The event was held at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. Tickets were free if ordered online in advance and €10 at the door. This year, more than 4,000 internationals were in attendance to check out over 90 exhibitors and choose from more than 30 different workshops and sessions. The idea behind the event was to provide expats and internationals living in the Netherlands with the "opportunity to get all the information and contacts [they] need in one place."
Considered to be the most important 19th century architectural monument in Holland, the Beurs van Berlage was teeming with businesses, groups, and curious expats. The hallway leading up to the workshop rooms played host to an all-day art exhibition while the main part of the building housed a stage and a bevy of stations to check out. Upstairs, various workshops and sessions were held. Topics ranged from writing workshops to tax and employment seminars to mini salsa lessons. For an extra €15 you could participate in chocolate making or a do-it-yourself sushi workshop or attend a wine or whiskey tasting. For the single expat, the fair also included speed dating sessions!
Exhibitors present included Expat Women, Dutch News, Typical Dutch Stuff, Women's Business Initiative, Worldwide Brokers, ABN AMRO bank, Hard Rock Cafe, Tulip Expat Services, Expatcenter Amsterdam, American Women's Club Amsterdam, International Women's Clubs of Amsterdam and The Hague, British School of Amsterdam, English Breakfast Radio, Xpat Media, Time Out Amsterdam, Webster University, eXtremoS Dance Company, Pet Travel Clinic, and Undutchables... just to name a few!
There were also raffles with some excellent prizes like hotel accomodations, workshop tickets and magazine subscriptions. Many of the exhibitors also had their own raffles and games where you could win additional prizes. I did a few, but as it's been a week and I haven't heard anything, my guess is that I was not one of the lucky winners. But loads of fun just the same! Nearly every exhibitor had at least one free goodie for anyone who visited their station. I, for one, don't think I'll ever have to purchase another pen again! Click here to read the Expatica summary of the event.
I found out about the fair while digging around Expatica reading some articles. Something inspired me to attend (perhaps the free factor) and I ordered two tickets - one for myself and one for my husband. When my husband fell ill and informed me the day before the event that he wouldn't be joining me, I considered not going. So I text messaged some girlfriends asking if they'd be interested and let fate work it out. A good friend responded almost immediately and I found myself on the train to Amsterdam with her the following morning - each of us with the obligatory cup of coffee in hand.
The venue is within walking distance from Amsterdam Centraal Station so we enjoyed a nice walk and talk, stopping to check out the occasional elephant. A better building could not have been chosen - although they may need a bigger one for next year as the Beurs van Berlage was packed tighter than a can of sardines! We were greeted at the door by volunteers who checked our tickets and graced us with a goodie bag. Just to the right of the entrance was a free coat check and as far as the eye could see expats, volunteers, and exhibitors mulled about, engaged in conversation.
We went to several different stands just checking everything out. Then we headed upstairs for the Writing Your Life Story workshop led by Jo Parfitt. A writer, publisher, and expat with 26 titles under her belt, Jo now devotes much of her time to teaching writing workshops. The one she gave at "i am not a tourist" was a very much condensed version of her 2-hour session on putting your life on paper and possibly on the shelves of bookstores. It was an excellent workshop and very inspiring. I will definitely be attending more of her workshops in the future.
After that, we wandered through the art exhibition, admiring the work of fellow expats in the Netherlands. Then it was back to the stands to gather information and some really cool free items! Less than a year in the Netherlands for both of us and we've already adapted the Dutch habit of gravitating towards anything with the word 'free' attached!
I am now a member of Democrats Abroad, have two bags full of freebees, will be enjoying 2-for-1 cocktails with a friend later this week courtesy of Hard Rock Cafe, have a knitting group and writing workshops to attend, and have joined the Women's Business Initiative. Some great connections were made and valuable contacts were established.
I only wish I had done more planning before the event as I would have been sure to have made the most out of the workshops offered and made sure I had a list of questions to ask and Little Broadway business cards to pass out to the schools in attendance. But there's always next year. And speaking of - after getting home and telling my husband all about it and showing him all the goods I collected, he's already making plans to go along next year!