So many people ask me... "Why do you do what you do?" This is why!
For those of you who don’t know me, let me introduce myself. Hello, my name is Emmanuelle Gimenez. I’m French and I founded Sojoourn in 2018 with the simplest idea to bring people together. A lot has happened since and I couldn't be more proud to the Sojoourn community.
I had the opportunity to live abroad in Mexico and in Argentina during my studies and it was one of the best experiences of my life. It was quite literally life-changing. When I came back to Paris I was working as a chemical engineer for 5 years, but I found it quite difficult to reintegrate into the French lifestyle and French society. My experience as an expat has changed me and I was not fitting in the box anymore. So I decided to quit my well-paid job to create my own company, Sojoourn.
Today Sojoourn is the leading networking community and guide for expats in Lyon.
In 2019 the number of expatriates in the world is estimated at 56 million (56% women, 44% men), according to the annual Expat Insider study, conducted by Internations. And France is ranking at the 17th place as the “best places to live” based on regular surveys among expats using 15 different criteria. We could do so much better.
I became determined to change the ranking and put France among the top 5 best places in the world for expats.
In 2018 I started building a community of expat-minded international & French people who can understand and support each other. At the same time, I also wanted to connect with others and build personal and professional relationships in Lyon, as I just moved here from Paris - and originally I am from a city next to Toulouse.
I’m passionate about building bridges between people. Creating a welcoming and vivid community was my first priority and I’m so proud that now there are 1500+ members in the Sojoourn community from all over the globe! Have a sneak peak at the Life at Sojoourn, a unique and buzzing family in Lyon.
Sojoourn was growing organically following the needs of its people.
First I started to organise monthly networking events: the famous ApéroExpats event to bring expats together, while opening up a safe space for anybody who wants to be in an international surrounding and build real relationships.
As I saw that there were different groups with different needs, I created the CaféExpats. Every month we come together with expat/French parents or parents to be over breakfast and share our tips of raising a multilingual family abroad. We exchange about schools, finding a nanny or simply support each other.
Slowly I also added professional workshops to provide valuable information about the French pension system, real estate investment, writing a French CV or applying to the French nationality. These are monthly meetings open to everybody, led by a professional and co-hosted by Sojoourn.
This shouldn't surprise anyone, but speaking French is inevitable if you want to integrate into the society. It is easier to find a job, sort out some administrative paperwork or connect to the locals. I launched our own French courses with native teachers, who themselves experienced expatriation at some point in their life.
After a year expats turned to me and asked me to guide them launching their businesses. Being an entrepreneur myself, I realised that helping expat entrepreneurs was one of my reasons of being. I know from personal experience how hard it can be to run a business. It is a challenging life full of rollercoaster moments, but if we have the right support, it can be very uplifting and rewarding. I want to offer more visibility to business owners and entrepreneurs of the Sojoourn community. Since then, many Tribe Leaders have joined us and I hope many more will see the benefits of it.
I wanted to go even further and see how we can be more than just a community with a Facebook group. I believe that the expats deserve a safe space where they can build stronger connections, access resources, exclusive discounts and get personalised assistance to instantly feel home in Lyon. Sojoourn Club was born in 2020 with a membership package. Yes, in the middle of a pandemic, but especially at this time human connections are more important than ever.
Over the past years I have built up a good relationship with local experts, to be able to offer you a wide range of recommendations from English speaking tax advisor to trusted domestic cleaning services.
The newest addition to our services is home search. Many expats arrive to Lyon without any connections. They move from Airbnb to somebody's couch. Or they don't even dare to come before finding proper accommodation. I am ready to change this and bring a positive impact to their lives by finding them the home they deserve.
The mission of Sojoourn was getting more and more obvious to me. I am going to create a place providing everything expats need to enjoy their experience abroad all under the roof of Sojoourn.
Being connected to a community and having support is invaluable and I’ve made it my job to connect YOU. I am a big believer in helping expats to integrate and to highlight their talents because I’m convinced that cultural diversity is wealth.
Sojoourn is on a mission to be the driving force that makes France the best place in the world for expats. We foster an environment that creates the greatest opportunities for expats to succeed and to feel home in the beautiful city of Lyon.
See you around,
Emmanuelle, Founder & CEO