Landing in Guangzhou is a bit like landing on Mars. The environment is hostile (intense heat and humidity) the locals look at you as if you are from another planet and there isn’t a Tesco Metro in sight.
Guangzhou is China’s third most important city and the capital of Guangdong province, the industrial hub of the world. Wragge & Co’s office deals mostly with IP work, protecting patents and enforcing copyrights for major Western clients. If you can invent it, you can just about guarantee a factory in China can produce a knock-off. The vast majority of those factories are dotted around the Pearl River Delta making Southern China, and Guangzhou in particular, one of the most interesting places on the planet to practice IP law.
Living in China is as challenging, if not more so, than working there. You will come across some of the best food you have ever eaten and some of the worst (turtle and chicken’s feet are two delicacies I won’t be looking out for at home).
China is just about as far from the UK as you can get, both geographically and culturally, so every day you learn something new (6ft 4in Westerners cannot move without being stared at) and forget something old (how to queue). There is a good chance I would have been run over, fallen off the Great Wall or at least been badly ripped off in almost every day-to-day transaction without the help of my colleagues who gave up their time to help me both at work and in the wonderful, weird world beyond.
A secondment in Guangzhou is not for everyone, and it will test you on every level, but it is hugely rewarding.There are few places as alive as China, and being part of this huge economic powerhouse is an experience that you won’t soon forget.
After a while the scarcity of those things you hold most dear about home (fresh air, forming an orderly line, Battenberg cake) fade away and you embrace the madness of riding around on mopeds clinging to a “cabbie”, wolfing down pig intestines and playing cricket in a deserted international stadium with a bunch of drunken Aussies. If you’re curious about China then Guangzhou is the perfect place to spend six months practicing an exciting area of law right in the beating heart of the global economy.
Ben Goldby, Wragge & Co