A new type of cultural exchange is gaining popularity in China and around the world. In exchange for two hours per day of native English or another in-demand language conversation, people in a host country will provide free accommodation, free guiding, or even free language lessons. For those who wish to travel cheaply and experience a culture through the eyes of locals, it’s a perfect opportunity to shun the traditional bubble of touristy hotels and attractions.
China Daily recently reported on this new type of tourism and TourBoarding, the company that started it all. Founder and avid backpacker Ken Chen started the non-profit when he realized that 80% of tourists that come to China do so in tour groups. Seeing the opportunity to expose visitors to an experience more indicative of the actual culture than the inside of a tour bus, he started TourBoarding in April. Although extremely new, the website is expanding fast with 10,000 users signing up in the past two months.
Both hosts and visitors can benefit, evidenced by a mutual exchange of cultures. Wu Siwei, who hosted Americans Ammon and Marissa recently, believes the experience helped improved his English in time to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). He says that "unlike the formal teaching in my school, the conversations I have with Ammon and Marissa are more like everyday conversations between friends."
Learn more about TourBoarding at their website here.
Photo by Szymon Kochanski of Flickr.