My firm Gide Loyrette Nouel invited me to work in their Hong Kong office for six months as a precursor to starting my training contract in the London office and I was eager to get as much out of the work placement as humanly possible.
Prior to starting work, I spent a few days exploring the city. Not one to shy away from an adventure, I chose to head straight to Kowloon, Hong Kong’s most densely populated area. I travelled across the famous choppy green waters of Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry and stared back in amazement at my new home among a mass of picturesque steel high-rises and luscious green mountains.
Once on the Kowloon side, I was forced to abandon my fast paced London stride. It was impossible to walk anywhere in a hurry. The crowds take no prisoners and sweep you along the stream of street markets for hours. I was embraced by a myriad of sights, sounds and smells that left me, and my camera battery, exhausted after a few hours.
Back on Hong Kong Island you can find an array of antique shops, galleries, restaurants, designer shops and some traditional trade areas that include tailors, dried fish produce and many shops selling bird’s nests - a traditional Chinese delicacy used to make bird’s nest soup
After a few days, the time came for me to head into work by making my way through the ever confusing inter-connected raised walkways to meet my new colleagues and delve into Hong Kong’s legal system. As with everyone I have met so far, my colleagues proved to be extremely friendly and keen to offer advice on living in Hong Kong. We discussed Hong Kong’s cultural history and the basis of the common law based legal system at length and I quickly got to work on researching infrastructure projects and the various opportunities for foreign investment. I have also gained experience in Asian hedge funds and am pretty well versed in the basics of Hong Kong’s tax system!
My colleagues have also taught me about the extreme feng shui principles behind the architectural design of our office building, the customs of giving and receiving business cards using two hands, the importance of gold fish and the fascination with the colour red at Chinese New Year.
Although I am the only trainee in my firm’s Hong Kong office, there are lots of English trainees at other international firms and I have met with a few to explore and share experiences with.
Outside of work, a large part of the ex-pat life in Hong Kong is focused around meeting new people and sharing stories over delicious meals or a bottle of wine in the trendy ex-pat areas such as Soho and Lan Quai Fong, where I was shocked to see that the happy ’hours’ quite often last for six or eight hours!
Some of my more unusual experiences have been the most memorable. I headed to the Peak to take in some views of the island and ended up having a rather questionable but undeniably fantastic Garra Rufa fish pedicure. Another evening, I went to an art jam session where you are provided with a blank canvas and told to get creative with paints. I have also been lucky enough to experience some of the best live jazz music I have ever heard in a secretive small barber shop by day turned traditional folk jazz club in the evening.
As the gateway to China, Hong Kong has everything to offer and there is certainly never a dull moment as a trainee in this city.
Camilla Kenny is a trainee at Gide Loyrette Nouel in Hong Kong