Who are you?
My name is Alain Buffing, I am a Dutch business executive and cloud expert, currently working as a Inbound Marketing Specialist at Hubspot in Dublin. Besides my day job I also founded a new NGO called Tuk Tuk Cartel, which caters volunteering trips to Africa and Asia for expats living in tech hubs around the globe.In my spare time I am always busy exploring new countries, cuisines or adventure sports. I am a big follower of AFC Ajax and have the ambition to be the President of the club one day.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
My first move abroad was on my 20th birthday, when I moved to Bangkok, Thailand for half a year. I remember it like yesterday and it was a very exiting time. South East Asia wasn’t that developed yet in those times and it was my first taste of how to live like an expat. Picture a 20 year old living by himself in a serviced apartment with on-site swimming pool, gym and cleaner. I didn’t even have a kitchen so I was eating out 4 times a day!
The reason why I moved is because I found out that I develop more when I am out of my comfort zone. To go abroad, travel to new places, speak new languages and meet new people is the ultimate experience for me in order to develop my personality and set of skills.
What challenges did you face during the move?
After living in Thailand, I was hooked. What followed were expat experiences in Germany, Spain, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and now Ireland. Over time it becomes easier to beat challenges like finding your mode of transport, favorite restaurants and bars (Google does the trick) as you will become more independent. The biggest challenge in any new place however that will always be there is to find the right group of people that you will call your friends. My experience is that it is great to go to networking events, meetups or simply talk to strangers in order to form the ultimate wolfpack you are going to spend your time with.
Are there many other expats in your area?
With major tech companies like Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Hubspot, Salesforce, AirBnB and Microsoft being based in Dublin, there are many expats to be found. My whole friend group consists of expats and the FB Group Expats in Dublin has more than 10K members
What do you like about life where you are?
There are several things I love about living in Dublin and Ireland, first of all the people are extremely friendly and have a great sense of humor. There is also a really good social scene in Dublin, you can always find somebody to go for a pint with, no matter what day of the week. Ireland itself has some great nature to explore and there are plenty of possibilities for sports like kitesurfing, golf and hiking.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
The biggest frustration about living in tech-hub like Dublin with many expats around you is that good friends always end up going home at one stage. Over the years that I lived here, I saw many great characters going back to Amsterdam, Stockholm and Madrid. My greatest fear is probably to be the last person standing at the party.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
There are many similarities between the Netherlands and Ireland, like the social aspect in life and the possibilities to maintain a healthy and sporty lifestyle. The thing that shocked me in terms of culture was probably the healthcare system and the infrastructure of public transport. In the Netherlands this is arranged perfectly and it is very important for us to provide this to society. In Ireland I have the feeling they could improve these for the better as it is sometimes a hassle to go from one point to another or get a doctor’s appointment.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
I live by the quote of Anthony Bourdain which goes as follows: “If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel — as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them — wherever you go”. For me this is all about getting out of your comfort zone and stepping into the adventure called ‘Expat Life’. It might all look daunting at first but once you make the jump you’ll see it will go way smoother than you all imagined. Believe me.
What are your plans for the future?
At the moment, I’m very busy with the NGO I just started: www.tuktukcartel.org. There are many companies that allow their employees to volunteer during their work time , we call that Volunteer Time Off (VTO), however what I found is that there are no cool organisations who cater the people that not just want to volunteer and go abroad, but really want to challenge the ordinary and leave something behind.
It was very hard to find a cool organisation that could offer me the kind of trip I had in mind. So I started Tuk Tuk Cartel to create an alternative. By offering off the beaten track destinations, construction mixed with education, a strong fundraising platform, we’re able to provide exotic volunteering and adventurous experiences.
You can find out more about Alain and Tuk Tuk Cartel at tuktukcartel.org.