Alexander Kirk, 41, first met Ms. Zhang, 26, who is only identified by her last name in Chinese state media and TV station reports, in a messaging app.
Over the two months that followed, "We had advanced our romantic relationship, but later he seemed a little callous toward me," Zhang told a local TV station, according the BBC.
So imagine her surprise when he sent her a photograph of airplane tickets that would take him from his home in the Netherlands to hers, in the Hunan province of China. "I thought it was a joke," Zhang told the TV station.
As she would soon learn, it was not a joke. Kirk arrived in the Changsha Huanghua International Airport. Zhang did not.
Kirk spent 10 days in the airport waiting for Zhang to meet him, to no avail. And when he finally did leave, it was not by choice; he was taken by emergency services to a local hospital to be treated for exhaustion. Kirk, a diabetic, fell unconscious after getting little sleep and not eating much during his stay.
But where was Zhang all this time? She had reportedly traveled to a neighboring province of China for plastic surgery on parts of her face, and Zhang said her phone was turned off during her surgery and part of her recovery. So whether or not Kirk attempted to message her while in the airport, Zhang said she didn't receive it. And even if she had, she told the Chinese state media, it would be too difficult for her to travel to the Changsha province to see him because she was still recovering from surgery.
Kirk has since been discharged from the hospital and returned home to the Netherlands on Monday. He and Zhang have still never met in person.
But all hope is not lost. Zhang told the TV station she still intends on meeting him.
Users on Weibo, China's primary social media site, would probably recommend against Kirk repeating the trek. According to the BBC, one user said, echoing many others, "Doesn't he know that everything in China is fake?"