Couchsurfing – I just wanna couch – not a host.

Couchsurfing in recent years became more and more popular and to some extent even mainstream. There are many people however who never heard about it or would never use it by themselves. However my experience tells me that people who don’t want to couchsurf aren’t usually afraid of their safety but simply find it uncomfortable. In a way that’s quite understandable. I personally know quite a few guys who prefer going with their sleeping bag under a bridge than to ask for a piece of a floor 15 strangers of which 1 will maybe  answer tomorrow  saying that he is busy “but if you accept some of his strange rules maybe you could stay for a night or two”.  additionally, It’s largely unpredictable. People with a bit discouraging profiles can often prove to be really polite and great hosts (or surfers) and someone with 300 references can come out as a total ass.

In spite of this, for those of you who want to give it a try just now, that’s relatively easy. Just register on the official website, write some basic information in your profile, add a photo and you can start. It’s worth to have a reference from someone that you know in your profile since it will make it easier to find the first host but you can find one even without.

The difficult moment emerges when you are heading to your host’s place trying to guess what kind of 2-3 days will you spend with him. It’s a bit like gambling. Even having all the profile info you don’t really know much in a way. The knowledge what the guy will be like comes rather with experience that helps you to expect what write different kind of people in their profiles and read between the lines. Even then, really often expectation you can throw out of the window. From my experience – the more in common you seem to have with the person basing your judgement on his profile,  the paradoxically  smaller chance for a nice experience. Maybe that’s about expectations which are to high at the beginning or maybe people are nicer when they are pretending or simply it’s just me.

Lets however come up with some useful tips right now.

The first fact is that no matter if your host will like you or not, he is rather unlikely to kick you out. And in most of cases even if someone does, then going to a hostel, someone else’s place or whatever is not too difficult. Most of people are too lazy to do it but it’s not that bad in the end. Of course simple awkwardness and the feeling of insecurity or fear of confrontation play roles as well. I’ve met people who were behaving really rude to their hosts and hosts who haven’t shown even a slightest amount of empathy. There was obviously no punishment for them.  That’s why, It’s much better to be rather relaxed about everything. Even if it feels really strange sitting in one room with a guy that you’ve just met who has some strange habits or is even interested sexually in you without hiding it, just take it easy – you are safer than in a hostel since no one is really anonymous and usually there is just one guy.

The reference system however doesn’t really work and that’s the second thing. The best assessment gives you the sheer number of references that a person has. All of them will be usually positive anyway since most of people won’t write a negative. Usually only profiles with hundreds of references have a negative or two among them and even then the negatives are there because of some confusion, a misunderstood joke or ”oversensitiveness”.

 

Getting to the point – looking for a couch can be quite difficult anyway. Even if you have a good profile and you are a female then it will take at least several requests until you find anybody.  E.g. People in Barcelona, London and Paris during the summer get on average 20-30 requests per day and except of few extreme cases they are not going to host more than several people per week. Sometimes after sending 40-50 requests you will find nothing, receiving just copy paste answers. That’s why couchsurfing works better in less mainstream places but there are no strict rules about it in the end .  The less “off the path” places give one the privilege of choosing your host instead of being chosen. The hosts, since they don’t have many couchsurfers,  will give you a better treatment as well.

Copy paste or personalized?

Sending only copy paste requests (especially if they are not too elaborated) is probably not going to work well in a place where there are many surfers coming and hosts can choose. Even if you will be the only one looking for a couch, it’s not going to encourage your eventual host to give you a lodging if there will be just the date and reason for your arrival.  It really does depend on the situation though because it may not make much sense to spend hours writing messages which nobody is going to read attentively anyway, if your profile is strong, you have eventual options and you don’t have much time, then it can be quite a good solution. I would however say that it’s the best way to find a golden mean between reading the profiles, writing requests and your time assets. What I usually do is going through the profile to scan basic info and then I copy paste the request adding maybe at the very end, a line which is connected with the info you got from the profile. Of course you can decide to not to even send a request to a guy with whom you wouldn’t stay anyway. It will spare your time and keep your couch request box much cleaner.

Is it safe?

I’ve heard from quite a few people that they are “afraid” to use couchsurfing. Well as I see it, it’s actually safer than a hotel in most of cases. Simply because there is someone you constantly interact with and this person has credentials. In hotels the thing that is guaranteeing you safety is mostly their reputation and the fact that you could eventually sue them(they would counter it telling you that you could have rented a safe for 100 Euros per day to keep your jewelry or whatever there). I bet however that many more people are getting robbed in hotels than Couchsurfing. <br/>

Nevertheless ,  I’ve done my research and it’s quite easy to find information about a bit more worrying phenomena One can find some reported rape cases. Probably there were some more unreported ones and countless amount of harassment and even more of awkward moments. That’s happen everywhere but if someone wants to harass you while you are couchsurfing then it’s much easier for him. The biggest disadvantage of Couchsurfing is that you are losing independence but as far as you can draw a line of what is permissible and what is not, nothing is going to happen to you. There is just this damned awkwardness sometimes. And in many cases men are not really less vulnerable than women. Number of gays on couchsurfing is really considerable. By myself I’ve been through at least one situation where my (homosexual) host explicitly asked me to sleep with him and additionally was annoyingly persistent in his wish (luckily just verbally) what forced me to leave the house.  Even though if people don’t understand a NO at first then they usually start to get it when you repeat it with a different tone.

Useful non-common sense facts

  • It’s not that easy to get laid using couchsurfing.
  • The reference system doesn’t really work
  • After counting the money you spend socializing with your host sometimes it may be more expensive than staying in a hostel
  • Smaller cities are better than big cities , poor countries are better than rich countries
  • Most of people are rather mainstreamly alternative than alternative. The alternative ones went to some other social networks which you don’t know about.
  • Emergency couch groups and open requests are not as good ideas as it may seem usually only perverts will try their chances there to find some naïve guests.
  • Nothing is for free. Even if you don’t pay with money, then usually you have to emotionally build up your host. Everybody has his reasons and pure altruism is rare.
  • The people with too elaborated profiles are usually not as cool as they seem to be
  • To get out of your host’s place if he is strange is quite difficult.
  • People with 200+ positive references still can be total assess simply because no one ever cared to give them a negative or they managed to get it out of their profiles.

 

 

Interesting examples

Emergency couch

Once in Brussels after spending already a week staying at different peoples’ places I posted a message on emergency couch group. I got around 3 messages in less than an hour. One of the guys had naked pictures in his profile,  one had an empty profile with only one relatively strange reference(from another person who had just a “reference” from him) and finally the last one sent me a very nice message having many references and just a bit strange profile. It was however too nice. The guy left me the key outside and although I was quite suspicious then I met a couchsurfer at his place who told me that everything is ok only the guy is a bit awkward. I came back in the evening to meet my host. The guy was super nice – again suspiciously nice. He cooked a dinner for us(me and another couchsurfer who happened to stay there) and only then out of sudden stories about his “heart-problems” began and the only problem with these stories was that himself being 50 something he used to like(too much)younger males. Changing the subject helped a little but then after a while he again started throwing at my face his religious beliefs unrevealing that he used to be a member of some sect. The other couchsurfer disappeared somehow and the conversation was just between us. This time changing the subject wasn’t so easy and it became a lecture. Having had to interrupt saying that I’m sleepy he tried to convince me to sleep in his room or at least “in the same room with him”. The masks were gone so I stopped being polite as well. I said that I will sleep on the floor or leave and a bit uneasy left to look for the other surfer. I  left  early in the morning.

Hosts with 500+ reference accepting everyone

In Barcelona finding a couch in the summer is nearly impossible. After sending over 40 requests I found myself with one “maybe” from a guy that sent me a copy – paste answer:

“home is poor and hippie and 30 minutes far from th center

do u want?

reply fast plz

—————————-

and:

man i’m not racist

1st

second:

have not problems with jokes

white or black

coz a joke is a joke

it’s all”

The problem was that his profile was totally chaotic: expressing a dangerous state of mind of his author and among 800~ references which he had there were 10 negatives. The negative references itself were quite funny(the profile itself is already deleted) – “Danny came into the room with a gun, threatening to kill us”, or “after suggesting taking  advantage of him he showed me his penis” etc etc. Since there was however nothing about raping and stealing I decided to take my chance.

I cannot say it was a bad experience. I arrived at his place quite late (around 2 a.m.) since the ferry I took to Barcelona was late. Danny with some girl both shouting , hugging each other and laughing came to pick me up at the bus stop. His appearance was as extraordinary as in the pictures that I’ve seen in his profile,  he introduced the girl as his girlfriend and I had no doubts about it seeing the way they behave. Only later it came out that she actually arrived  an hour before me. In the apartment we were 5 at the moment of my arrival although on the next days we became already 15 (and it was just a 3 room apartment with one room taken thoroughly by Danny).  Danny’s “girlfriend” came to Barcelona from Rome to participate in some conference . To add some colors to her trip, she brought however a small plastic bag of cocaine which served as a means of entertainment for all the present. There was an American guy shooting “films” in Thailand (He mentioned as well working in Hollywood porn industry), a bit silly American girl (first time abroad) who believed in aliens and an equally silly German guy who just came back from a world trip and planned sleeping in a park when Danny “saved” him with his couch offer. Long story short – only totally desperate people went to Danny’s place. On the next day when other surfers arrived 3 of them got scared enough to escape without saying goodbye. Danny himself was around 30 with strange prison like tattoos on his face and showing an unusual interest in violence. He really liked embarrassing people and was totally unpredictable in his behavior. Anyways  after 3 days Danny was pissed off after not being able to find us for 30 minutes on the beach. He kicks everybody out – then he changes his mind but everybody fled as soon as possible anyway.

A cool guy with a super nice profile

The story starts totally fine. A good profile, many references, among them several neutral ones pointing out lack of sensitiveness. Nothing that big though.  I arrive at the place really late having to wake up my host(Belgium south of Brussels ) It’s not a problem though. The guy seems to be really nice and in the morning he confirms the first impression even if he is a bit too cool and behaves like the almighty one :trying to preach about everything. The only worrying thing is the reaction to my joke about drinking in the morning . “About this stuff you shouldn’t joke”. I blame it on the fact that he is over 50. However in general it’s cool. I went shopping, cooked and we have a nice chat. At least before the discussion about the 9/11. When after smiling and ambiguous answers I’m forced to directly oppose his view of Pentagon being hit by a fireball(???). He suddenly becomes furious and tells me to pack my stuff and get the f*** out of his house. A bit shocked since it was so nice until this moment I follow what I’ve been told and 5 minutes later I find myself with a heavy bag on the street. What the hell just happened?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does it look – the whole process

Is it safe?

Useful facts

Interesting examples

What everybody says but no one does

Why is itbetter than a hotel?

 

For those of you who want to give it a try just now, that’s relatively easy. Just register on the official website, write some basic information in your profile, add a photo and you can start. It’s worth to have a reference from someone that you know in your profile since it will make it easier to find the first host but you can find one even without. Important notice here – there is nothing less futile and silly than trying to find a couch without filling up your profile. If you just plan to host people in a location which is highly in demand it may work or it could work if you put a picture of a model in the profile from which you are sending requests –then it may work as well- but for most of us, average mortals it’s not going to be so easy.

The difficult moment arrives when you are heading to your host’s place trying to guess what kind of 2-3 days will you spend. It’s a bit like gambling. Even having all the profile info you don’t really know how will you get along with the person, and really often profile info doesn’t tell you much as well.  Really often expectation you can throw out of the window. From my experience – the more in common you seem to have the smaller the chance for a nice experience. Maybe that’s about expectations, maybe people are nicer when they are pretending or simply it’s just me.

Getting to the point now: looking for a couch can be quite difficult sometimes. Even if you have a good profile and you are a female then it will take at least several requests until you find anybody.  E.g. people in Barcelona, London and Paris during the summer get on average 20-30 requests per day and except of few extreme cases they are not going to host more than several people per week. Sometimes after sending 40-50 requests you will find nothing, receiving just copy paste answers. That’s why couchsurfing works better in less mainstream places but there are no strict rules about it in the end .  The less “off the path” places give one the privilege of choosing your host instead of being chosen. The hosts, since they don’t have many couchsurfers,  will give you a better treatment as well.

<strong>Copy paste or personalized?</strong>

Sending only copy paste requests (especially if they are not too elaborated) is probably not going to work well in a place where there are many surfers coming and hosts can choose. Even if you will be the only one looking for a couch, it’s not going to encourage your eventual host to give you a lodging if there will be just the date and reason for your arrival without personal details.  It really does depend on the situation though because it may not make much sense to spend hours writing messages which nobody is going to read attentively anyway, if your profile is strong, you have eventual options and you don’t have much time, then it can be quite a good solution. I would however say that it’s the best way to find a golden mean between reading the profiles, writing requests and your time assets. What I usually do is going through the profile to scan basic info and then I copy paste the request adding maybe at the very end, a line which is connected with the info you got from the profile. Of course you can decide to not to even send a request to a guy with whom you wouldn’t stay anyway. It will spare your time and keep your couch request box much cleaner.

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