This is all from my personal experience, Jessica and I have couchsurfed through six states and four countries.
6.) DON’T hit your couchsurfing host’s car with your car.
This isn’t the way you want to start a conversation with your host, “Very nice to meet you, thank you so much for allowing us to stay for FREE in your home, oh and by the way, I might of tapped you car with my car.” Thankfully the host we were staying with was a real down to earth and calm person and didn’t mind the small ding on her car. On the other hand, it was our first couchsurfing experience, ever – what a great way to start huh? On our defense, it was in Virginia and it was hilly. (And foggy and windy and rainy, okay okay – just hilly) Jessica and I had just come from living in Florida where the word hilly hasn’t even been put in the dictionary, so we kind of forgot that cars do roll on hills when brakes aren’t pushed down firmly. We live and we learn, huh?
5.) DO let your host know what kind of an eater you are – vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, etc.
Why is this so important? You could probably think of the answer on your own, yet I’d love to elaborate for you. Jessica and I had a host lined up in Paris that was scheduled to last for five days, which if you do not know, is a long time to couchsurf with someone. We were excited to have a place where we could spend more than a day or two in. (We were tired, okay, I was tired of moving around every other day with my backpack – unpack then pack, unpack then pack) His name was Guilaume, a French born Monsieur with a vibrant and obvious Parisian lifestyle. It was seven hours before we were due to arrive at his flat, and I had an inkling to mention to him that we do not eat meat. Which even wasn’t a big deal for me, considering we have had seven hosts before him and forgot to mention it half of the time – everything always turned out fine either way. Also, the thought of mentioning that I do not eat meat is like mentioning I once went to disney on a Tuesday when it rained, not something I care or even remember half the time. Either way, I sent him an email within couchsurfing.org and explained our eating habitats. His response was, word for word, “Hawfull news you’re giving me right now!!!!! I bought meat for all the week and can not lose it nor freeze it!!!” Um? So, since when does couchsurfing hosts pre-buy a weeks worth of meat? Conclusion being, our stay with him was shortened to one night and throughout that one night (8 hours) he reminded us five times of ‘our lack of preparation and planning.’ Pfffttt.
4.) DO read your host’s profile thoroughly before arriving and DON’T accept a host’s invitation if the word “nudist” is anywhere on their profile. Unless you’re into that.
Uh, yep. Jessica and I received a couchsurf request from a gentlemen in Paris that said he could host us for a night, a night in which we were desperate for a place to sleep. My bad for not reading his entire profile since it mentions the word nudist and ‘clothes optional’ several times. (Yeah, my bad) Addition to that, within his emails to us he blatantly mentioned there would be a nude massage party where “everything but sex” was allowed. For some people that might be exhilarating, but that’s certainly not my cup of tea. My bad once again, because I accepted his request without reading the entirety of his profile and my bad for only finding about his ‘lifestyle’ by his follow up emails to me after I asked for his address. If he hadn’t mentioned the ‘nude massage party’ in his emails…. well, that would of been an awkward thing to walk in on. I can imagine myself making the swiftest run out the door, pushing Jessica out before me. Whew, glad I caught it in time.
3.) DO cook for your host, even if they politely decline at first.
That has been the ultimate conversation starter, nothing else comes close. Sure sure you can talk of why you are couchsurfing and why you are traveling, blah blah – but food has some abilities so fine tuned to simply impress and get the talking flowing. Especially if you possess some sort of cooking skills, it can be a real treat for your hosts. Even more so for international hosts, since they have different foods than from where you are from, typically. Cooking for them has left memorable conversation starters for Jess and I, plus alcohol is usually inserted in the meal somewhere – which is like an ignition to the liquid gasoline of words in your head. No boundaries and no walls! Woohoo!
2.) DON’T have a disagreement with your significant other in your host’s residence. Trust me.
I really, really do not want to get into details here, because it has been one of the greatest lessons I have learned on this trip. Top 10 lessons – I am not perfect, more so not perfect in knowing when to cool myself down when I am in public or around people. I used to be, well, over emotional. It’s like I used to get big blinders on my head during a disagreement, massive blinders at that, that I couldn’t see anything around me other than the problem at hand. I used to call myself dedicated to solving issues, yet now I know I was just an idiot. Long story short, I might of been loud during the disagreement without knowing the host was still asleep in her bed and then she came out during the middle of it. Most awkward and humiliating moment so far to date. Point is, I’ve learned so much from my experiences so far, that I have not only learned when and how to lower my voice (yeah I know, a round of applause for the four year old) yet I have learned to express myself in a calmer and quieter tone.
1.) DO become a master at dropping hints to your host.
Jessica and I laugh pretty hard about this, because I have grown to become a pro at dropping hints. What I mean by all of this is, sometimes when you’re in a host’s home – it can be sort of hectic with you being there and it’s a lot to think about from a host perspective. The host is inviting you inside their home, showing you around, maybe cooking for you, showing you where you’ll be sleeping and telling you the best places to sightsee in their neighborhood. Even the second day with a host can be busy too, talking about what you did for the day, loosening up and talking with them more freely and maybe even you cooking for them. So sometimes, simple things can be forgotten, such as your host offering use of their washing machine to you. Backpacking and WWOOFing and couchsurfing and living out of a car – leads to dirty and smelly clothes. To help with the start of a conversation of the washer I have learned the art of hint dropping. This one always works for me : “Do you know of a laundromat close by that I can use?” Every single time the host offers their washer. It’s being direct, yet without sounding demanding. Works like a charm, every time.
Oh and of course there are the regular things you’d expect to do and not do in one’s home…
Like for instance, dos: do offer to help, clean, carry groceries, take out trash, ask questions, answer with full sentences, do respect their home and their privacy, respect their wishes – whatever that may be and be accurate about timing. Timing is a huge thing, if you say you’re going to arrive between noon and one, arrive between noon and one.
Some dont’s: don’t leave your crap all out on the floor, don’t forget that your backpack smells like the bottom of a locker so put it somewhere less out in the open, don’t leave dishes and cups out, don’t forget to make conversation with them, don’t forget to smile and laugh with them, don’t talk underneath your breath around them or make them uncomfortable, don’t make out with your partner in front of them and don’t forget to remember that they are offering their home to you – don’t disrespect it.