A Dutch trade fair through the eyes of a Spaniard

A few weeks ago, our international team was present on a fair in the “Jaarbeurs” in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The international team of Foston Europe exhibited during the Zorg&ICT trade fair. This is a Dutch trade fair for all technological highlights and novelties for hospitals and nursing homes in the area of medical monitoring, nurse call systems, management software and systems integration. This article describes the experience of this 3-day event through the eyes of a Spaniard on his first Dutch fair.

The fair was very well visited during all three days. The second day was by far the best day in terms of business related public and the last day it seemed a bit like the fair was open to everyone. It seemed like there was a non-stop arrival of busloads full of students with healthcare related studies or elderly who were enjoying a day out. This third day I learned that Dutch people are very polite and well mannered. In the Netherlands people are sincerely interested in hearing what your product or company does, in contrast to other fairs where I have been, where visitors plunder booths for the nicest sweets, the best pens or other free giveaways.

Although this fair was mainly a national oriented trade fair, there were also visitors from outside the Netherlands. Especially visitors from Germany and Belgium were present. And of course, as always, there were also a few Japanese visitors, but in this case, they were not only taking photos.

The overall level of booth appearance at this fair was very high. Also, Dutch companies think big in order to attract people to their stands. For example simulating a part of a hospital in their stand and even providing visitors with a kind of theater show. One booth had a ¨Segway-robot¨, directed by remote control, which was moving through the footpaths and greeting people. Another interesting stand was a caravan which had a simulation of a room in a nursing home to show their nurse call and monitoring system.

And about the Dutch people in general. They really love coffee (when you order a ¨coffee¨ in the Netherlands, it is the same as the Spanish ¨café americano¨ and if you want a coffee with milk, you do not ask for a cappuccino, but you put some milk from little tubes in a “café americano”). As a result of this, almost every exhibitor had a coffee machine. In some stands there were even professional coffee machines with so called ‘baristas’. If you don’t have coffee at your booth; ¨You´re a nobody on a Dutch fair¨.

Unfortunately, most of the seminars during the fair were in Dutch. This emphasized the national character of this trade fair. But on the other hand, everyone in the Netherlands speaks (perfectly) English and it is therefore quite easy to do business with them.

Anyway, my personal impression is that, although everyone speaks English in the Netherlands, when talking about very specific topics like commercial conditions, they prefer to talk about it in their own language. For us it is important that we have people in our company who speak Dutch. Also, (most of the) Dutch people are quite well understood in German and especially in Flamish (they told me that Flemish is like Dutch, but with an accent).

The funny thing is that Dutch people don´t understand that you can take a glass of wine during lunch. It was weird for them that we asked them around Dutch lunch time (which is in Spanish terms really early). If they would like a glass of Valencian wine (together with the typical Spanish ham we had). Until the late afternoon, they just drink coffee… a lot of coffee. And finally at 16:30h, the people turned crazy for our wine and almost forgot about our ham.

At this fair, the Dutch people were very direct. I presume that this is the way of doing business in the Netherlands. If they like your product, they directly ask for prices. But also trade conditions and more or less if you can start selling your product right away. It is really important to be prepared for those questions. Because they are so direct in asking questions, they expect that you are also this direct with your answers.