Gary’s couch proves popular

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A Mosgiel man may soon need a revolving door in his home after hosting hundreds of couch-surfers in the past year.

Gary Green has welcomed more than 200 travellers into his home since last March, after connecting with them through the website couchsurfing.com.

“I get a lot of emotional enjoyment [from it],” he said.

“It’s so much fun.”

During their stay, which tends to be between two and three days, Mr Green gives his visitors advice on what they can and cannot do in the country, helps improve their English and tells them the best spots to visit.

“I am fiercely protective of my guests.

“Some of them are naive – they come to New Zealand thinking it’s perfectly safe.”

Couch-surfing was a great way to meet local people and experience the local culture, he said.

“If they stay in hotels they are more likely to find out about the heavily marketed [tourism] industry.”

The number of guests he hosts at one time can vary, although he generally likes to have more than one person.

During the British and Irish Lions tour last year, he had eight people stay – six inside his house and two outside in a campervan – and he hosted four on Christmas Day.

Some wanted to hang out with their hosts during the day, while others just wanted a place to stay, he said.

“Most of them want a roof over their head [and] a bit of conversation in the evening.

“When they first arrive they are polite and then quickly realised that I have a very strange sense of humour,” he said, laughing.

Many were surprised by the cost of food and other goods in New Zealand.

“I have had a number of guests who give up cigarettes because they are too expensive.”

Couch-surfers were not meant to pay their hosts, as stated on the website, so many brought gifts including small paintings, notes, a guest book and DVDs, among other things.

Mr Green, who does not work, said hosting couch-surfers was like reuniting with “friends that you have not met [before]” and enjoyed the human interaction.

German traveller Stefan Weber arrived at Mr Green’s house on Sunday.

He said couch surfing was “really safe” and during his 30-year career as a police detective in Germany he had only come across one couch surfing incident.

Couch surfing allowed him to “travel spontaneously” and learn more about the city he was in.