Business Club Côte d’Azur – A Conversation with Robin Simons

December 14, 2023 | Blog, Home & Relocation

Business Club Côte d’Azur is a fantastic community connecting English-speaking people on the French Riviera. Founded by Robin and Josh, a young couple who moved to the Côte d’Azur and recognised the need for informal social and networking events, the club helps English-speaking entrepreneurs in the French Riviera meet new people and build personal and professional relationships. 

We spoke with co-founder Robin Simons about her experience of moving to the French Riviera and what Business Club Côte d’Azur offers English-speaking people in the South of France.

 


Can you tell us about your background and what first brought you to the French Riviera? 

Both me and my partner Josh are Dutch. We were born and raised in the Netherlands. Josh had always wanted to move abroad as he didn’t like the Dutch weather and was eager to move somewhere warmer – and to a place where quality of life is more important than having a career, driving a fancy car and so on. 

My mum moved to the French Riviera one year before us, which made the move for me personally a lot easier. I have a very strong and special bond with my mother, so the decision to make the move to France was easily made! 

We had an IT and Marketing Agency in the Netherlands and were able to work for our clients from a distance, initially travelling back and forth a lot to see our clients. But after that first year, we wanted to work more with businesses on the French Riviera because we didn’t want to travel back to the Netherlands as often. And of course wanted to fully work and live here in the South of France! 

 

Business Club Côte d’Azur

 

What inspired you to set up Business Club Côte d’Azur? 

When we arrived in the south of France, we didn’t have a network here yet. We attended some events in the region but they weren’t really what we were looking for (which is a modern and very personal approach to networking). We don’t like wearing name tags or listening to often boring sales presentations. Business is personal and in our opinion, should be about having a personal connection and understanding each other well before committing to a quite intense ‘relationship’. 

That’s why we created our club: Business Club Côte d’Azur. Our goal is to connect people and create business opportunities in the French Riviera. We do this by organising various relaxed virtual and in-person events all year round and through our online groups. In the end, it’s all about bringing people together – and that’s exactly what we do! 

Who can join and what are the different membership categories you offer? 

Anyone looking to meet- and connect with entrepreneurial people in the region is welcome to join! Being open-minded and positive is the only hard criteria that we have – we do not like bullies. The main language at our events is English which makes conversing a lot easier as it’s an international community.

If you’d like to become a member of the club, we understand that one size does not fit all and we have a few options available based on what you expect from the club.

  • The Premium Membership is the ultimate package.  If you’re an experienced entrepreneur looking to connect with like-minded people and simply want the best for you(r) (business), this is for you.
  • Our Business Membership is for you when you are serious about growing your business, looking for great opportunities and making powerful connections in the region. 
  • The Couples Membership gives you free access to all events for two. This is for you when you and your partner move here for a better quality of life and want to meet other friendly English Speakers on the French Riviera.
  • Our Individual Membership allows you to attend weekly relaxed events. This is for you if you want to make friends and easily meet people on the French Riviera. You’re not necessarily here for business. 

You can find more detailed information about our different memberships here.

Business Club Côte d’Azur membership

 

What kinds of events do you organise? 

We organise various events on the French Rivera weekly throughout the year  – starting with our meetups. 

  • Meetups are a perfect way to meet English speakers on the French Riviera in a relaxed atmosphere. We move tables and chairs to create an open space so you can easily walk around and mingle. Making it much easier to join conversations, make friends and have a great time together! 
  • Our topic events are a perfect opportunity to get conversations going about a certain subject. These kinds of events attract like-minded people interested in discussing and learning about things they care about. Some of the most popular topics and industries in our community are: marketing, tech, real estate, yachting, tourism and wellness. 
  • Coffee mornings are an excellent way to start your week with business networking and good coffee. Similar to a meetup, but without alcohol and less crowded! This makes the coffee mornings more suitable to talk business and meet people during the week. 
  • Our online meetings are an efficient and perfect opportunity to stay connected whilst travelling or when you can’t make it to the other events. These events are very often hosted by one of our experienced members.
  • Last but not least: our invitation-only private events, which connect members with our inner circle of experienced entrepreneurs.

How many nationalities are represented in the Business Club Côte d’Azur? 

In all honesty, it’s not a metric that we actively track. We stopped counting after having recognised more than 30 nationalities in our community. We have people from all over the world, now living or working on the French Riviera. What’s important, at least to us, is that talking with so many different cultures opens your horizons and dramatically changes how you see the world. It’s definitely an eye-opening experience. 

 

Business Club Côte d’Azur meetings

 

How important is establishing a network when living abroad? 

I think it’s very important to build a network when living abroad. During our first year on the French Riviera, I didn’t feel at home, mainly because I didn’t have a lot of friends here and I still worked for Dutch clients. When I started focusing more on friends and clients on the French Riviera, I felt more settled and at home.

When moving abroad, you have to create new habits, your own social circle and business network to make it successful and fun. Nobody likes to be alone – so finding people to hang out with or finding new clients is very important!

What are some of the most common questions or concerns you encounter from people who have just moved to the South of France? 

The first thing we often hear is that French is not an easy language to learn. Secondly, how difficult it is to navigate French bureaucracy and paperwork which in many cases is very much related to the previous point. Thirdly, it’s a steep learning curve to adapt to the way things are done around here. And the fourth one being that French people can be quite reserved – making it more difficult to make friends and work with local companies. 

We love the country and French people, but the reality is that it can be difficult to adapt when you first move here. That’s why we’re working on something to make these things a lot easier to handle – especially for English Speakers on the French Riviera. Whether you have just arrived or you already live here for some good years. We’re actually launching a platform soon to simplify day-to-day life when moving to the South of France, stay tuned for this! 

As well as the in-person events, you also have 3 active Facebook groups. Can you tell us about these? 

Facebook is the most actively used social media platform as a search engine amongst English Speakers on the French Riviera. This is exactly why we use them to stay connected and share helpful information with our community. 

We started our first Facebook group Meet People on the French Riviera, for our members and community to stay connected, ask questions, promote their businesses, share tips and so on. We now have over 4,500 people and it’s a friendly and fun group to be in! 

Our second (and biggest) group is English Speakers on the French Riviera. It was originally founded by Tricia Teo who has lived on the French Riviera for almost a decade and recently decided to move back to her home country. She was looking for someone to take over the group and asked us to acquire it – we were very honoured to do so and worked out a win-win! The group has over 11,800 people in the community and it’s one of, if not, the most used Facebook group for English Speakers on the French Riviera. 

Lastly, we also created a new group focused on posting and finding freelance jobs on the French Riviera. We have not used it actively but we plan to spend more time on making this a useful group as well! 

 

 

What makes the Côte d’Azur an attractive place for entrepreneurs? 

The Côte d’Azur is a very attractive place for anyone looking for a fantastic quality of life. We have more than 300 days of sunshine, good food, delicious wines, beautiful mountains, the sea and so much more! This is extremely motivating and has a great impact on your health and ambition. 

As an entrepreneur, I’m very happy to be able to work here and enjoy it to the fullest. However don’t expect the same work culture as more northern regions or countries, like the Netherlands. Just go with the flow, work as much as you need to and maximise your quality time with family and friends! 

Ultimately we don’t live to work, and money is a tool to make your life more comfortable but it’s not the solution! 

What advice would you share with those thinking about living or working abroad? 

If I could give anyone advice about living or working abroad it would be to just go and do it! 

Go to the place you’re thinking of, rent a place where you can stay for a longer period of time and see how you like it. Make new connections, join clubs to meet new people and find your new social circle. Life is a lot better when you have friends around. When it comes to doing business: make sure you get new business contacts and go on a lot of coffee meetings to meet new people, exchange ideas and have fun! 

 


 

If you’re interested in becoming a member of the Business Club Côte d’Azur, read more and register here

Find more recommendations for English-speaking families in Nice and advice on moving to the South of France on MumAbroad.

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