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"I'm Not a Tourist" No, Really…

On Sunday, Dan and I attended our first Expatica “I am Not a Tourist” Fair in Amsterdam. This, free if you get your tickets online, yearly event is a one-day conference with workshops, talks, and exhibitors all oriented towards helping expats get settled in the Netherlands. Held in the Beurs van Berlage, the event was very busy with probably over 400-500 people (I’m awful at guesstimating people). The vendors covered a wide variety of subjects, from expat finances, employment firms, and movers, to life coaches, non-profits and food. We listened to short talks on starting a business in the Netherlands and expat investing, and attended a whiskey tasting workshop. We also spoke to many vendors and organizations, most of which were great to chat with even if they remain difficult to access for expats living in Maastricht.

The Floor

Looking down on the central exhibitor hall.

Looking down on the central exhibitor hall.

I’ve been to several large conferences in a variety of fields, so the size of the conference floor wasn’t particularly impressive. It was, however, outrageously busy and I’ve come to the conclusion that people just don’t say “excuse me” (or pardon) here. I was a little surprised to see several moving/relocation companies, if you’re in Amsterdam chances are you’ve already made your move, but I suppose they are necessary for the next move or moving home. I was very happy to see several organizations represented that I have had to pleasure of finding online. Expat Women was there and we had a nice chat. I also got to meet the archive assistant from the Expat Archive Centre and extend my interest in volunteering for them (more on that at a later date). Given the fair’s location, I didn’t try to speak with any employment agencies (they’re mostly Amsterdam-oriented), but we spoke with a couple of tax and finance advisers who helped us frame some of our money challenges better. Democrats Abroad was also quick to sign us up for their notices and assistance with absentee voting.
Workshops & Talks
Main Stage. We didnt actually attend any talks on the main stage.

Main Stage. We didn't actually attend any talks on the main stage.

There were a variety of talks and workshops throughout the day, although everything was scheduled in such a way that you probably wouldn’t be able to attend more that 4 or so. We went to a talk on Starting a Business in the Netherlands and another on Expat Finances. The business talk was given by Suzy Oge from the Women’s Business Initiative in the Hague. It was a pretty basic 30-minute talk about starting a business, not bad if you’re just starting to plan, but less useful for those of us trying to dig into the meat of the issue. She promised to talk us out of starting a business and I was disappointed that she didn’t try very hard. Its the hard questions that make a sound business plan. WorldWideBroker‘s Expat Finance talk was likewise basic, but since I have less knowledge in the area of investing and retirement savings, I found it more useful.
After the talks, Dan & I attended the Whiskey Tasting & Nosing workshop lead by the owner of the North End English Pub in Leiden (for an extra 15 euros). I’ve been enjoying whiskey and scotch ever since I lived in Ireland for a semester and Dan is equally enamored, so we rarely miss the chance to sample new scotches. Our usual choice is Oban, but we like to keep our options open. The workshop was very good. The speaker explained a lot about how whiskey is made, the difference between a blend and a single malt, and even talked about the shady side of the whiskey industry. All in all the one hour tasting stretched almost into two and we ended up closing out the conference. All the vendors left before we did!
I was surprised that the conference had very little in the way of opportunities to network with the other expats attending. Maybe it has to do with it being a one-day events, but open coffees or post-conference drinks organized around other common interests would have been a great way for people to focus on each other instead of just the vendors on the floor.
Fortunately the workshop turned out to be a good alternative and we ended up meeting a friendly couple currently living in Amsterdam (she’s from Ireland and he’s from France). We ended up going out to eat at a tasty Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam before Dan & I caught the train back home. Meeting them make the entire day trip worth it.

Ultimately I think attending the I Am Not a Tourist Fair was a good use of our time and I was happy to be able to talk to a variety of people and share the blog a bit. Of course being in Amsterdam, most of the organizations did not have counterparts in Maastricht (or anywhere near Maastricht for that matter). When/If I start volunteering with the Archive I will have to attend a special training session and there are no meetings of Democrats Aboard near us. Toastmasters even asked if I wanted to lead a new branch here in Maastricht! If you know me at all you know how unlikely that is. Can’t say I’m not disappointed, but I do understand. I would love to see something similar to the expat fair happen in Limburg (or, be still my heart, in Maastricht). I wonder if there are enough organizations, companies, and expats in the area to make such an event a success.
Bottom line, if you live (or will live) in and around Amsterdam I would call the “I Am Not a Tourist” Fair a must-see since it can put you in touch with a variety of services. If you live elsewhere in the Netherlands, you may be like us and find it useful to attend once or twice, but a local event would be more valuable. Hopefully Expatica will try and include some actual networking options in the future to make the fair worth attending every year.
And stay tuned for a possible video. We took a little video of the fair and if it is good enough we’ll get it online. Otherwise the podcast will no doubt be filled with Expat Fair news.

3 Responses to “"I'm Not a Tourist" No, Really…”

  1. Amanda says:

    Thanks for mentioning this, I had heard about the conference but was also wondering about the usefulness of it. Its funny they didn’t have socializing times. Almost every Dutch event I’ve been to, including movies, has a break time (sometimes one per hour, a little excessive for me) for people to mingle or grab a snack. It seems especially odd given the nature of this event, but at least you were able to make some connections. The volunteer gig sounds promising!

    PS I have found the technology course you mentioned, I’m in next semester:(

  2. locusta says:

    I’ve noticed that events here almost always have breaks built in. I’m not fond of the ones during movies. For the Fair, I think it may be a matter of focus from the organizers or maybe other people who living in Amsterdam just stop in for one or two things and then leave again. I think that at least some of the nonprofit organizations should have unofficial meet-ups, but I’m not willing to organize them so I’m not one to talk. ;)

    Good luck with the tech class.

  3. Gina says:

    hi amanda/locusta, interesting article about the amsterdam fair. it’s one of the things worth to make a note of, when we will talk to ton wanders, the europa manager of the city of maastricht. i still have to schedule an interview with him and perhaps it can be useful for you to be there as well… will see when he has time and then get back to you… you as an expat knows what it is you need etc etc.

    see you around :-)


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