Sheffield graduate Cally Williams proved true love goes the distance – when she went to China for a year and returned to the UK as Mrs Huang.
Cally married Long Huang in a traditional Chinese ceremony after they fell for one another and quickly made efforts to learn each other’s language.
After months of communicating via a mixture of electronic dictionaries, phone apps and their own language – ‘Chinglish’ – the pair soon realised they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
The couple are now enjoying married life on Duncombe Street, Walkley.
Cally, 22, said she remembered meeting Long, 25, and his friends about a month after she arrived at Namjing University to study for a year in August 2010.
“We went over to them and tried to get their numbers,” she said.
“There were quite a few of us and we were all blonde, so because they don’t see many Western people they thought we were really good looking.
“After that a few of my friends and a few of his friends started going out and doing stuff together.”
Cally and Long began dating and slowly started to overcome the language barrier.
“At first we couldn’t communicate because I didn’t speak Chinese and he couldn’t speak English,” said Cally.
“After a month we could talk to each other a bit better. Then after a few months we realised it was quite a serious relationship.”
On Chinese New Year in February 2011, Long invited Cally to spend the special occasion with his family. At the time, she didn’t realise quite how significant ‘meeting the parents’ would be.
“Over there, you wouldn’t introduce someone to your parents if you weren’t going to marry them,” she explained.
“If you are taken to the parents’ house that’s it – that’s the girl he is going to marry.
“The tradition over there is to get married quite young. I’ve always wanted to get married and it didn’t matter to me what age I was as long as I was happy.”
Long researched his proposal carefully and kept to Western traditions, including asking Cally’s father for his permission to propose during a visit in July 2011.
Cally’s dad gave his blessing and Long proposed on a bridge in Shanghai.
“He did the English thing of kneeling on one knee because he had looked into how English men do it,” said Cally, a graduate intern at The University of Sheffield.
The couple married in China in April 2012 and had a party with Long’s family.
They are saving up for a wedding do over here.
Long, a professionally trained dancer, currently works in a Chinese restaurant and will therefore be working this evening during the New Year celebrations.
But Cally said: “When he has time off I will make Chinese dumplings and we can Skype his parents. We’ll enjoy some time off together.”