I enter the room just like Jean-Claude van Damme when he first enters the Kumite in Bloodsport: cautious, alert, mildly apprehensive but at the same time confident in his abilities.
I boldly insert myself into a conversation between four or five people seated at the bar. My only hope? Some casual conversation with fellow expats while avoiding the Dim Mak (Death Touch).
I'm not at a Kumite, but rather at a gathering created by one of Amsterdam's many organizations devoted to helping buitenlanders like me (and some local Dutch folk as well) meet fellow expats and create some temporary or lasting social connections.
InterNations, ABC, Meetin.org and Meetup.com are the main ones I've come across so far, and each group offers a chance to get off your couch and get into the mix. Amsterdam is a very international city - some 173 nationalities are represented here, according to amsterdam.info. With a common bond of not being from here, away from family and friends, many people need and enjoy a chance to create a home base away from home base.
Each group has its own vibe - a little more business networking here, a little more social there - and it's too soon for me to say which one is which. They all seem very well-run however, with many opportunities to connect with people.
With each, the initial setup is the same - just create an online profile and then hit your first event. The Meetin and Meetup ones have many subgroups aligned to specific interests, so within them you can join a running group, a book club, a meditation posse, a gaggle of footballers, and so on. I even know of one geek who recently joined a Scrabble club...
Overall, it can be pretty tough to establish a network in any new city, but these organizations make it pretty bloody simple.