Home / Living in China / Expat Tales Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read | Comment
Philippe's open-door adventure
Adjust font size:

Thirty-one-year-old Philippe Tzou admits he may have a bit of an identity complex. "I feel that a very strong part of my identity is Chinese, but I also feel very Belgian," says Tzou, who speaks fluent Mandarin, English, French and Flemish.

The Belgian citizen's friendly eyes light up his dark-rimmed frames as he explains his exotic upbringing.

Tzou was born in Cote d'Ivoire in Africa, where he lived until the age of 8. He then moved to his parents' native Taiwan, until he was 13. After that, he moved to Paris, where he stayed until age 19. He spent his college years in the United States, before returning to Europe to live in Belgium until age 29.

At 30, Tzou made his way to the Chinese mainland, where he and his fiance now reside in cosmopolitan Shanghai. There's hardly been a dull moment. But, looking back, Tzou admits his journey has been a little confusing at times.

"I'm an Asian person who has lived all my life among non-Asian people," Tzou says.

But, it's precisely this mosaic of life experience, which makes him perfect for his volunteer job in China.

Tzou is a Shanghai ambassador for Couch Surfing, a non-profit organization seeking to foster cultural exchange by bringing people together from around the world through shared travel experience.

Wannabe surfers simply sign up and create a profile on the Couch Surfing website. Surfers may seek out potential hosts or offer to host potential surfers. No fees are required, but donations are accepted from grateful travelers.

"It's to promote mutual understanding between cultures," Tzou says. "It's really a way to meet people you wouldn't have met had you been a traveler staying at a hotel."

Tzou's first brush with the organization was back in 2006, when he surfed a couch in Sydney. He says he was truly moved by the experience he had with his hosts.

"These guys were so awesome," says Tzou. "They were really genuinely great hosts."

"They touched me a lot emotionally," says Tzou. "So, when I got back I wanted to pay it forward."

When Tzou returned to Belgium, where he was living at the time, he hosted more than 30 surfers in just a four-month period.

Now, in this vibrant metropolis, Tzou continues to host surfers at his one-bedroom apartment near Zhongshan Park.

"Through couch-surfing, I'm basically starting to see the world in a much more connected sphere," says Tzou. "Any kind of person could show up at my doorstep."

1   2    

Tools: Save | Print | E-mail | Most Read
Pet Name
China Archives
Related >>