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Chufi

If You Were an Expat...

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let's say you're an expat, recently moved to a new country (because you or your spouse got a job there, for example). You love food and cooking, but the food in your new home is strange to you, you don't know where to shop, and you don't speak the language.

A local foodie comes along and offers you help.

I'm thinking of offering this kind of service. Information about Dutch food, shopping for food in Amsterdam, maybe some Dutch cooking classes, insiders information about the Dutch/Amsterdam food scene, touring the market and specialty shops, a cheese tour, beer tour, jenever info, etc...

If you had to chance to sign up for this, what would you expect and what would you be most interested in? Would you be willing to pay for something like this? How much? Do you think this is something suitable for expats only, or would you be interested in it if you were visiting Amsterdam as a tourist as well?

thanks for thinking along with me on this one.

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That's my life!

there are different levels of teaching and what you give.

I do local workshops for expats.....market tours, vocabulary.

these are set up as a series.

then I have cooking classes with market tours. one day.. 2 and 3.... days

Most people I think want a foodie walking tour.. with lunch as a tourist.

so having options is a good idea, set up days, and see how it goes.

Monday and Thursday walking tours with lunch..

Wednesday market cooking classes.

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I know, divina! Your blog was such good timing. I have been thinking about this for some time and your blog is really inspiring!

I have a big issue with money :smile: I did lots of catering in the past, and one of my problems always was that I find it very difficult to ask people for money. I need to listen to what you said in your blog, that you actually got more clients when you raised your prices, because people just don't take you seriously when you undercharge.


Edited by Chufi (log)

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set up a price.. start low if you like, I did.

get paid first.

I take paypal.

People can use their credit cards.

I HATE asking for money too!

but it is a job.

Be professional.

Join professional organization ( there are lots of Dutch IACP members)

make a professional site or brochure.

Best wishes!

I always take a market tour or cooking class where ever I go to get an insight from locals on where to eat etc.

Have a dining guide you can give you clients as a bonus!

I spent and spend a lot of time on my site, creating a lot of free info and advice so people know about Florence.

not everyone can take a class, but then people know who I am!

Establishes expertise!

LEt me know when you are ready!


Edited by divina (log)

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I visit Amsterdam 3-4 times a year, but never stay long enough to get to know the city very well. I'd welcome the chance to take a market tour, learn about local cheeses and other specialty foods, etc. I don't know what I'd be willing to pay, because I don't know what would be involved (lunch? special access? visits with local chefs? transport?) There are people who offer tours of Rungis, in Paris, for instance, and as I recall they are fairly pricey but they get you in the door and take you places regular tourists don't go.

The key is not to undervalue your own time and expertise, and to be sure you offer something people can't find on their own. Most people who are really interested in learning about food will recognize the value of those things and for those who don't, there are other alternatives out there.

Good luck.

Christine

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Hi Chufi: it's a great idea and I wish you every success with it.

I don't have any practical suggestion to offer, except that

what the others said seems great:

don't undervalue yourself,

tourists and expats would like to do this,

have a range of shorter and longer options,

make it easy to get paid and make sure you get paid :smile:

I'd love to read later on what works and does not

work for you.....

I can't imagine anyone better suited than you for such an

undertaking.

All best

Milagai

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not to be undervalued is touring a place with a local.

Not perhaps that is somewhere you could or could not go on your own, but rather what do you see through the eyese of a local.

if you do not have the language skills to ask questions, that is what the EXPERT is for.

To also be your translator and facilitator.. to get the most out of the experience.

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Klary that is a very good idea. I don't know if you have local newsgroups for expats in Amsterdam, but we have newsgroups here (Tanglo (Tel Aviv Anglos), Janglo (Jerusalem Anglos), etc.) and they are always whining about how they don't understand all of the different white cheeses here and the spices and how to use them.

Most of them give up and buy American, British or South African products and don't explore cooking Israeli food. I think this is a real shame.

Someone contacted me through eGullet and asked me if they could tag along with me when I shop. They had just moved to the country and didn't understand what certain things were used for. I showed her around and she is a very nice person. I felt like I gave her some pointers on what things are used for and I sent her some recipes to try at home. I didn't charge her anything, but it could definitely be a business.

good luck.

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A fabulous idea. Sorry I missed you when you were here in B.C. I would have liked to have met you two, but alas, all i can do is give you this:

Culinary Tours

He has built a whole business around it. I totally think that you could do this.

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I guess I can still consider myself an expat but I never tought to take classes to learn where to shop, that's the fun of a new place!!!

The only place a would consider to do something like that is a where the language is really an issue for me (ex. if we ever transfer to China).

I have friends who have been giving cooking classes for years in Amsterdam, if you want to talk to confront or exchange experiences I can connect you with them.

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Chufi - great idea. Don't be afraid to ask for money, up front, you're worth it!

Here's a link to a website set up especially for expats by expats: Paguro You may find it useful & you can advertise on it. Even though its not specificly food oriented reading through it may give you ideas on other services you could offer to newcomers wjo don't speak Dutch.

Good luck from one expat to another.

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Given your charm and enthusiasm, you would be a natural!

IACP is a great source of info and connections.

I've gone thru blogging trials and errors...still am going thru them, so PM me if you want some info.

Good luck....and just go for it!!

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Chufi,

I think what you're planning is an excellent idea. We've been expatriated for over twenty years, and my wife had organized courses and tours in Egypt when we were there.

Some comments:

- many of the people that will sign up will be first-time expats. The hard-core, who've done five or six different postings, will already have their networks and procedures in place. Tailor to "newbies" who haven't been abroad much.

- make a choice between expatriate living and gastro-tourism. Expatriates, many of whom have children, have specific needs tailored around creating a home environment with some elements of familiarity. The high-end side can work well, but you need to work from a base level. Offer a couple of sessions around the higher, local end of dining, and see what your balance calls for.

- shopping is key to most new expats. They need to know where to find things that may not be local, or what local material they can substitute easily (another topic, substitutions, is a critical item for expats).

- I hate to say it, but most of modern society is hopelessly inept in the kitchen, and has to be taught bottom up on how to work from scratch. (What! I can't buy pancake batter ready-to-pour!).

- I'm not saying to shy away from the local cuisines (by any means) but look at how you can make them accessible to people that have never been abroad.

- Having said that, keep your eyes open for the people that really want to get into it and cook, and then tailor some courses around them. They'll in turn pass the word, and you'll have a very successful business very soon.

- And get the money up front. Take credit cards, whatever, but make it easy for them to pay right away. They'lll feel more comfortable. These are expats, for God's sake. They're hardly starving backpackers (okay, I'm a little peckish right now.....I should get those rib eyes ready).


Edited by Peter Green (log)

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I can't recall the cost, but I know it was expensive by vietnamese standards for a tour of the market and a cooking class in Hanoi. And along with meeting my new daughter it was one of the highlights of the trip. I still make the banana leaf salad on occasion.

I'd pay. It is particularly valuable to me in a country where english is not ubiquitous and I want the details on the foods.

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As a new arrival, I think the first, most reassuring thing I would like to know is where I might find ingredients and foods I cooked at home.

I am assuming that people attracted to your business (wonderful idea, indeed!) would be knowledgeable cooks and many would find meals at home one of the most comforting ways to ease into a new life. Therefore, a trip to that amazing store with walls of spices would make me happy, a visit to the best butchers, produce markets, etc.

If you could respond to specific demographics to meet the needs of clients who might be eager to find a variety of Turkish flat breads, but not the chilies used in Indonesian cooking, for example, that would be welcome. However, you'd have to know if that client comes with contacts in his or her expat community to determine how valued or superfluous such a service might be.

Also, your years of budgeting and comparison shopping would come in handy. Who's less expensive than someone else, yet still supplies a superior product? Who is cheap, but the stuff is horrid and not at all a bargain?

As an expat who has lived in Amsterdam a while, perhaps after marrying someone Dutch, or being promoted to a new position in a company that might involve entertaining colleagues, then I would like to know more about the cooking of my new home. I'd say your own eGullet thread serves as an excellent basis for curriculum.

On that note, you might consider targeting busy professional Dutch families with children who have hired someone from a different country to help them at home. If their new employee cooks some of their meals, they might appreciate your expertise and invite you to teach their new employee where to shop in a new city and how to prepare a few of their favorite dishes.

As a brand new expat, I'd appreciate a guide to help me with the Dutch words I need to know when shopping, especially in situations where the transaction is not conducted in a shared language. (I am thinking of one awkward situation Mei described in her blog and am assuming you would attract expats who speak English but may not know many Dutch words.) This would be especially good if you could give me a short questionnaire after I hired you, and could append a generalized handout you prepared in advance on your computer.

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the advice already given is great. i think this is a great business idea, klary.

as people mentioned above, maybe you can offer a couple of different courses. you could sell packages too:

a) intro to dutch cooking: offer a series of three or four classes

b) intro to dutch shopping: groceries, fresh markets, meat and fish

c) intro to dutch restaurants: cheap, middle of the road, fine dining

d) where to buy ingredients from "home": american ingredients, etc.

e) dutch cooking for families: rachel ray style quick meals :blink:

f) dutch cooking for entertaining: cocktail parties, etc.

g) how to ride a bike and eat stroopwaffels at the same time...just kidding of course!

people can pick and choose and you can charge x amount for one class and give a "discount" if they sign up and pay for two or three in advance.

i think people are willing to pay a fairly decent amount for classes like this. first, before you think of the price as a whole, break it down so that you know what you're charging for (so you don't feel intimidated asking people for money...i know how that is, i always undercharge for stuff): cost of food, cost of equipment as you'll probably have to buy some more knives, pots, pans, etc, cost of your time, cost of having people come into your home (if that's where you're having classes), or cost of renting space somewhere to have classes, etc. etc. once you do this, you can come up with a base price to charge people. do NOT underestimate the cost of your time. imagine what you were paid when you were working!

i have a friend who went to southeast asia and they took a local cooking class in thailand. i think that is one of their favorite memories! cooking thai food at a local's house.

with your hospitality and personality i'm sure you'd make any expat feel like amsterdam was home for them.

remember the amazing database of photos that you already have catalogued here on eGullet which will make great eye-candy for your website:

dutch cooking thread

both of your eGullet food blogs

dinner! thread

dessert thread

these of course would be great for any print material you might want to have as well.

wow, what a great idea. i do hope you make a go of it.

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I just want to support many of the ideas above that move past recipe and technique. As an expat, I'd be most interested in coming to understand the broader cultural context for dishes and practices. It's often the stuff that you don't even know you know that's most interesting to people trying to figure out the social and cultural complexities of food, eating, and cooking.

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Trying to imagine myself as an expat, I'd find the most value in a tour (or series of tours, depending on how much ground there is to cover) that would show me where the best markets & shops are for various items, and explain to me why they are the best. Ideally this would cover the whole range of merchants, from high-end establishments to the markets where you find the best values.

When I read your questions above, I immediately thought back to a week we spent with a friend who lived in Rome (a native, he was an expat in NYC for a few years but ultimately moved back home), and a couple of morning trips to his neighborhood farmers' market. It was HUGE, overflowing with marvelously fresh produce, and tucked away off a main avenue in a residential area where tourists would never stumble on it. Those walks to & around the market opened a whole new window onto the quality of life in Rome for me.

If I were living in a foreign land, a similar window onto my new home would be the single most valuable thing for me. I'd pay $25 - $50 for such an experience encompassing one or two mornings or afternoons, perhaps more if more time were involved & I got a sense that the comprehensiveness of the tours would be worth it.

Of course I'm working for paltry wages right now so even $25 is a lot to me. :raz:

If I were in an expat situation where I had scads of money & free time, I'd also be interested in the restaurant tour idea, & possibly the cooking class idea as well; but speaking realistically, knowing where to shop would be the most useful information for the way I live my life now. Others will certainly differ! :smile:

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as part of the expat community, I also speak, for groups at schools, churches etc.

for free.

That way people can also get to know you, and trust you!

Who are the expats in Amsterdam?

I assume the wives of working guys?

We have a huge Expat community of people with GE.

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I am an ex-pat and, although I don't have to deal with a language difference, this idea seems wonderful to me. I'd love to have something like this available here, not just for "where to buy what" and "what I can use instead of [fill in the blank]" but also "what are the foods surrounding the different holidays".

The latter could very well appeal to more established ex-pats, not just the newly arrived ones.

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Thank you, everybody, for your thoughtful replies.

I have been toying with this idea for some time. There is an International school right across the street from my house. Every morning I see the parents (mostly the mums) drop off their children and I was thinking thay would be a place to start! I could hang up flyers in the school or something.

I agree that the best thing would be, if I could offer something special, extra, something people couldn't have easy access to by themselves. If I have a good relationship with my cheeseguy, and he knows I'm coming in with a little group of 'students', he could have something prepared for tasting - which would be a very different experience from coming in unannounced. Something like that.

Peter Green's remark about the difference between gastro-tourism and expatriates who just want to get some information is a good one. I need to know what my clients would expect from me, but for that, I have to be clear about the various things I have to offer.

Just thinking out loud here. I really appreciate all the input.

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Trying to imagine myself as an expat, I'd find the most value in a tour (or series of tours, depending on how much ground  there is to cover) that would show me where the best markets & shops are for various items, and explain to me why they are the best.  Ideally this would cover the whole range of merchants, from high-end establishments to the markets where you find the best values.

Quoting myself, but....

Now that I think about it, I wish I'd known someone who could have imparted such knowledge to me back when we moved from NYC to New Jersey in those unenlightened, pre-Internet days.

It was very much an expatriate experience. Only one food shop within walking distance. They don't even speak the same language out here. (Gabbagool, gobbadeal, what the heck were they talking about? :wink: ) Nothing open after 9:00, how do these people survive without late-night delis down the block? Etc.

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I visit Amsterdam 3-4 times a year, but never stay long enough to get to know the city very well.  I'd welcome the chance to take a market tour, learn about local cheeses and other specialty foods, etc.

Christine, let me know next time you're here, you could be my guinea pig :smile:

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There's such a lot of good advice here that I'll only speak to the question of what to charge.

As a person who sells her food skills and knowledge, I think of it like this. My time has a certain value to me. I have to earn a certain amount in a day to make it worth my while spending the day working, instead of whatever else I might be doing. We all hate getting to the end of a day tired and worn out, thinking about the compensation we received for our work, and feeling ripped off. Charge enough so that at the end of every working day you feel fairly paid and that it was a day well spent.

The corollary to that is that the client wants to end the day feeling that the price paid was justified by the quality and quantity of the experience. There's no magic way to balance that equation, you just have to feel your way through it. For example, I see lots of Euro gastronomy courses that last 5-6 days and cost $4,000-5,000. For me that's a no-brainer. No way I'd spend that much money for that little time on cooking lessons and food tourism! But lots of people do, and they love it.

Once you know who your target clientele is, you'll be able to better imagine how much they'd pay. Just using myself as an example, I'd pay you $250 for a day that included marketing, shopping in the markets, and hands-on preparation of a meal together. Once, for one day. But if I wanted something ongoing, as an expat might, like a 2 month series where you spent a day a week showing them all sorts of different food things and maybe had lunch together at some great little place, then I'd maybe want to pay no more than $750-1000 for 8 days.

That's what I would charge if I were doing it here, just for what it's worth. And I wouldn't do a $250 day or a $1000 2 month thing for just one person, because then I wouldn't make enough. So I'd set a minimum number of people for a day. And I'd set a schedule so that people sign up to my calendar, instead of trying to book time willy nilly.

But the business end is my worst skill, so you might want to take all that with a bit of flor de sal.

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Another ex-pat talking here...

I, of course, have found your advice incredibly useful so I think starting a business and thus cutting me off from it is a horrible idea ;)

For serious:

I just want to echo the idea of different "curricula" for different needs.

When I first started living overseas, what I needed was very basic:

1) What are things called (language, different butchering styles for meat, etc)?

2) What are substitutions/like substances?

3) What is the same/different about making meals/living in your new environment. This was a HUGE adjustment for me when I first started living abroad. Simple things like size of refrigerators/ovens, what you can find at supermarkets vs. small shops, expected business hours, even questions about how easy it is to find the same things over and over again are all real questions that most new ex-pats eventually face. Further, some of these questions only come up after a bit.

Having a set of classes about this would have been amazing.

I also want to echo the sentiments of one poster that the needs of families with children are even more pronounced. At my employer, there is an informal network of ex-pat wives who help out the new kids, share info, etc but there is no doubt that having access to a more formal (to say nothing of more exhaustive, dependable, etc) source for this kind of information would likely prove VERY popular indeed; based on a few years now (in different places) of informal, dinner conversations as well as standing orders for stuff when I head back to the US to visit, food is a major stress point for many an ex-pat family.

A few, more tangible, suggestions:

1) See if you can get relationships with relocation firms. These groups are usually hired by firms to help ex-pats relocate and settle in. If nothing else, they know who the new folks in town are. Further, you could become part of their offering, included in their marketing, etc. all while remaining independent.

2) Even if you focus in Amsterdam, try to advertise in some of the other large towns. Eindhoven (and surrounding area) has a large Ex-pap population (thanks to Phillips), Rotterdam and Utrecht have large consultancies, universities, etc. and many of these folks choose to live in Amsterdam and commute (this is very common where I work).

3) Advertise on all the websites you can find (the only one I know is expatica.com. I don't like it much but a bunch of folks do use it), also reach out to groups (I believe Amsterdam and Rotterdam both have ex-pat organizations, including ones specifically for wives/those keeping the home). Much like the relo companies, these groups can provide both leads and opportunities for you.

4) Remember, new ex-pats (and here I mean new to living abroad at all, not new to Amsterdam), often don't know what they need to know. Free form offerings are good but don't be afraid to offer some more structured stuff; a side benefit is that many new arrivals want to feel "taken by the hand" in this way.

5) If you are going to work with families, make sure your offerings can work with the day-to-day efforts of childcare. Either be able to do what you do with children in tow or offer times when both partner's have time to watch the kids.

I'll echo those who think it's a great idea!

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