As an expat, I find it fascinating to find out why others like myself, made the decision to up sticks and start life over in a foreign land. This week, I catch up with my talented friend Georgia who owns Posto Nove Studio and Yoga & co., a chain of successful Pilates and yoga studios in Beirut.
So, when did you relocate to Beirut?
It was six years ago now, in November, 2012.
And, why did you decide to leave your life in London to move abroad?
For love of course.
What are the benefits of living aboard?
For me, I love the great weather here in Lebanon. Beirut is an amazing city in a really a phenomenal country, with so much culture and history. It’s a trilingual country so you are not only exposed to Arabic but also French and English which made a relocating much easier. Given that it is super close to Europe, I never feel like home is that far away.
But do you ever feel homesick?
Of course! I miss my friends, family and of the magic of London – there’s no city like it anywhere in the world.
How do you deal with it?
I stay in touch via FaceTime, and I get a lot of visits from family and friends, as well as taking holidays to the UK when I can.
Arabic is the official language of Lebanon, and French is often spoken. Have you had to learn these languages to get by?
No, because no matter where you are there is always someone who speaks your language (I speak English and Portuguese). But inevitably you do pick the other languages because you hear them all the time. I understand about 75% of the French and 30% Arabic.
What is the biggest challenge not being fluent in these languages?
I would say probably taxis – they tend to be the most difficult to communicate with 😊
What was your approach to setting up logistics when you made the move e.g. visa, bank accounts, work etc.?
I was lucky in that my husband dealt with it for me. It’s was all very smooth.
You now have an incredibly successful business in Beirut. What did you do for work before the studios?
Before I owned my own studios, I had several other careers ranging from retail (in my teenage years), PR and production in my early 20’s, finance in my mid/ late 20’s (which was where I also came across my love for Pilates), before becoming a full time Pilates instructor in my 30’s.
In 2010, when I was still dating my now husband, I travelled to Lebanon for the first time (where he lived). I soon realised that Pilates Reformer was virtually unknown here. For the next two years I went to Beirut over a dozen times, and every time I searched and failed to find a reformer class to attend. By this point I had become so passionate about Pilates and its benefits, that without knowing it, I had already started to create a small following for the discipline. So, in 2012 when I finally decided to move to Lebanon, my husband suggested I get certified and open a boutique studio here, so I would have somewhere to practice my passion.
In May 2013, my husband, his best friend and I opened our first studio – a luxury boutique fitness studio specializing in semi-private Reformer classes (five people max). We were an almost instant success. It’s been lots of hard work, but so rewarding.
How many studios do you now have?
We currently have five locations. Three are in Beirut (two of those are for semi-private classes of five, and one is for private classes only).
The others are in Naccach, Lebanon, and we also have one on the Ivory Coast. These studios are franchises of our business. We are also expanding and opening another studio North of Lebanon in October.
We opened our first yoga studio, Yoga & co., last week.
What accolades have the studios won so far?
We have a very dedicated client base over here including celebrity bloggers such as Kika_Fourzali, and Mrs. Clueless, and our reputation for being a specialist studio precedes us. Reformer has become a massive trend in Lebanon with a lot of competitors now in the market, but my studios stand out in large due to my knowledge and understanding of the Pilates. As such, we have been featured in the likes of Elle Arabia and Savir Fair magazines.
You have so much going on in your new life in Lebanon. Do you think you will ever return home?
It’s the dream 😊We would love our son to live in London while he’s still a child, so who knows…
Do you have any practical advice to others considering an international move?
Practical no – honestly, I’m not a very practical person, but I would say do it – of course. Jump at the chance and if it doesn’t work out, you can always go home.
Have you ever lived abroad, or are you considering an international move? I’d love to hear about your adventures too!
Until next time, safe travels.
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