I regularly notice people on this site talk up couch-surfing as a way to save money on accommodation. I've never tried it (I'm rapidly approaching middle age and stuck enough in my ways to want my own space) but my understanding of the ethos of couchsurfing is the pay-it-forward principle:
You stay with Ben in Barcelona, Ben stays with Susie in Singapore, Susie stays with Laura in LA, and on and on and on.
But this works on the assumption that everyone is in a position to host as well as get hosted. When you're couchsurfing in a part of the world where people are in general less well-off, surely this breaks down? I would assume that most people in Vietnam, for instance, simply don't have the money for overseas travel.
So do you worry if they're getting a fair deal out of hosting you (and giving you free accommodation)? Do people tend to give nice presents or "money towards food" (so it becomes in effect another way of organising a homestay)? Or do you not do any of that and just assume they're genuinely interested in meeting people from other cultures (or else they wouldn't be doing it)?
Lots of people in Vietnam travel extensively in the country, and maybe would use CS if they were going to a place they didn't know anyway. Also, not all CSers are local and you could always stay with an expat who offers. Finally, it could be that a local who is offering their couch has other things they think they are getting out of it - maybe they want an opportunity to practice a foreign language.
Anyway, generally people who are couch surfing are doing it to save money so I don't think anyone expects them to pay out.
I think the saving money part of the experience is just a part -- sure some people are just trying to save money by travelling, but from others I've talked to they're more chasing that "local experience" thing -- even if it does mean staying in some suburb of Makassar in the middle of nowhere.
Also, as casey suggests, perhaps a Vn hoster who doesn't have the funds to travel to Oz for a reciprocal deal, may be looking for other benefits - language practise for eg.
I've never tried it -- doesn't really appeal to me, but have met many doing it who seem to enjoy it. Thai women I know who host though complain of a never ending series of approaches by guys looking for sex... Guess you get that everywhere.
#3 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,800
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Oh! Also NEGATIVE thoughts about CS... I really recommend you to join it (hope you are not thinking that this is ALSO spam), use it and put away all those negative thoughts about other people trying to get money from you or trying to sell you something.
You could check my profile in CS and see how beautiful people are ALL AROUND the world, specially in the poorest countries. (https://www.couchsurfing.org/people/mikelpc/)