It was with a slight sense of trepidation that I got on my bike last night and headed for the Abert Cuypstraat to meet a bunch of people I don’t know. It was to be my first networking event with the Amsterdam Small Business Network. But I peddled on in spite of the headwind and eventually found myself on the market street after all the stalls had been cleared away and the street cleaners had moved in.
So all I had to do, having not noted the actual number, was find “The Butchers”. Easier said than done. If you have ever taken a look at the Albert Cuyp after the market has gone it becomes apparent that almost every shop from the Ferdinand Bolstreet side is or was a butchers: Sid Lee’s Butchers, the Islamic Butcher even a French Butcher… But in the end I find what looks more like a snack bar than a butchers and ask for “Pork Chops”.
I’m directed to the back of the shop. Confronted by a big metal sliding door, I press on the intercom (have I really got the right place?) After a short wait, the door opens and I find myself in a narrow hallway. I’m given a nametag and my coat is put away in the cloakroom. I’m greeted by organiser Sharon, who I met last week at a workshop organised by two motivating minds. Phew, it is the right place after all. It had felt like I’d entered a bank vault rather than a bar, but once inside it is really quite cosy.
What’s more, it had a very long bar. Ideal when you don’t actually know who to talk to. I sit at the bar and order a drink. It is fairly early so there are not many people at first. But Sharon soon sees to it that I get chatting to one of the next guests to come in. And while we are chatting I hardly notice that the bar soon fills up with other freelancers, entrepreneurs and well a whole bunch of people.
The main language appears to be English, but I soon find out that this is a very cosmopolitan mixture of people. I meet Danes as well as Dutch, Canadians as well as Colombians, English as well as every other nationality you can think of. Once we get past the subject many of us have in common, which is what brought you to Holland (love or money – and a quick unscientific poll reveals it’s love not money that draws expats away from their beloved homelands), we get onto other matters. Of course there is the obvious and the reason we all turned up – what kind of work do we do. The diversity of nationalities is only exceeded by the diversity of professions. I talk to a party organiser, a doula/illustrator, a make-up artist, a web developer, a photographer, a sports rep, a jewellery designer, a Dutch design shop owner – hey now there’s good match…Only sorry I didn’t get round to talking to absolutely everyone.
The funny thing is if you talk to someone for more than five minutes you can almost always find something you have in common. So I discussed organising parties, publishing, sailing, kids – there were a lot of moms and a large Amsterdam Mamas contingent. Before I knew it it was almost midnight and time I headed home. I had a great time, and judging by the comments on Facebook so did everybody else. Sharon and Marjolijn should be congratulated not only for organising a fantastic network event, but also for starting up a Facebook page only 10 weeks ago and getting this kind of response.