Chinese Breakup

This is another Chinese “love story,” but without a happy ending this time. It’s called “My girlfriend got pregnant, but she won’t marry me.”

> We had been together for eight full months, and our relationship was going great. But last month I wasn’t careful enough, and my girlfriend got pregnant. I felt truly sorry about that — we weren’t married, after all. When I found out she was pregant, I took a week off work to be with her. Then I saw her back to her hometown so she could spend some time there. But after a month she returned to work and refused to acknowledge me. Maybe it was her parents’ counseling, or perhaps something else? I kept asking her, so today she sent me a text message:

>> The three reasons she wants to break up with me:

>> 1. The problem is that I’m from out of town. Our families are 240 km apart, and her family doesn’t want her to marry someone so far away.

>> 2. It was a mistake that she accepted me. (Loving each other doesn’t count for anything?)

>> 3. It was a mistake that she viewed the issues too simplistically! (Actually, when we first started dating, we thought about the issues: (1) we would live where our careers take us, and (2) whether we could afford to buy a house.)

>> There’s nothing I can say — but I really love her!

Two things that struck me as very Chinese:

– That a distance of 240 km (150 miles) between the couple’s families could be considered an obstacle.

– That the breakup was done by SMS (text messaging)! I’ve noticed that Westerners generally try to do breakups in person. The new generation of Chinese, however, seems to think there’s nothing wrong with breaking up over the phone, by SMS, or even on IM!

Translator’s Note: I know my translation is a little weak in parts. I welcome suggestions for revision!


John Pasden

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


  1. you should tell this to my best friend
    who got her a$$ dumped via email recently,
    from a good old boston boy!
    i think the breaking up via other
    mediums have become more prevalant
    here, too. true about the distance thing, tho.
    family is important!

  2. People who break up with their significant other are destined to burn in Hell. Hell I tell you!

  3. i broke up with my ex over email. we dated 2.5 years. i think by the time youre that sick of someone, theres no need for more talking.

  4. I broke up with my last girlfriend by writing a message to her in the dust on the back window of her Jeep Grand Cherokee. And then, to let her know I was still the magnanimous man that she had grown to love, I put “PS Please wash me.” But then I thought she might think I was asking her to wash me, Jamie, and not her dirty car, so I scribbled that part out which I think hurt the overall presentation of my breakup missive.
    But just so none of you think I’m heartless, I did hide in the bushes to make sure she read my dusty but heartfelt plea to let me fly free…and I keyed her paint job to make the point final. But yeah, so I think texting a breakup is ok in the New World Order.

  5. oooh doom, when breakups go bad and involve cars. i once dumped a guy in college, ok, well i didnt really get to dump him. i think he sort of assumed the dumping when i walked in on him schlepping the village freebie. anyhow, where was i? oh yeah, so my friend and i had a few drinks when we had the brilliant idea to go spit random crackers all over his honda accord. let me tell you, there is no pain like the pain of a breakup via random driveby crackering. i am certain he learned his lesson that day.

  6. Shutty,

    I’ve never had that much hate in heart…and I love crackers. That is, I love to swallow and digest them. So really, Shutty, if you were to spit crackers on my car, I would see it as sort of a mixed message…thinking maybe that the people in Indiana, not including the beautiful town of Gary, had odd but forceful ways of showing their affection—ways that involved Saltines and saliva.

  7. remember back in the days before text messages or even cell phones, western people broke up through a fax machine. some did it on national tv, like oprah wimphrey’s show. oh, that’s for celebrities.

  8. Da Xiangchang Says: November 22, 2005 at 3:06 am

    I’ve never broken up with a woman–or a man, for that matter. Usually, I’m so flabbergasted that an attractive woman would let me get jiggly with her, that I stay out of gratitude.

  9. The real question is, after the spit and crackers and dusty window missives would you later accept an aniversary gift…perhaps a gun rack.

  10. Brian:

    In my experience, and it is as vast and broad, after one breaks up with another person there is no longer said anniversary to celebrate. You see, Brian, an aniversary celebrates a relationship that has not yet ended. And so giving a aniversary gift in this situation is foolhardy. Also, after perusing this helpful online gift guide, I could not find a year where giving a gun rack would be appropriate.

  11. Ah…well I see the problem…doom, you aren’t looking at the right sorts of lists:
    Stacy: Happy anniversary, Wayne.
    Wayne Campbell: Stacy, we broke up two months ago.
    Stacy: Well, that doesn’t mean we can’t still go out, does it?
    Wayne Campbell: Well, it does actually, that’s what breaking up is.
    Stacy: Well, don’t you want to open your present?
    Wayne Campbell: If it’s a severed head I’m going to be very upset
    Stacy: Open it.
    Wayne Campbell: What is it?
    Stacy: It’s a gun rack.
    Wayne Campbell: A gun rack… a gun rack. I don’t even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack. What am I gonna do… with a gun rack?
    Stacy: You don’t like it? Fine. You know Wayne, if you’re not careful, you’re going to lose me.
    Wayne Campbell: I lost you 2 months ago. We broke up. Are you mental? Get the net!

    You need to look at the Wayne’s list of aniversary gifts.

  12. Oopsy, my original comment should have read:

    People who break up with their significant other VIA SMS are destined to burn in Hell. Hell I tell you!

    Thank you, that is all.

  13. yes the chinese way of breaking up is so different from the west. I think maybe Chinese girls are too shy to talk to their boyfriend face to face. So these use sms, email and so on. When i broke up with my last girlfriend i had to do it using MSN, but now i often talk to her that way. So I feel in the modern world it is natural.

  14. Oh dear Jesus, us North American Asians are truly f*cked then, aren’t we? I mean I love my MSN… It’s almost better than the phone because I can tell my parents that I’ll “BRB” and then disappear for an hour… If I’m fighting with an ex-boyfriend about how he stole my stuff I can get the guts up enough to type and revise a slightly smarmy comment into an explosion of malicious wit! And look how it lets me stray from any semblance of coherent thought!

    Seriously though. This now raises severe metaphysical issues! What was I supposed to do as a second-generation Chinese-Canadian…?! Going away to school, the assumption that my parents are glad to get me out of the house by the time I’m 26 if they’re lucky so they don’t have to support my broke-ass, BA’d self, muttering about what a failure I was that I didn’t go into engineering or medicine or pharmacy, as is the new hip fad… And did the fact that his parents are divorced make him a non-prospect in the first place? What if his dad lived in the same city as my parents but his mom lived 6 hours away? What about his drop-out brother? (I suppose the one-child policy in China kind of kills that dilemna…?)

    tsk Po-po thinks that his family life is bad, he will make a terrible husband!!”

    Oh gosh I should stop dating white boys. I’m in trouble now, damn it.

  15. Love knows no borders. I am a Chinese girl, but I do not exclude a foreign love, as long as two people truly love, I believe in miracles.

  16. i believe that the distance isn’t the problem.if she loves you, i think, she can accept everything of yours, even if the defects of yours.

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