The mindset of your typical couch surfing candidate is one of budget conscious survival, while also seeking a safe place to rest and local insider knowledge from the host. While couch surfers are usually individuals, there are couples and even families who take advantage of the opportunity to save money, connect and share good energy with others who appreciate the nomadic mindset. While the concept of couch surfing can benefit both parties respectively, there are certain manners to have whether you are a host or surfer.
Communicate with your Host
When it comes to finding a good match between surfer and host, take the time to read their profiles, and all of the quirks, rules and restrictions that they list there. The intimacy of letting a stranger into your own home, not just for a meal, but for part time residency, is an incredible act of trust for both parties. Be sure to plan ahead so as to give your potential hosts as much time to prepare for your arrival. If you ask a week before your arrival, you are not only putting your host in an awkward situation but reflects on your lack of consideration for other’s and your lack of thinking ahead.
Once you find a potential host, make sure that you equally put as much time in to communicate politely and respectfully about yourself, why you think you are a good match as a couch surfer, and develop an open and honest communication about what you each expect from each other during your visit. Remember, you are a guest in a stranger’s home, so be considerate and conscious about how you approach them. If you found someone you thought would be a perfect match in personality, home situation, location, etc., but they may not able to host you when your schedule works for you, do not try and reword your inquiry for housing to try and change their answer. They may not be comfortable with some aspect of the situation, or it just doesn’t work for their schedule at the moment- respect what their reply is and maybe they will offer you at least an opportunity to meet up and see a hole in the wall restaurant or talk about some happening local on-goings.
Kindness goes both ways
Hosts do not typically charge couch surfers, but there are a multitude of ways that you can give back to your host. Acts of kindness like doing the dishes, making your ‘bed’ or helping with other house chores take little effort but have large rewards. Hosts understand that you aren’t overwhelmingly wealthy, so showing your appreciation with helping hands, an enjoyable attitude and gratitude for your gracious host are often more valuable than any money you could offer them.
Reimburse your host
Although couch surfers don’t usually have a great wealth of money, even if your host offers you their pantry, make sure to reimburse your host for everything you consume. Granted a tea bag or two does not necessarily warrant leaving them some spare change on the table but if you make a sandwich or heat up some frozen meals for dinner, be courteous enough to repay them for all that food. If you think that this should be included in your stay at their house, then be very clear about expectations like this. Another strategy is to buy your own food and then store it in their fridge, and a step up from that which can earn you some brownie points is to buy food and cook them dinner! Just make sure you also clean up the mess you made.
Just like you respected their schedule by giving them enough notice that you were planning on coming to stay with them, working around their schedule while you are at their house is just as crucial. Let your host know when you’re planning on coming and going and be courteous about what time you do such arrivals and departures. It would be insensitive to wake up extremely early when you are aware your host likes to sleep in on their one day off, or coming home late from a night out partying and waking up their three toddlers.
Other important aspects of schedule respect include what their roommates might be doing, such as studying or practicing, and how they want to coordinate locking the house up, if they want to give you a key to come and go as you please and whether or not they feel comfortable with you being at their home without them present. Bottom line: be flexible with your host’s schedule, do not force them to be flexible to yours.
Make an effort to connect
For someone to allow you temporary residence in their home is a sign that they recognize you as someone that they feel comfortable enough to trust in their private and personal space. However, you should still make a conscious effort to connect with your host. Ask them about their life and their interests, because chances are that if they are willing to host couch surfers, it is because they understand what it’s like to be a nomad or they have a yearning to hear more about stories from the road. See this as not only an opportunity to have relatively cheap accommodations, but a chance to make a new friends and build your networking of connections abroad.
Your host will also appreciate the fact that you don’t just see them as a means to an end, but someone that you sincerely want to get to know and appreciate them for more than just their couch.
Leave only smiles behind
General living motions will undoubtedly leave a trail, if you don’t clean up after yourself. Cooked dinner? Now you’ve got dirty dishes. Slept on the couch? Check out the tousled blanket and pillows on the floor. Used the shower? Wet towel, toiletries and wet footsteps are your bathroom trail. You might leave your own home with a mess like that, but you wouldn’t do that if you were staying at your grand parents house. Not only are you a guest but you are also a stranger, so don’t leave your host disappointed and regretful of the experience of hosting a couch surfer because you left a hurricane behind you.
If you can’t see the courteous nature of tidying up after yourself, think of it as your reputation as a couch surfer, because hosts can also write reviews online about the couch surfers they have at their house. These reviews allow hosts to evaluate how they feel about their experience with you and it will only jeopardize your future couch surfing options with a tarnished reputation.
Write a fair recommendation
Reviews are crucial for both you and your host when it comes to future couch surfing opportunities. Whether you had a positive or negative experience, it is only fair to write as an objective review about your experience as possible. Objective in this context means that you should think about your experience in the way of what actions happened, versus how you felt about the action. The reason being that certain actions will affect people differently, so approaching your review as objectively as possible will do you both justice since it will give you credibility as an active member of the couch surfing community contributing honest yet not emotional reviews of hosts. Hopefully they will return the favour by writing a review that lacks personal and emotional reviews.
Return the favour
If it is within your power, be sure to offer a couch back to your host if you feel that it was a good experience for both of you. After staying with them, you will be able to wage whether you have compatible personalities, values and goals. If you found that you were more interested in partying while they were more of a stay at home and talk over a cup of tea type of person, perhaps you aren’t the best match for couch surfing buddies. However, you might prefer nothing more than talking travel stories by the fire, and really connected with your host and can’t wait to share more time with them!
Be honest with yourself about whether you can deliver an acceptable hosting experience in return before you offer, and if you can, return the kindness of your host. Even if you live in a very unlikely place for them to visit, the simply gesture of the invitation says a great deal about you.