Everyone seems to be jumping on the Couch Surfing Bandwagon at the moment. And why not, it’s a great concept. Travel around the world, staying for free and meeting some cool and interesting people at the same time. There’s plenty written about the etiquette of surfing someone’s couch, but not so much available on how to be a good host. Here’s some thoughts I’ve based around my experience of giving up my couch to globetrotters.
- Be a good host and print off a map of your city, and some sight seeing tips. They’ll be available from your city councils website. You probably don’t want to go and see all the tourist sights in your city, so by giving some details on what’s around and how to get there you excuse yourself from having to do all that mundane stuff like waiting in line at museums, freeing yourself to do what ever it is you actually want to do with your spare time.
- Tidy up a bit. Despite what you might have thought, most people are not indifferent about eating dinner at a table strewn with dirty gym socks, a full ashtray and the latest addition of ‘Jugs’.
- Respect your surfer’s life choices. Sure, they’re staying at your place, but it doesn’t mean they have to agree with everything you say. You might have different political beliefs, who cares? So what if you’re a vegetarian and they eat the equivalent of their own body weight in steak each day. If you are a staunch vegetarian and don’t like meat being cooked in your house let them know before you agree to them staying with you. Don’t force your beliefs down their throat (with a side of lentils). Having said that, this whole concept is about exchanging ideas and different ways of life, so healthy debate is good as long as they’re into it as much as you are. This also applies to trying to convert them to your religion.
- Don’t be the weird guy that leers at the Scandinavian backpacker who are asleep on your couch. It can be awkward enough for a surfer staying in a strangers house, don’t make it worse than it has to be. This also means NO ‘accidentally’ opening the bathroom door with fake cries of “Oh, I didn’t know you were in here!” and don’t walk around in your boxers all day. Chances are you’re probably not as hot as you think you are. This brings me to my next point;
- Don’t sleep with the couch surfer. Unless it’s the last night that they’re staying with you. Especially don’t do this if you have a partner or you’re not all that great in bed. One of the benefits of a one-night stand is that you can leave in the morning with minimal awkwardness. This isn’t so with a couch surfer staying with you for a few nights. If you do happen to succumb and end up getting together with your couch surfer and it isn’t all that great, try to make yourself scarce until they leave. Why prolong the weirdness? Sleeping with the couch surfers goes against the whole principal of meeting new travellers and exchanging ideas and experiences, so do try to keep it in your pants.
- On a personal note, double check your potential surfer’s profile before committing to letting them crash at your place. ALL of their profile. I recently had a couch surfer request to stay at my place, we agreed on a date and while waiting for him to come one evening I had another look at his profile only to find that the previous host had left some pretty scathing comments – it turns out my guest started his own religion and claimed to be the messiah. He spent all of his time at their house trying to convert them to his own religion, called them fascists for not following his beliefs, and then helped himself to the pantry, throwing out all the food that he deemed unhealthy. Suffice to say I made up an excuse and cancelled on him. A poor move by me but one that I felt was necessary and I now resolve myself to double checking every detail of a potential surfer’s profile before agreeing to have them stay.
Couch Surfing is a wonderful concept but unfortunately there are hosts and surfers out there taking advantage of this phenomenon. Use a bit of commonsense before allowing someone into your home, and by participating positively to this social experiment of sorts you’ll be contributing to a more open, safe and enjoyable global travel community.