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Expat focus: Kim Woodey

"I started my yachting career as a junior stewardess and working my way up to chief stewardess and, finally, purser. I experienced first-hand what worked and what didn’t," said Kim Woodey. Copyright Stuart Pearce

South African Kim Woodey, an independent yacht trainer, shares her story of how she fell in love with the region after just one night in Nice 15 years ago.

What first brought you to the French Riviera?

Back in 2002, I came out to visit a former student while I was working as a teacher in London. As the aeroplane came in low over the old town of Nice, I fell in love with the burnt-brown rooftops and winding streets. I was only there for one summer’s night, but I knew that one day I would live there.

As I returned to London, I had no idea how it would happen, I only knew that it was going to happen! Four years after that fateful visit, I decided to join the yachting industry and this time found myself in Antibes, where I fell even more in love. I always worked on boats that travelled all over the world so I would only be a visitor on the French Riviera for a few days at a time over the following nine years. Whenever I came back, I saw the same friends who were living here and it really felt like home. When the time came, I decided to settle in Antibes in a small apartment near the Salis beach. It has been amazing to be on the other side! I am no longer racing through the checkout at Carrefour with five shopping trollies like during my days working on a yacht and I get to enjoy a glass of rosé on the beach at the end of the day.

You’ve recently started your own training business. What kind of services do you offer and to whom?

Having worked as a teacher prior to yachting, it was an easy choice to combine my previous experience with the skill set I built up during my time at sea. I have always enjoyed training and find it incredibly rewarding helping people realise how much they are capable of and how to become better at what they do.

I am a PYA GUEST accredited trainer and work independently as well as alongside other trainers. I cover all aspects of the GUEST programme, which was created to provide a clearly defined career development path for interior crew.

It’s similar to what the deck crew have via the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) certification. I offer training on interior service and housekeeping from introductory to advanced level, and will soon be offering food hygiene courses as well as the PYA Management and Leadership course too. I also provide bespoke onboard training specifically tailored to suit the individual needs of a particular yacht.

Often interior crew find themselves working in roles for which they have had little or no training. This can leave them wondering if they are doing things correctly. Structured training helps to provide knowledge, confidence and a greater sense of job satisfaction.

When you’re not busy working, where do you like to spend your time on the Côte d’Azur?

I adore exploring the French Riviera so I often hop in my car and drive somewhere that I’ve never been to before to see what I can find. Some of my best finds have been up in the mountains and the old town of Biot is always charming. There is also an amazing coffee shop on Cap Ferrat that is great for a Sunday morning people-watching!

What are your tips for follow expats looking to make the most out of the region?

No matter how busy you are with your work or job, take time to look around and realise where you are.

There are so many exciting things happening up and down the coast all the time; make time to go out and see the local markets or festivals, sample the produce, have dinner picnics on the beach with friends, and get out there and search for new places. It doesn’t have to be a whole day, even a half hour or so to give you a glimpse of the local culture hiding all around us!

How can prospective students contact you?

Anyone who has any questions or would like to know further information is welcome to contact me at: