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For some people, a car is a status symbol and a show of material wealth, especially for a luxury vehicle like a BMW. However, many people around the world don’t drive a car — and choose to ride a bicycle instead. For some bike riders, it’s for economic reasons, and for others, it’s for exercise or enjoyment. These contrasting factors recently resulted in an online clash that went viral in China in which a BMW-driving mother mocked her son’s “poor” teacher for riding a bike.

Woman in China criticized her son’s bike-riding teacher for being too poor to afford a car

Orange BMW and man riding bicycle, highlighting BMW-driving mother in China that mocked son's teacher for riding bike
BMW and man on a bicycle | Roberto Nickson and Harrison Kugler via Unsplash

In June, the teacher, surnamed Wang, rode his bicycle to work. During his ride, he encountered a boy from the school. The teacher and the boy politely exchanged greetings, and then each of them went their separate ways. 

When Wang arrived at his office at the school, he checked the WeChat group for teachers and parents, as reported by the South China Morning Post. WeChat is the most widely used messaging app in China — similar to apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. To Wang’s surprise, he found a strange message from the boy’s mother, nicknamed Rongrong for the group chat, which has 58 members.

“Teacher Wang, do not ride a bike anymore. You’d better buy a car,” wrote the boy’s mother. The teacher responded, “Thank you, Rongrong’s Mum, for your concern. It’s an enjoyable experience to ride a bicycle. What’s more, it’s not far from my home to the school.”

However, the boy’s mother persisted: “If it rains, it will be inconvenient. So it’s better to buy a car.” Wang explained: “If it rains, I won’t ride the bike. I will hold an umbrella and walk to school. Anyway, walking is perfectly fine for me.”

‘My son has been riding in a BMW since his birth’

Wheel of bicycle on street in China, highlighting BMW-driving mother that mocked son's teacher for riding bike
Bicycle in China | Tao Yuan via Unsplash

The next message revealed the mother’s real reason for insisting that her son’s teacher drive a car to work. She wrote, “My son has been riding in a BMW since his birth. The people around him all have luxury cars. You are his teacher. You ride a bicycle. What will he think, in your opinion?”

Confused by the mother’s question, the teacher asked, “What will he think about the fact that I ride a bike?”

“Every day, I tell him to study hard. And he finds you riding a bike to work, what will he think? He will definitely think that a teacher can’t make money and studying is useless. You work hard for half of your life, but your living standard is not as good as my son’s — he has had a BMW to sit in since his birth. I bet he won’t study hard in future.”

Mother’s criticism of bike-riding teacher causes outrage in China

It’s unknown if Wang ever responded to the mother’s final comments in WeChat. However, other members of the group chat defended the teacher while criticizing the mother. 

One parent wrote: “Rongrong’s Mum, since your family is so wealthy and you detest teacher Wang for not having a car, why don’t you buy him a car?” The parent continued: “You are concerned that the teacher riding a bike will affect your child’s education, right? Aren’t you willing to take out such a small amount of money from your pocket?”

The BMW-driving mother’s comments mocking her son’s teacher went viral after they were posted online. It caused outrage across China. 

One user wrote, “What a weird parent to have such a thought!” Another user wrote, “I think this mother is impoverished in the spiritual world.”

Yet another added, “I am a teacher, and I’ve experienced this kind of incident before. Some students look down upon teachers who don’t have a car. I think it’s an urgent task to raise teachers’ salaries.”

Clash between modern materialism and China’s traditional culture and religion

The criticism of the teacher by the BMW-driving mother might have also hit a nerve because of the schism between the materialism of an increasingly wealthy China for some parts of the population — and the country’s long traditional cultural and religious history, including Buddhism and Taoism. 

Luxury cars, such as BMW, Buick, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla vehicles, are hugely popular in China — for those who can afford them. For many wealthy people in China, like the BMW-driving mother, these luxury cars are status symbols and a display of material wealth.

As detailed by Medium, IPSOS conducted a study on materialism across several countries. The study defined materialism as “success measured by things that one owns.” China scored the highest for this measure, with 71% of Chinese respondents agreeing that “they gauged one’s success by the things they owned.” 

In comparison, the respondents from other countries scored significantly less materialistic in their responses. The study states, “Germans scored 27%, Americans scored 21%, and the British tails the study with only 16%.”


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