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French influencer finds fame documenting cultural faux pas

XINHUA | Updated: 2023-12-04 08:19
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HEFEI — People who first meet Laura Tochon can hardly believe that this quiet and shy woman is a French influencer with over 6 million followers on Chinese social media.

Living in Lu'an, a small city in East China's Anhui province, Tochon often gets recognized by her followers. When her fans ask to take photos with her, Tochon's shyness always surprises them, since she is known for her bold and humorous antics in her videos.

In 2020, Tochon, and her Chinese husband Heizi, began recording their life in China in the form of short sitcoms, garnering themselves a large online following.

Tochon's videos feature jokes based on cultural differences, including inviting her father-in-law to eat rare steak and calling her parents-in-law directly by their names, both considered a faux pas in Chinese culture.

"Those jokes are not made up. When she first came to Lu'an, she did make a lot of these mistakes," Heizi says.

Back in 2008, when Tochon was a 14-year-old gymnast, she never imagined that her ties with China would be so close. That summer, she was introduced to the faraway Asian country through the live broadcast of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

"I loved Jiang Yuyuan, I thought she was very good," Tochon says of the female gymnast who, at the time, was about the same age, and piqued her interest in China.

Tochon says her father is an avid fan of kung fu films, and loves stars like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. As a result, there are some special items at her family's house in France, including Su-style embroidery with auspicious Chinese characters, and calendars with panda prints.

"When I was in France, I sometimes watched dragon and lion dances with my family," Tochon says.

Two years later, Tochon visited China for the first time. In Suzhou, she toured the exquisite classical gardens, which seek to re-create natural landscapes in miniature and embody the harmony between nature and people.

It was on this short trip that she became even more fond of China. "After returning to France, I thought I must come to China again to learn the language and about Chinese culture," Tochon says.

In the hope of joining an exchange program, Tochon taught herself Chinese, eventually enrolling in Nanjing University as an exchange student in 2015.

In Nanjing, capital city of East China's Jiangsu province, she met Heizi.

"We got to know each other by chatting online. Although we come from different countries, we like the same music and watch the same films," Heizi says.

After finishing her Chinese studies at Nanjing University, Tochon stayed in Nanjing, worked hard, got married and, in 2019, had a child.

That was also the year that she and her husband chose to give up their careers in Nanjing and return to Lu'an, Heizi's hometown. "My parents are getting older, and I want to spend more time with them," he explains.

Tochon was very supportive of the decision. "Thouars, the town I grew up in, is also very small with a population of just over 10,000, but people still live very comfortably," Tochon says.

It was then that they embarked on a new career making short videos, drawing inspiration from cultural differences in their life.

"Making videos is only a small part of our lives. I have a lot more to do and to love," Tochon says.

In addition to her online success, Tochon reveals that she has another dream. "I hope to open an authentic French restaurant in Lu'an so that more people can enjoy my hometown cuisine."

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