“i am not a tourist” (and why you shouldn’t be either)
Expat Tiffany Jansen has one piece of advice to offer you: Attend this fair. It really does have it all.
I was a bundle of nerves the entire flight. Who would I talk to? What would I do? Would they be able to speak English? How would I make friends? Was it possible to still do all the things I enjoyed doing in the US? Would I get homesick? How badly? What was it going to be like to have to bicycle everywhere?
Surely I was the only person crazy enough to move thousands of miles from home. What kind of life would I be able to make in the Netherlands? And how?
In hindsight, I realize that I'm not the only person to relocate to the Netherlands, and that all expats have similar questions and fears when coming here. However, at the time I purchased my one-way ticket from the United States to the Netherlands, these fears were very real and the questions very nerve-wracking.
Once I landed, things didn't get much better. Where would I go to learn Dutch? How would I find a job? Were there others like me? And if so, where would I find them? How was I to go about setting up a bank account, getting a citizen service number, registering at the local municipality? Where would I find a doctor, a dentist, a veterinarian?
Eventually all of my questions were answered. All thanks to an event that gathers together the people qualified to answer all these questions and more in one place, to provide support for the expat community: Expatica's "i am not a tourist" International Lifestyle Fair.
My ticket was free, as I had ordered it online in advance. All I needed to do was figure out how to navigate the public transportation system in order to get there.
At the entrance, a volunteer was there to greet me, check my ticket and hand me my goodie bag. There were pens, notepads, a water bottle, brochures, magazines and more. I dropped my jacket off at the free coat check and gazed open-mouthed at the smorgasbord before me.
That was three years ago and, on 23 October 2011, I will be at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam for the third year in a row.
The "i am not a tourist" Expat Fair really does have it all. There are workshops and art exhibitions, drinks and snacks, and rows and rows of booths representing various groups and companies on hand to greet you with open arms and eagerly answer all your questions.
Each year, my agenda is the same. Grab my goodie bag, check my coat, browse the art exhibitions, make the rounds to pick up gobs and gobs of freebees, enter a few raffles and contests, chat up the exhibitors and fellow expats, catch a performance or two, and attend any workshops that catch my eye.
Over the last three years, workshops have included writing, whiskey tasting, Genever tasting, wine tasting, chocolate making, personal development, sushi making, job hunting, and taxes.
Some of my favorite exhibitors include DutchNews.nl, Time Out Amsterdam, Xpat Media, Women's Business Initiative International, Hard Rock Café Amsterdam, and, of course, the Expatica booth.
I've also enjoyed performances by eXtremoS Dance Company and laughed until my sides ached at Ameri-Dutch comedian Greg Shapiro.
The fair goes from 10:00 till 17:00, and it really is possible to stay the entire day and not see everything.
It was at the "i am not a tourist" fair that I met other expat entrepreneurs and was able to get the support and guidance I needed to get my own business growing.
That first year was when I met Jo Parfitt during her writing workshop. An expat, author, mentor and all around inspiring lady, Jo has had a huge influence on my foray into freelance writing.
Through the fair, I discovered excellent expat publications such as The Holland Times, The Xpat Journal, XM Magazine, Family-Matters Magazine, and ACCESS Magazine - all of which I write or have written for and proved a tremendous help in adjusting to life in the Netherlands.
I found groups to join and activities to participate in which have helped me make friends, establish a routine, have something to look forward to and do something I enjoy. Plus, I was able to do some much-needed shopping at top-notch places like the American Book Center and various expat food shops, thanks to discounts and coupons I picked up either at the booths or in my goodie bag.
With all that the fair has to offer, it's not just for newbies. Even the "old hats" who have been living in the Netherlands for years can discover new things, meet new people, learn something new, and see some familiar faces.
Order tickets online prior to the event and pay absolutely nothing to get in. But even if you wait to purchase tickets at the door the day of the event, what you will get out of your time at the "i am not a tourist" fair is more than ten times worth the EUR 10 fee.
If there is one piece of advice I can offer expats - new or old - it is to attend this fair and squeeze everything you can out of your time there. It will put your mind at ease, answer your questions, and open doors. Most importantly, it will make you excited and proud to be an expat in the Netherlands.
The "i am not a tourist" International Lifestyle fair will be held on 23 October 2011 at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam from 10:00-17:00. Tickets are free if ordered online in advance and EUR 10 at the door.