How to be a Good CouchSurfing Host
CouchSurfing is amazing. For travelers, it’s a great way to get free accommodation, and for hosts it’s a fun and exciting way of meeting people and breaking away from the boring routines of everyday life.
If you’ve got a spare couch (or a spare room), being a CouchSurfing host is great idea. It gives you the opportunity to meet and spend time with all kinds of wonderful people from around the world and it enables you to do something genuinely good (by allowing travelers to stay for free).
It is important to remember that CouchSurfing is a two-way relationship. While the guests (i.e. the ‘Surfers’) must be respectful and gratious (check out How to CouchSurf Like a Pro), so too should the hosts (i.e. the people offering up their couches) conduct themselves properly.
Traveling can be exhausting at the best of times, and when you’re CouchSurfing you don’t want to feel like you’re constantly stepping on eggshells or living by your hosts’ unfair rules (otherwise it’s not worth it, even if it is free).
So how do you be a good CouchSurfing host? How do you ensure that your guests feel relaxed and welcomed, and that the experience is beneficial for both parties?
Be Clear About Exactly What You’re Offering
It’s important to outline the relationship between you and your guests right from the start.
Be clear about exactly what you’re offering (e.g. where they’ll be sleeping, how much time you’ll have to spend with them, etc.) and about what you expect from them (e.g. they must clear up after themselves).
Do you want your guests to leave your apartment during the day because you work from home and can’t concentrate if there are other people there? Do you mind people smoking/drinking in your home? Do you have any pets? Are you happy to take you guests out in the evening? Make sure that your guests know these things.
Don’t promise something you can’t give. Most guests will be more than happy with a couch to sleep on and a roof over their head, providing they weren’t expecting more.
Study the Profiles of a Potential Guests
Before letting a total stranger sleep on your couch, you want to know as much as possible about them, right?
People’s CouchSurfing profiles are very revealing, as the questions are asked and presented in a way that makes it difficult to hide your true personality.
Upon reading a potential guest’s profile, you should (hopefully) feel like you know who they are, what kind of personality they have and whether you share any common interests or not.
For this reason, I recommend ignoring requests from surfers with incomplete profiles.
It’s also a good idea to read over the references (providing the have any) of your potential guest, as this can give you another insight into what they’re really like.
You can also tell a lot about surfers by the way their references are written. For example, if the references given by past hosts are very bland and impersonal, the chances are the guest didn’t interact with them a whole lot.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
Just because you’ve registered yourself as a host on CouchSurfing.org doesn’t mean that every CouchSurfer out there is automatically entitled to come and sleep on your couch and use it like a free hotel whenever they want.
Being a CouchSurfing host doesn’t mean you have to be available 100% of the time, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t turn down guests just because you don’t feel like having anyone stay right now.
There will be times when you’re too busy to host as well as times when you just want some space to yourself. Remember – CouchSurfing is a privilege, not a right.
Follow Your Instincts
There may be times when, despite reading a potential guest’s profile multiple times, you’re still not sure about them. There may be something that just doesn’t seem right, despite them having a list of good references. Something might feel a little ‘off’.
Letting a complete stranger into your home requires a lot of faith on your part, so if you’re not sure about someone, it’s generally best to follow your gut and to trust your instincts.
Be as Helpful as Possible (Providing You Have the Time)
You might want to prepare your guests a selection of maps, bus/train timetables, tourist information pamphlets and your favorite restaurant menus from your local area.
Some hosts also like to take their guests out and personally show them around their local area. You might want to take them to all the local highlights and hotspots or simply to meet your friends at your favorite bar.
Of course, there may be times when you’re on a work deadline or you’re busy and you don’t have time to chauffeur you guests around.
Remember – all (good) guests are expecting from you is a couch to sleep on. Anything else is a bonus.
Don’t feel bad about letting you guests go out exploring the city alone. Most CouchSurfers are typically experienced, confident travelers, so exploring a new city by themselves is probably nothing new to them.
Don’t Turn Down Requests of Hospitality from Your Guests
It is common for guests to want to repay your hospitality by doing something for you in return. They might offer to cook you dinner, wash your dishes or help you with any tasks you’re doing.
Don’t feel like you’re doing them a favor by turning down these offers, as your guests may feel insulted if you do (e.g. “Why didn’t he want me to cook dinner for him?”)
If a guest wants to make your life a little easier, by all means let them (providing they know what they’re doing, of course).
Allowing guests to cook you dinner is a great way of bonding, and will allow them to showcase their local delicacies.
By the same token, don’t feel insulted if your guest DOESN’T offer to help out. Just because they’re staying with you for free, doesn’t mean they’re obligated to wash your dishes. This is why it’s especially important to outline the nature of your relationship and exactly what you’re offering at the start, so that no-one is left feeling confused or disappointed.
Remember to Leave a Reference
After your guest has left, don’t forget to log onto Couchsurfing.org and leave an honest reference.
Your reference essentially acts as a ‘review’ of the guest, and as a badge of approval or a warning sign for other hosts to see.
No matter whether your experience with your guest was a good or a bad one, it’s important to write about how your time went.
Of course, just because you didn’t get on with your guest, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should give them a negative reference. Negative references should only be given to guests who are threatening, dangerous or who have a complete disregard for your property, and should act as a warning for others.
Providing that you carefully read the profiles of any potential guests and turn people down who you have a bad feeling about (or who have an incomplete profile), it’s unlikely that you’ll EVER need to leave a bad reference, even after years of CouchSurfing.
Remember that Ever Guest Will Be Different
Part of what makes CouchSurfing so great is the unpredictability of it all. Every situation, and every guest is different, so none of these ‘rules’ will apply 100% of the time. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to use your best judgment and to just enjoy the experiences as they happen.
Photo credit: Daniel*1977.
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