Anthony's account of his personal engagement story

I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to choose an engagement ring and propose romantically. I asked my girlfriend of five years to marry me on Christmas Day just past.

OK, so my situation wasn’t exactly the norm. Linda is Chinese and hadn’t been home since I met her in NZ. I was travelling with her to China for the first time and since I was going to finally meet her parents and see the country, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to propose. (The favourable exchange rate came into it as well since my work as a barista - that’s coffee guy not lawyer - wasn’t going to stretch far on a ring). We flew into Beijing and travelled our way south towards Yunnan province and Linda’s home city of Kunming. We were planning to stay in Kunming for a few months and meet the extended family and I thought I could find a ring, learn enough Mandarin to ask Linda’s dad for her hand in marriage and pick a beautiful site to ask the question.

Finding an excuse to leave the house alone to go shopping was the first hurdle. I’m not a good liar and while she didn’t seem to know what I had in mind she wasn’t buying my feeble excuses that I just wanted to spend some time in the new city without her. Probably she thought I was up to something sinister - trying to score opium or planning to hang Free Tibet posters outside the Public Security Bureau. On earlier excursions with The Boss we had visited a large department store which had a whole floor devoted to jewellery - internationally famous brands, Chinese imitations and everything in between. When Linda was one day taken ill I seized my chance and tried to ignore the “heartless bastard” taunts as I left with her unable to stop me or follow me. I retraced my steps to the store with a battered Chinese phrasebook in my pocket and a printout in English on tips to choosing an engagement ring. I decided I wasn’t going to buy the ring that day, I would just have a look. So I looked - I looked at every single ring there - and there were thousands. The only phrase I bothered to learn that day was “just looking thanks”, as the shop assistants who were trying to help only made me more nervous. At the end of the afternoon I had a few different rings in mind and I came home to a scolding from Linda … and her mum.

It was a while before I could find an excuse to get out again and in the meantime I pushed my luck a little, asking (hopefully) vague questions about jewellery taste and style and even once conducting a mock proposal (in my defence she initiated it) where I slipped my chewing gum around her finger. “I’m a genius”, I thought as I preserved the gum as best I could as an indication of finger size. I highlighted some new phrases in the book like “can it be resized”, “can it be returned?”, “Gold”, “silver” and so on and took a deep breath before going back. See, I don’t like shopping at the best of times - it stresses me out and hate making big decisions. This time I asked to see the rings on my shortlist up close. I had already lost my chewing gum and tried to indicate that The Boss has tiny fingers. “No, no smaller than yours” I tried to explain, so they found another girl who proffered her dainty fingers. “smaller” I said. Now they just thought I was nuts staff from other jewellery stands came over tom see the crazy ‘laowai’ or foreigner. Finally I found the perfect ring though it later had to be resized … twice.

All I had to do now was wait for the perfect time and place to propose and learn the necessary mandarin to ask her dad’s permission. The anti climax was that after living with the ring hidden in the bedroom I almost couldn’t take the pressure. I didn’t think I’d ever teach myself enough Chinese to make her dad understand me and I could hardly ask Linda. On Christmas Day I snapped. We’d been out to the clubs on Christmas Eve (Christmas in China is insane) and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. The Boss started asking where her present was but unfortunately I’d spent most of my money on the ring. I couldn’t think of a decent lie, my head was pounding and I didn’t fancy spending another day in the Dog house so I got down on one knee and proposed. “Its Christmas”, I told myself, “that’s romantic”. Surprisingly, I guess, she said yes and we couldn’t be happier but I can’t help but think that if there had been an easier way to choose the ring then I could have relaxed a bit and focussed on proposing in a suitably romantic time and fashion.

Click here to find the engagement ring epiphany Anthony wished he had