If you were to go overseas, you couldn't actually ask a stranger, "Could I stay at your place for the night?," could you? That is, up until now, we couldn't.. Recently, there's been a trend spreading worldwide of something of this kind. The movement is called "Hospitality Exchange", which means "treating each other well". To use this hospitality exchange service, you simply sign up for it on their web site by entering your name, where you live, your personal interests, etc. So far, it's pretty similar to other social network sites like Linkedin, mixi, and Facebook. The biggest distinction from those sites is that members need to indicate if they're prepared to have people stay at their house. And if they are, they can specify the details of their terms. For example, how long the guests can stay, how many of them can stay at a time, and if they can bring pets, etc. Members can contact other members once they're done with these formalities for their own stay. You could then say, "I am so and so living in Japan, planning to go to Berlin next month for a week, arriving on this day, could I stay at your place for 2 days?"
Currently traveling in France, I have also recently joined this service. Although I became a member, I am not planning to exchange hospitality for the moment. Then, you ask, why join it? In fact, there are a plenty of members who take the stance, "I don't mind meeting up with people even though I'm not ready to have guests stay at my place". While I'm in France, I plan to contact the people who'd say, "I can show you around in my town," and get to hear directly from local people about each of their communities. Naturally, I could also share my experiences about the place I live, Tokyo, and about the United States where I grew up. I want to communicate as much as possible in French (which I'm currently studying). So if things go well, it'll also be a good exercise for me to speak the language. The idea of this hospitality exchange service is focused on the lending and leasing of people's beds or couches but you can join this movement without doing so. The key term is "treating each other well". It's not an absolute requirement nor is it limited to sharing a living space for people to "treat each other well." What's more important is the preference to care to meet and spend a little time with someone who came from afar. Maybe, to put it even more simply, it's about curiosity and caring. Yes, I think that's what it is.
Tony László, Linguist
László was raised in the U.S. with Italian and Hungarian heritage. In 1985, he came to Japan and began actively working as a writer. Since 1992, he has managed the "Together Project" (ISSHO), an NGO that researches multicultural co-habitation. He is married to a mangaka (manga author) , Saori Oguri, and is the "darling" of her piece, "My Darling is a Foreigner". László and Oguri have a child. László is known as a language anorak. His books include How to Grow a Happy Tony Flow, Outstretched in Italy - Adventures of Tony & Saori, My Darling is a Foreigner with Baby, etc.