nuisance adding to my already cramped Things To Do And Freak Out About List for this wedding. In all honesty, each time someone shook my hand the stones in the side would pierce my middle and pinky fingers causing excruciating pain. I guess that’s an argument for the Let It Go camp, isn’t it?

Yet, my German and my sentimental sides just can’t bear the thought of a technically brand new, beautiful and rather pricey ring just sitting on the shelf, gathering dust and mocking me with its gaping hole where once was a stone like a toothless grandma.

5 thoughts on “Bad China Week 2 – The Engagement Ring”

  1. Wow, that is just horrible. I can totally understand why you would feel so upset about losing the ring — and conflicted about getting a new one. I don’t know that I have any great advice for you (I tend to get emotional about these things myself). After all, I am one of those folks who still have a super-old stuffed animal (for the record, it’s a cat and I love him to pieces).


    1. Hey Jocelyn – yeah we already have the wedding rings, so that’s a small consolation. I have a blanket my mum made for me about 5 years ago and i drag it everywhere ago – it’s been to Vienna, Frankfurt, Newcastle, London and now Nanjing haha

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally understand your need to get the ring fixed. I have a ring on my right hand that my mom gave me when I was 15, it’s also my parents wedding ring so very special to me. Then when I was 20 or so I one day noticed the small stone had disappeared! I bought a new one and got it fixed, but the stone just isn’t the same as before. But in any case I still can wear the same ring for over ten years now and it’s important as ever.

    If I were you I would still try to get the engagement ring fixed if possible.


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