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January 31, 2013

Damn the Couchsurfing etiquette

Picture credit: Flickr/ acb

As I have been warmly received by many Couchsurfers in many countries during my past overland trip from Asia to Europe, I decided to re-list myself as “maybe available” on the website. I do not want to start arguing how the site has turned corporate and blah blah blah – and how its alternative, BeWelcome, really looks like it is taking off very slowly -, but I would like to share a few feelings I had after this newly “available” status has made a wreck of my inbox.

I had forgot how , basically, people can be utterly ANNOYING by sending a Couch request. One guy was so creative that he sent me his full 700 word itinerary, day per day, listed hour by hour, asking me to review it and correct it, and, in case, to find a proper allocation for my hosting responsibilities. Another person, more or less asking for information on Penang, tried invariably to push me to host him, saying that his schedule was open to MY availability. And when I answered that I was sorry, I could not, this person answered with something like, “so, tell me when would be the best time to stay at your house.”

What should I reply? I made a point after having hosted many people,  and by being hosted and having respected and interacted with many others on different levels: Couchsurfing needs to have a PERSONALIZIED touch of RESPECT. People are not very respectful , apparently, as any Couch request I receive lacks BOTH. At first, I had compiled a neat series of contact and hosting rules on my profile. Invariably, when I realized nobody was reading those rules, and that they just contributed to open the flood  of pretentious email communication over my head, I just deleted the rules and got myself out of the hosting chore.

The best request came in a week ago: this couple had apparently traveled on the cheap for a while, found my profile, noted a deep connection with my experiences, and decided they definitely HAD TO meet me. The timing was unfortunately not right, but I still took time to answer their numerous questions, and politely replied telling them to contact me once on the island, so that we may have hung out and I would have found them a very cheap accommodation to stay at.
When they replied, I was amazed by the utter disrespect of my personal situation: the couple in question, again, blatantly asked that ok, THEY NEEDED TO CRASH AT MY HOUSE. When I answered pointing out that my own profile states that I CANNOT host couples as I do not have space, the guy answered with a one line note, saying “ah ok, thanks”. Do you think I have received a phone call, met this people and helped them out? Of course not, because as soon as my couch was not available… they DISAPPEARED. Do you know that a double room in Penang can cost as low as 6$ for two persons per night? I do not want to comment any further.

Another person I met somewhere around the world – and never hosted me, actually – arrived in Penang: not only he was welcomed, sheltered, offered a home cooked dinner, a warm shower, movie time, a clean bed and a lift the next day. No, this was not enough. As I was expecting my partner to get up and prepare breakfast for everyone, he was in a rush to go. And he asked, quite scornfully, where was his damn breakfast. In that case, I politely answered: “In the shop downstairs. Wait or get out.” When it’s enough, it’s enough.

This last Couchsurfing exchange particularly left me highly disappointed: so, am I interesting only when you come in and stink my house with the dirty laundry you expect me to do for you? Maybe you even want to hump my leg, for a change?

I just want to conclude by saying that more than once, after I met my initially reluctant hosts and I showed I was a decent, interesting guy, most of them changed their minds and decided to offer me a place to stay, regardless of their initial decision. Hopefully the readers of Vagabonding may find this rant helpful, and will spread the word about a dire need to change the Couchsurfing etiquette, as having traveled 100 countries by hitch-hike or on horseback is not enough to qualify you as better human beings. I think human interactions should still be dominated by politeness, and RESPECT: we may all want to help out and LEARN something from you. Therefore, I say it: screw your aggressive, irresponsible and blatantly selfish Couchsurfing “etiquette”. Get off my couch!!

Posted by | Comments (2) 
Category: General, Notes from the collective travel mind, On The Road, Vagabonding Advice


2 Responses to “Damn the Couchsurfing etiquette”

  1. JC Says:

    Thx for sharing your experiences.

    I’ve only used CS so far to join activites and meetup with people and met some really great people throught it. It does seem, though, that as the community gets bigger and CS becomes more popular, more and more people seem to join just to get free accommodation, with no interest at all to get to know the host.

    I’d be very annoyed as well if I get requests like you did. I’m gonna check out BeWelcome, I really don’t like the design of the CS website and it has gotten very slow.

  2. Lester Says:

    Hi Marco,

    I’m really feel sorry for your experiences.

    I’ve hosted 30+ people over the past year in Singapore and they were all respectful, polite and many were inspiring people.

    If you were to be here in the future, hope our paths crossed.

    Lester(Your first time reader and loving it)

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