How many Couch-Surfing “DON’T’S” can you spot? Any I missed?
Whenever I’m traveling or hosting, I always try to be the best couch-surfer I can. In a previous post, I’ve divulged some advice and tips which can help you become the best host possible.
Today I’d like to discuss behavior you might want to avoid while surfing. Some may seem obvious, but apparently it isn’t to everyone, not even presumably open-minded world-travelers. Behold, dear readers, my ill-fated misadventure with Sergei the Sorry Surfer.
I hosted many surfers during my two years living in Moscow. It felt rewarding to finally be able to give back to the CS community, which had provided so much during my trip through Europe. Most experiences were pleasant, but I did suffer through a few true stinkers. The worst of the worst was a surfer named Sergei, who hailed from the Ukraine.
Soon after Sergei sent me his request, I checked out his profile. It was impressive and included an abundance of detailed personal information, along with nearly 50 positive references and not a single negative. Judging by his many references, his travels and self-descriptions, he seemed like he’d be an outstanding surfer. I accepted his request and was greatly looking forward to his visit.
DON’T! Have unreasonably high expectations for a surfer going in. You can’t really tell that much from profiles and references, no matter how detailed they are, and are only setting yourself up for disappointment. This was my bad.
Anyway, Sergei showed up a few days later, and from the get-go we got off on the wrong foot. Within minutes of his arrival, the Ukrainian traveler started going on about how badly he wanted to go out and try to hook up with girls. He wasn’t shy about inviting me to serve as his wing-man.
DON’T! Discuss potentially divisive subjects, at least until after you feel out your host/surfer and discover what their interests are!
I had a tiny, closet-sized studio apartment and had set up a mattress on the floor for Sergei. I fleetingly wondered where he planned to carry out his frivolous plot if he so happened to find a victim. I hoped he didn’t think he was going to do it right next to me on my floor! Anyway, I already had a long-term girlfriend and wasn’t interested in accompanying my surfer on his hunting expedition.
Upon hearing this unfortunate news, Sergei began inquiring if I had any single friends who were good with the ladies. I found the question strange and was starting to become annoyed, but foolishly indulged his curiosity. I shared a few brief tales about some expat buddies who were quite the ladies’ men around town. Sergei appeared to abruptly change the subject. He asked if I had Facebook and said he wanted to add me as a friend. So I gave him my FB info and he instantly added me.
Soon, I had to leave for my English teaching job. While I was on the Metro headed to school, I received my first message. It was from my friend Richard, who wanted to know just who was this weird dude named Sergei? Puzzled, I asked Richard how he knew of Sergei, only to be informed that Sergei was blowing up his FB with messages, asking Richard if he wanted to go out and pick up girls that night!!
DON’T! Send unsolicited messages to the FRIENDS of your host, who you have never met or even communicated with before, asking if they want to go look for girls with you! Are you kidding me? Just because your host has offered to host you, doesn’t mean his/her friends have the same demeanor or interests. Especially don’t do this without at least asking your host about it first.
I was shocked and a little creeped out that Sergei had apparently searched for Richard, on my FB friends list and started sending him personal messages. The weirdness was only beginning. Only a few minutes later I began getting messages from another friend named Kyle. Sergei was performing the same creepy routine with him! Soon, Andonis, yet another buddy who I hadn’t even told my surfer about, started messaging me. Sergei was messaging all three of these guys, telling them he was my friend and asking if they wanted to go help him look for girls that night. I now had a freaking embarrassing crisis on my hands!
After arriving at work, I had to delay my lesson planning and preparation to call Sergei and notify him, in as kind a manner as possible, to please leave my friends alone. He had definitely crossed a line into my personal life and I didn’t appreciate it. My surfer promised he’d put an end to it and I hung up.
DON’T! Assume that your host doesn’t have a busy schedule and has time to deal with childish shit. Just because you are traveling and have loads of free time, doesn’t mean others do. Realize that although you are being hosted, your host (and his/her friends) are settled into routines and might not have time to deal with any creepy crisis you cause.
Later that night, I was invited over to Andonis’s place for a small get-together. After work, I returned to my flat to get ready. Sergei was there. I had no idea what he’d done all day but it didn’t seem like much. He asked where I was going and I stupidly replied I was headed over to Andonis’s (one of my friends whom he’d messaged earlier). Without hesitation, he asked if he could come along.
DON’T! Invite yourself along if your host is going anywhere. If the host wants to invite you, they will let you know. If not, an awkward situation may be unintentionally created.
I actually didn’t mind, so I messaged Andonis and asked if Sergei could tag along. But Andonis was too creeped out by the messages he’d received earlier, and preferred only our smaller and close-knit group, so he declined. When I informed Sergei of Andonis’s decision, he openly showed disappointment. However, he seemed to recover quickly and moved onto the next subject: or so I thought.
When I arrived at Andonis’s flat awhile later, he notified me that Sergei had been sending him repeated whiny FB messages asking why he couldn’t come along, practically begging for Andonis to change his mind.
DON’T! Show complete disregard for something your host has told you NOT to do. I had clearly told Sergei not to contact my friends anymore, I’d even had to take time out of my work day to do it, and here he was, still barraging them with annoying messages!
By this time, I was in complete disbelief. I should have kicked Sergei out immediately, but I didn’t want to be an asshole, even though by now he was clearly invading my private life and not respecting my very reasonable rules. I was also worried about him leaving me a negative reference. So I let him stay for the duration of the previously agreed upon three days.
DON’T! Be a weenie! Put your foot down if the surfer is acting like Sergei. Also don’t be worried about references… your experience is much more important. The fact that this weirdo didn’t have any bad references himself is probably a confirmation that previous hosts had also been afraid to leave him bad ones.
The following day wasn’t any better. Sergei spent the entire day lying around in his nasty tighty-whitey underwear. This was bad enough, but he didn’t bother to get up and change even after my girlfriend showed up (!!!), and even after I kindly asked him to do so! He alluded that he’d do it soon, then just kept chilling on his smart-phone, and never bothered to! He spent the entire day just lounging around doing nothing.
DON’T! Repeatedly brush off your host’s very reasonable suggestions/rules. It’s incredibly disrespectful. You are a guest, act like it!
DON’T! Sit around undressed all day long, especially if you are sharing a studio with the host and they have to look in your proximity all day. And especially if his girlfriend comes over!!
DON’T! Stay in your host’s home at all times… even though they are hosting you, they most likely want at least a tiny bit of alone time during the day. I mean, why did this clown even come to Moscow if he wasn’t going to do shit?
My girlfriend Anna and I cooked dinner that evening. Sergei didn’t ask to help with anything, which I found a bit strange. He quickly gobbled down the dinner, then abruptly retired to the living room and resumed surfing the web. He never bothered thanking us for dinner and worse, he didn’t even wash his own dishes! This is pretty much couch-surfing 101, to wash dishes after eating.
DON’T! Eat your host’s meals without even offering to help or wash dishes. It would be polite to at least thank them for their troubles, as well.
One of my colleagues was having a house party that night. As Anna and I prepared our departure, Sergei again (who hadn’t left the flat all day long) asked where we were going. Against my better judgment, I told him the truth and even invited him along. I didn’t want an awkward situation like the previous night to occur again, but this was another mistake on my part.
There were a lot of people at the lively party. Throughout the night, I was approached by numerous creeped-out girls who told me Sergei was tenaciously hitting on them and trying to get them to leave together. When I asked the disgusted girls where he was offering to take them, they replied, back to my place!
DON’T! Offer to take people to your host’s place to have sex, at least unless you have specific permission from your host to do so!!!
Needless to say, poor Sergei didn’t have any luck with the ladies that night. But he did get very intoxicated and make a fool of himself.
DON’T! Make a fool of yourself in front of your host and/or your host’s friends, and make them look bad.
The following day was Sunday, Sergei’s presumed last day. Obviously, I was greatly looking forward to his departure. I wanted to relax and unload on my final day of the weekend, but Sergei again stayed in my home, in his underwear, for the entire day.
I had electrical plugs and cords in the kitchen which I used to charge various electronics. Several times throughout the day, I noticed Sergei had literally unplugged my own accessories which had been charging, only to plug his in. The first time this happened, I simply unplugged his and plugged mine back in. But awhile later, I noticed he’d done it again.
So I asked him NOT to unplug my electronics… I was actually charging my own things, with my own chargers, because I needed them to charge. My surfer replied “okay” and I thought that was the end of it. Later on, I went to check on my charging electronics and saw that he once again unplugged them to charge his own. When I confronted him about this, he casually and nonchalantly replied that my charger worked better than his. Are you kidding me?
DON’T! Blatantly disrespect your host’s house-rules, especially after you are specifically requested not to do so! Don’t place your own needs higher than those of your host.
That night, as I was trying to sleep (I had a hectic schedule for work on Mondays), Sergei was lying on his floor-mattress and loudly listening to music and youtube videos or what-not. Finally I couldn’t take the blaring noise any longer and asked him to turn his volume off. I even offered to lend him some headphones. He actually unleashed a lengthy and sarcastic chuckle, which made me feel uncomfortable. But at least he turned the sound off.
DON’T! Keep your host up late into the night and show clear disrespect when the host kindly asks you to do something which is perfectly reasonable.
Was this the end of Sergei’s nightmare stay? Not hardly!! Throughout Sunday evening, he’d been asking if he could prolong his stay. I told him I didn’t think that was possible, as I’d agreed to host him for three days because those were the three days I had available to host. I had an extremely busy work week and Monday was the worst. I absolutely didn’t want to be hosting anyone that day, let alone this creep. However, his requests turned into begging. He continuously whined that he didn’t have anywhere else to go and he needed to stay “just a bit longer”. It got really awkward.
DON’T! Overstay your welcome, and especially don’t beg to prolong your stay.
When I finally got rid of the Surfer From Hell, the nightmare still wasn’t over. Soon after he’d left, Sergei messaged me and said he’d forgotten a few things at my place. I told him I’d still be around for another hour or so, but he just couldn’t be bothered to venture back there. He instead suggested I could bring it to him and we could meet in a Metro station. I told him I could do that, but I’d be on my way to work so he’d need to be there exactly when I arrived, as I wouldn’t have time to wait around for him. Sergei assured me he’d be there waiting. So I informed him which Metro station to meet, and where he’d be able to find me.
Of course when I arrived, Sergei was nowhere to be seen. I waited for a few minutes, then continued on to work. Twenty minutes later, he started blowing up my phone, asking where I was at. I replied that I’d specifically told him I wouldn’t be able to wait. He actually tried to give me a guilt-trip and rudely declared he was “only” twenty minutes late, as if the whole thing was my fault.
Because of this, I had to keep his pile of stuff with me throughout my work day and repeat the routine when I’d finally gotten out of work that evening. I was exhausted and just wanted to go home and relax, but again had to wait awhile for him to finally show up. At least he was finally out of my life after that.
DON’T! Assume your host has all the free-time that you have and/or can take time out of their schedule to conveniently accommodate your every wish. Again, hosts likely have a set routine and a work schedule they have to abide by, while you are traveling and have loads more free time.
So that’s the sad saga of Sergei the Sorry Surfer. How many couch-surfing rules of etiquette did Sergei blatantly disregard? How do you feel about his stay, and how I handled it? I’d welcome any comments, and thanks for reading!