On Saturday 16 September 2006, the Expat-Expo was held at Kirchgemeindehaus Neumünster, Seefeldstrasse 91 in Zürich.
Please may we clarify that The XpatXchange and Expat-Expo are separate companies.
On a misty morning with a light grey sky that threatened rain, I set out to visit the Expat-Expo for the first time. During my tram journey I first noticed the signs of autumn this year after enjoying the recent Indian summer. Some of the crisp fresh green leaves had started to fade into autumnal golden brown colours. The light breeze coaxed a few leaves away from the branches. As the tram rumbled past Stauffacher in Zürich, a few people appeared troubled, lost in their own stories, experiencing their own private journey. Burkliplatz was playing host to a bustling open-air market and my mind turned back to my final destination, wondering if the Expat-Expo would be anything like this.
The Kirchgemeindehaus, Neumünster was only a few minutes walk from the tram stop: Feldeggstrasse. A large bright sign helped visitors find their way.
A buzz of excitement was in the air. Outside there was a small market that appeared to have been organised in conjunction with a youth group similar to the Boy Scouts. It was nice to see tables and chairs outside the main entrance, which allowed people to take a break al fresco.
Once inside the venue, my eyes were immediately drawn to the display of Cadburys chocolate displayed on the BRITSHOP tables. There was a large Union Flag and an England Flag (this depicts the red cross of St. George) displayed on the backdrop behind their tables. The difference and incorrect reference to these two flags have been the cause of much debate amongst Xpats since I first arrived in Switzerland. There is enough material to write a separate article just on this subject. But that is an issue for another day.
At just after 11.00 I wandered around to get a feel for the Expat-Expo. There was a hive of activity. Layout plans clearly showed the location of the different exhibitors. The rest rooms were clean and easily accessible. An irrelevant point for some but for those visitors with children or who may have a disability this is important information.
I set out to meet Louisa Schibli, who runs The Xpat Xchange, for the first time. Many exhibitors and visitors had travelled quite a distance to attend the Expat-Expo but was surprised to hear that Louisa had travelled from Vermont in the U.S. via New York. The journey was not only long but also involved the cancellation of the original flight booked from Vermont to New York and Louisa’s bags being lost and eventually arriving in Zürich on the morning of Saturday 16 September. With sheer determination Louisa managed to board another flight from Vermont to New York without the correct boarding pass. Looking at Louisa you would have thought she had just walked around the corner not been through that travel experience. Louisa had kindly bought me a book entitled, The Royals, Their Lives, Loves and Secrets as she had remembered that my favourite topic to write about is the British Royal Family. When I arrived at The Xpat Xchange table Louisa was discussing the book with Kati Clinton the Associate Editor of Swiss News.
I was introduced to Nicola (Nicki) Auf der Maur, one of Louisa’s friends.
It was incredible to listen to the variety of interests and activities that these two businesswomen are involved in e.g.
Nicola founded the relocation company Le Concierge Expatriate Services GmbH in 1999. Then Swiss Kits TM was founded to provide orientation courses for Xpats and newcomers to Switzerland.
Information about the on-going collection of books, videos, CDs and DVDs for
Mongolia in East Asia can be seen on the website link: - http://www.leconcierge.ch/mongolia.htm
Nicola is creative and her needlework projects can be seen on:
Nicola made a special cushion for Louisa which was based on the designs of various gift cards that Louisa had previously created Images of this can be seen on:-
If I remember the story correctly, Nicola has also created and made cushions for some members of the British rock band The Who. The band performed at the Live 8 concert held in Hyde Park in London on Saturday 2 July 2005.
Nicola has also written some of the articles displayed under the Community Section of the XpatXchange website, some examples are: -
Article of the Month: -
October 2004 – Settling in With The Swiss
I did say, these two ladies had been involved in many different business ideas.
Louisa mentioned that having lived in Switzerland for twelve years provided a good solid foundation for running The Xpat Xchange and for making important contacts etc..
Throughout the day I visited some of the exhibitors to find out more information about their products or services and asked their permission before taking any photographs.
Little Star Day School
Ida and Claudi kindly agreed to talk to me and I found out some interesting information.
The table was set out very well and the images on the laptop portrayed fun, reassuring advertising material for parents/guardians looking for suitable child-care. Ida said they had first heard of XpatXchange approx. 5 years ago through a friend. They thought the first Expat Expo in February was good and have continued to be exhibitors. I have never had children but can only imagine how difficult it must be to try to find a nursery/kindergarten where you are comfortable to leave your children. Imagine the mixture of emotions parents/guardians must feel when they turn to leave their children for the first time. One of my ex-work colleagues in London has recently been through this process after caring for her son for the first year. It took a long time to find a nursery but the last I heard it is all going well and she is provided with a weekly diary update of how her son is progressing.
I enquired if it was difficult to find teachers, helpers, general staff for the Little Star Day School and Ida replied, “It is not difficult to find staff but it is difficult to find the right people” which I thought was an important point. They look for candidates who are not only a teacher by profession but as a passion. It is important they have a good team of employees providing support for each other as a close family does.
Ida mentioned that when prospective clients i.e. new parents/guardians come to visit, she welcomes them to the Little Star Day School but requests they also look at other nurseries/kindergartens. Some may think this is a strange approach but it is a tactic that ensures that if the parents/guardians still feel comfortable after visiting other places this must be the right choice.
I have had experience of helping some Xpat families by looking after their children, allowing the parents some precious time on their own. Although it was fun at times, it also brought to light how easy it is for children to have accidents as they are always running around (as one example) or they may be ill. Ida advised that all the teachers at the Little Star Day School are trained in First Aid, which is renewed each year. They also have two Paediatricians associated / attached to the schools if professional medical help is required.
The Little Star Day Schools follow a high standard of security, which is a sad fact of life in today’s world that cannot be ignored. All the doors are locked i.e. preventing strangers gaining access to the premises.
It appears that The Little Star Day Schools offer a high quality of early education that provides invaluable preparation for the school years. It is also reassuring to see in the brochure that they welcome a multicultural community of families and are committed to supporting this diversity in all areas of their early childhood program. The earlier the education and awareness of other cultures, religions, languages etc..is introduced into the lives of the next generation the better chance there may be for a more accepting, tolerant society.
It is also great to see that additionally children can join classes in swimming, gym, music, and dance. In an age where there is growing concern regarding the lack of active children due to many hours being spent in front of the television or computer games, it is reassuring to see an organisation that promotes healthy, fun activities.
Phoenix Trading – Greeting Cards
Gauri – Die etwas andere Boutique
I stopped to talk to Gauri and Sangeeta who had created a table filled with beautifully coloured products. They said it took them from about approx 10:15 – 11:30 to set up the stall. The lighting above and near their table is an important factor for their presentation. They became aware of the Expat-Expo via the Yahoo lists.
Gauri said that business is going well and obtains a lot of orders via the website from clients in Germany and England. There are plans to expand the website. The business is not typically seasonal but the period from September – December is very busy, as clients tend to buy more gifts during these months. The motivation to start up the business was fuelled by the realisation that the quality of the goods in the larger departmental stores is not that good. It is a Myth that all Indian products do not last that long. Gauri has her own suppliers which allows her to import good quality, unique products (not usually found in the larger stores) directly from India
Swiss DVD Rental
Amy Davidson kindly offered me some free microwave popcorn with a promotional information card. This is one of the benefits of being a visitor at an Expat-Expo – there are many freebies J
This business idea was influenced by an idea in the U.S.A. All the business is conducted via the website. The selection of DVDs available is vast and includes popular TV series such as Desperate Housewives - The extra juicy edition.
It was not too long before I was drawn back towards to the delights on the BRITSHOP tables. For all those who have never tried Cadbury’s chocolate buttons – you do not know what you are missing (only joking) Yes, before all the emails start flooding into XpatXchange (well maybe one or two) I am aware that Cadburys allegedly went through a health scare earlier in 2006 but this has all been dealt with now.
The BRITSHOP is a fledgling company that has been operating for approx. 5 weeks and already has 120 customers registered on their website where customers can place their orders. They do not deliver outside of Switzerland. Joanne & Carlo Faessler have worked extremely hard especially as Carlo has a full time job and designed their website. Joanne is in charge of the packing and placing their orders with a shipping company.
I asked if there was a problem with products going past their sell by dates. Most of their products have a long shelf life i.e. the recommended sell by dates are a long way into the future. Crisps present the biggest problem. Two weeks prior to the expiry of the sell by dates, items are put under a clearance rate. Please keep an eye on the BRITSHOP website for any bargains.
I could not leave the BRITSHOP without buying a Cadbury’s flake, a bag of Cadbury’s buttons and a box of Scott’s Porridge Oats.
Summary of the BRITSHOP: Great Table (positioning), Great Effort, and Great selection of goods.
After a short lunch break during which my partner joined me, I set off again around the Expat-Expo to find out more riveting tales.
Zürich Comedy Club
I had an interesting conversation with Janet Evard who is originally from Greenock in Scotland. Janet has been in Switzerland for 46 years, which alone deserves a bravery award (nb: This is an attempt at a lighthearted comment. Please do not take this literally) and she has been a member of the Zürich Comedy Club for eleven years. The club was formed in 1954.
The Zürich Comedy Club meets on Monday nights and all the relevant information can be seen on their website. My partner and I went to the Monday Club evening on 11 September and it was enjoyable.
The next public production is scheduled to run from 7 – 17 November and it is a time travelling comedy thriller by Alan Ayckbourn entitled “ Communicating Doors”
Now getting into the swing of this roving reporting role, I thought I would head off to the Swiss News table and try to pick up some handy tips.
It was time for another free gift, the September edition of Swiss News, which is Switzerland’s only English-language monthly magazine. Now in its 25th year of publication, Swiss News has a circulation of over 12,000 within Switzerland and roughly 1,000 abroad.
Kati Clinton, the Associate Editor, kindly took some time to talk to me. Kati remembers that there was a lot of snow at the time of the first Expat-Expo but thinks the event is good value for money and attracts a lot of visitors. Swiss News is available to buy at some kiosks and Orell Füessli – The Bookshop in Zürich (one example). A full list of outlets can be seen on their website. Kati has worked for Swiss News since January 2005.
I asked Kati if she found it a little awkward approaching people as they walked past the table. Kati did say it could be challenging at times as some people just like to window shop (so to speak) and have no intention of subscribing to a magazine during their visit or purchasing any product from the other tables. I empathised with Kati as I have little or no sales skills. I am very much of the belief system that if people are in search of products or services they will ask. Personally, I am not in favour of the pushy persuasion techniques that coax people into purchasing a product/service that they do not want or need. Just before I left Kati, I was introduced to Liz Meen the editor of Swiss News. There is an amusing article in the September edition entitled, “Decoding the Swiss” and for all those of you who have been enthralled by the book and/or the film, The Da Vinci Code it will have particular relevance.
Whilst talking to Kati at the Swiss News table, I unfortunately kept bumping into Kristine Germann-Nelson who was standing by the Bergli Books table. Despite the unceremonious bumps, Kristine agreed to talk to me.
There was a stimulating selection of books on display and the book entitled “Hoi your Swiss German survival guide” by Sergio J.Lievano & Nicole Egger caught my attention. I had heard of this book previously and welcomed the opportunity to purchase a copy. I have not had the opportunity to read the entire book but it appears to be humorous and has some great illustrations in it. So, if you are fond of carrots, it is important to remember to ask for Rüäbli (Schwiizerdütsch), especially if in an open-air market, and not ask for Karrotten as I did in 2001. Needless to say the market stallholder looked at me with a blank expression and I was saved by a kind Swiss lady who translated my attempt at High German into Swiss German. Hoi Zäme has now been published and provides a Schwiizerdütsch guide for native speaking Germans.
Bergli Bookshop is located in Basel but orders can be placed via the Internet, telephone, or email. It appears to be more than just a bookshop as Talk Parties are organised helping to raise awareness of other cultures and they have a book discussion group. Social events that may appeal to many and or course to those keen bookworms amongst us
My partner and I stopped for a moment to have afternoon tea – how quintessentially British of us. We bought some Ribena drinks from the BRITSHOP and Carlo kindly arranged for a cup of hot water – I carry my own peppermint tea bags just in case they are not available. We tucked into our Cadbury chocolate treats with much delight. We met up with one of the exhibitors that we had previously been introduced to at a networking event and he said that the Expat-Expo was good but would have preferred if all the tables were in one hall. I am not sure if this was a negative outcome for the exhibitors. It provides the visitors with more places to explore and provides a greater area to wander around. We have seen a global media expo held in a large hotel and the exhibitors were not all in one location. From a networking point of view different rooms may provide barriers to a certain extent, especially if you do not have someone to look after your table whilst you are working the main hall. I think it may be a case of choosing to look at the glass as either half full or half empty. The more exhibitors at Expat-Expo means more publicity, this should lead to more visitors, which hopefully leads to more customers.
Mary Kay Cosmetics GmbH
Following afternoon tea, I thought why not try a bit of pampering and made my way to the Mary Kay table. I spoke to Wendy Bootlang-Hakim and Morag Herbert who are Individual Consultants for the company.
This is not a sexist company as my partner was provided with a free trial of Mary Kary, private spa collection tm hand cream called satinhands ®. It is very nice.
Just to top up my freebie bag, Wendy provided me with free travel size trials of skin products for sensitive skin which also contained ingredients that help reverse the signs of aging.
I was told that the Mary Kay products: -
Are not tested on animals.
Are suitable for sensitive skins.
100% satisfaction guaranteed. The refund policy appears to be fair and generous.
I was told the company uses recycled paper for packaging and it is possible to interchange the different colour cosmetics e.g. eye shadows, which are in the compact style containers.
I was told the heart of the business is skincare.
This company not only offers a wide variety of products but also offers the opportunity for a social evening i.e. a cosmetic/skincare party. An opportunity for all those with busy schedules to test products, treat yourself and talk to an Individual Consultant from Mary Kay. What a good idea: to host a party, invite friends for a fun evening and make the most of shopping at home.
Wendy told me from her view that there were not as many visitors at this Expat-Expo but it is the quality not the quantity that counts.
The Exat-Expo was drawing to a close and I still had not found Ed McGaugh, the co-organiser of the event. By chance, at this moment, he was talking to Louisa at The Xpat Xchange table.
Ed is from Kansas City and is half Swiss and half American and now lives in Zug after living in various locations in Switzerland e.g. Interlaken and Montreaux. I would describe him as an enthusiastic Entrepreneur. There is an interesting interview with Ed on Switzerland In Sound under the heading Timely Topics and you can listen to the interview if you select the link: Expat Expo. (www.switzerlandinsound.com)
During the interview Ed highlights that 20% of Switzerland’s population is foreign and Expat-Expo is reaching out to the native English speakers. Ed described the success of the first Expat-Expo held on 26 February 2006 despite the three inches of snow. There were a variety of products and services on display but sadly no Bagel merchants. The point was made that there is only one true Bagel and that is from New York. It is said that the magic ingredient is the New York water. Allegedly, Bagels came to New York in the 1880s, with the immigration of thousands of Eastern European Jews. Legend has it that the Bagel originated in Vienna, Austria but like all good legends, I assume there are many different versions.
We will look out for Bagel merchants at future Expat-Expos. J
Ed explained the idea for Expat-Expo was hatched on the Swiss Entrepreneur Yahoo Group: -
Ed and his wife Melanie have experience of being Antique Dealers. This was his wife’s family business for many years. Ed was used to the large shows in the U.S. After 9/11 there was a general slow-down of the art and antiques market which forced Ed and his wife to consider an alternative vocation. Some containers are searched by the US Customs and as a consequence the applicable Antique Dealers have to pay the inspectors to examine the crates and goods. The inspection fees could be as much as USD$3,000.
Ed explained that one of the biggest challenges for Expat-Expo is finding efficient and effective forms of advertising. There are small pockets of expats and the aim is to form a link between all of them so the word can spread.
The next Expat-Expo, planned to take place in Geneva on Sunday 8 October 2006, is being organised in close cooperation with WRG Community and World Radio Geneva 88.4 FM. All the details can be seen on the website: -
It promises to be a huge event.
There maybe an option to hold an Expat-Expo in Luzern, so check the website for regular updates.
You would think that Expat-Expo would be enough to keep anyone busy on a full time basis but Ed also runs Bacchus Wines, which had a nicely presented table in the entrance hall.
Ed said he felt exhausted as he had been working approx 14 hours per day but remains enthusiastic and is looking forward to the next Expat-Expo.
Before Louisa closed The Xpat Xchange table it was time to draw the winners of the raffle. My partner, Erik, drew the names out of the bags and the lucky winners
One Year Free Subscription to Swiss News
A CHF50 Blue Sky certificate
A CHF50 Blue Sky certificate
Monica Shah Zeeman
A CHF50 Blue Sky certificate
Irving International Trade Services
Banner designed by Paul Bilton
Dr.med.Cynthia Ann Wolfensberger
One Year free Logo on the XpatXchange website
The Star Prize of the latest SWATCH watch went to:-
Dr.med.Cynthia Ann Wolfensberger
Cynthia must have bought a lucky charm at the Expat-Expo(only joking).
More details about Dr.med. Cynthia Ann Wolfensberger can be seen on:-
Frau Christine Wälchli (www.scwsprachkurse.ch) came to speak to Louisa and visions of past participles and irregular verbs sprung into my mind (only joking). Frau Christine Wälchli offers a flexible option for learning German (and English) for all those who have a busy schedule. The classes I attended in 2005 were good but unfortunately due to personal circumstances I had to stop attending.
Most of the exhibitors echoed the sentiments of Ed by saying they were exhausted after a long busy day. By about 18:00 the final tables were being packed away but it was nowhere near the end of the day for the BRITSHOP (as one example). Joanne & Carlo had to pack the remaining goods up and when they arrived home had to take stock of exactly what had been sold.
As most exhibitors and visitors were fading with fatigue, Louisa was still bubbly and full of life even though she had travelled from the U.S.
At approx 16:00 one exhibitor said that he just realised that he had not had anything to eat during the day. This was a common feeling, as many of the exhibitors did not have a moment to stop. The general tiredness was not the same as I witnessed when working in the corporate world. The enthusiastic entrepreneurs were generating income for their own interests not for shareholders. Some of the exhibitors were motivated to start their own business because it was difficult to find a job in Switzerland. Being self-employed provides an opportunity for employment, flexibility, and potential.
One definition of an Entrepreneur is a person who organises, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.
Searching through a Thesaurus on the Internet, I found the following: -
Main entry: Adventurer
Synonyms: entrepreneur, fortune hunter and pirate.
Pirate : Now….. that is an interesting way to view a business promoter. Did anyone see a character resembling Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) in the venue?
It would be difficult to find anyone who sounds like that particular fictional pirate, as personally I could not determine what accent he actually had (only joking)
Is there room in the relatively small market place for all the varied services and products? I personally believe competition is healthy and brings out the best options for the customer. Any service provider or company should welcome fair/balanced competition. It leads to more choices for the clients, encourages creativity, new ideas and inventions.
It reconfirmed that being self-employed means being prepared to work long hours, planning well in advance, and being prepared for rejection.
But the impression I had was that the Expat-Expo was not just about obtaining an income but was a social event and provided an ideal opportunity to network.
Thankfully the predicted rainfall stayed away until the Sunday. One exhibitor said that there might have been more customers if it had been raining. I am not convinced the rain would have increased the number of visitors, as people may have been tempted to stay indoors.
It was an interesting day from my perspective that resulted in me meeting a variety of people. I did empathise with the Australian lady who said she could not tolerate watching BBC Prime or CNN any more. After the initial relief of finding any programmes in English, we endured (not enjoyed) BBC Prime for many years before we signed an agreement with Cablecom (www.cablecom.ch/en)
It was also a challenging day for me, as I had never taken on the role of a roving reporter before. I will not be so quick to knock the media reporters again. I was not prepared for how nervous and defensive some people became when making notes in front of them. You cannot blame them as I assume it must have felt like they were being tested. I also needed to practise my juggling skills as I tried to carry a camera, notepad, pen, business cards and make room for all the booklets, cards, notes and freebies that were given to me. Louisa kindly allowed me to put some bags under The Xpat Xchange table so I had to keep returning there. As I have never trained in shorthand skills, it is amazing what strange shapes are on my notepad after writing at speed whilst talking and listening to other people. I now see the benefit of those recording machines that are typically thrust into people’s faces when they are on TV trying to make a statement. There is absolutely no intention on my part to misquote people; it is just that I cannot read my own writing (only joking).
Thank You to all those exhibitors who agreed to spend time in their busy day talking to me and allowing me to take photographs.
Thank You Louisa for the gift of the book in respect of Royal Families, which is my favourite subject to write and read about.
Thank You to Ed and Melanie McGaugh for organising the Expat-Expo and hopefully it will be possible to attend another event in the future. We wish you continued success.
© Theresa Avery September 2006
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