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Expats stories - Martina, from Canada to Lyon

Hello Martina, can you tell us where you come from?

I was born in a relatively small town in the North of Czechia called Teplice, and have since lived in Sudbury (Canada), Ottawa (Canada), Liverpool (England), Prague (Czechia), Montreal (Canada), Freiburg (Germany), and now, beautiful Lyon!

What is the best way to prepare for moving to Lyon?

I have been lucky to move around quite a bit in my life and had always dreamed of living in France, so my preparation was very little. I came here with a few suitcases, my partner, and a heart ready to experience whatever Lyon had to offer!

Why did you choose to live in Lyon?

Lyon was a practical decision as much as it was a decision of what the heart wanted. Me and my partner knew we wanted to live in France, and thanks to the freedom permitted by our jobs (he works for a large multinational and travels often, I work as a coach and consultant, and work remotely as well as travel) we could pick "where to." It had to be a place full of culture and things we love (food, wine, and beautiful nature), while still being near a major international airport. Lyon is so close to the Alps, driving distance to the sea, and has all we could ask for. After one visit, at some point between eating the best salade Lyonnaise and then crepes made hot and fresh in the old town in the winter cold, we knew it was the place for us.

How to deal with culture shock in Lyon?

Curiosity. I think this is the only way to approach a new place to live. Many things will feel different or strange whenever you move away from your dominant culture, but when we approach it from a place of curiosity that gives us a chance to connect with it in a positive way, instead of feeling like we are not a part of it.

How to overcome difficulties during living in Lyon?

I think the single most important thing anyone who is living in a new context or city can do is to seek out support and like-minded people. Go out there and build a community, make new friends, and especially take the time for self-care, whether that means treating yourself to some relaxing time so you can process all the changes, or seeking out professional help like that of a coach or therapist. It's important to not feel alone and let yourself submerge into the new experience in a safe and happy way.

What do you plan to do in Lyon ? What are your projects at the moment?

I'm planning to continue to run my own coaching and consulting business and have recently opened my services up to clients in Lyon. I work with English-speaking clients from all over the world (in person and remotely) to help them develop the skills and habits needed to live life on their own terms. I also work with large corporations, governments, and not-for-profits to help them build positive work environments that are uplifting, inclusive and make a positive impact. My biggest project right now? I'm hosting a workshop this November (my first in Lyon!) for women, on the subject of Confidence Building and Overcoming Obstacles to Success ( I'm very excited about that!

What are your favorite things to do in Lyon? 

Picnics in the Parc de la Tete D'or, searching the city for the best croissant in town, sitting by the river and drinking a nice coffee with a friend, and even just people watching from a cafe while I read a book are all things that bring me joy.

What is your advice for people wishing to come and live in France?

Pace yourself. You can't drink all the wine and eat all the cheese at once hahaah!

Is it easy to make new friends in Lyon?

I think that depends greatly on how you like to make friends, and what feels comfortable for you. For me, it has been quite easy to find new people, especially with events hosted by expat community members, and Facebook groups. What I have found is that when I meet a new person online or in person, they are often quite responsive and open to sitting down for a coffee and chat to get to know you better. It may take some bravery sometimes, but there are many great people out there, it's just about knowing how to find them, and having a little audacity to "ask them out" sometimes.

Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

A mix of both. I would say my friend group is about 50/50.

Is it easy to do networking in Lyon?

Again, this goes back to your access to resources, and knowing where to look sometimes, but I have not had any difficulty making friends and seeking out new business connections. A bit of research and polite outreach go a long way.

Where is your favorite place in Lyon to hang out with friends?

I am a big fan of little cafes for chats with good people, and have a full list of them in my back pocket.

Can you share with us, a memorable experience that you have in France?

I remember my first time in Colmar, and feeling like I was living in my favorite childhood movie: Beauty and the Beast. It was such a magical place, and I couldn't believe it was real. I remember feeling like a child in total awe, walking the streets around Christmas time, drinking warm wine, and thinking how blissful life was in that moment.

Do you have any tricks/tips to settle more easily in a new city?

When I think of the word "settle" I think of the word "comfort" as well, so for me this is a question of how do you make yourself as comfortable as possible in a new environment. It's not always easy, but there are so many ways to make a new city feel like home. Staying in touch with people you love while meeting new people is great. Building a home/apartment/room you can come home to that feels comfortable and cozy is great. Then, going out and exploring with curiosity and a willingness to learn, will have you smiling more and more.

What have you learned from living abroad and about expat life?

It takes a lot of courage to leave everything you know and move somewhere else, and the people who do are extremely special. I love being around these kinds of people because more often than not they are open-minded and willing to learn. They have the best travel stories. They often surprise me with their depth of character and experiences. In short, they're quire amazing if you stop to hear the tale.

A word or two to define Lyon!


A word or two to define Sojoourn!


More about Martina

Martina is a coach, speaker and “Visionary Leader,” as well as the Global Ambassador for World Merit and One Young World Coordinating Ambassador for North America. An advocate for collaboration, mindfulness, and empowering people to step up to be the leaders this world so desperately needs.

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