Over the last few months, traveling has become a big part of my life. While living here in Denmark, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to put this passion of mine into practice. One of the things that has been aiding me in this journey is CouchSurfing. I’ve used the community for meeting some of the locals here in Aarhus and for staying at people’s houses while travelling, so far I’ve surfed in six different cities a total of seven times! Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert on the whole CouchSurfing thing, but I am an enthusiast (I’ve posted about this online community before, here and here,) and I do have some experience that I think may be of help to those of you who are just starting out. So, here are some tips on how to make a CouchSurfing profile that will make people want to meet you and accept your requests for a host or for a hang out:
1. Fill out EVERYTHING
So, the first thing you need to know about CouchSurfing is that it’s not like those other social networking websites (like Facebook) where you use it to connect with people you already know. CouchSurfing is a website you use to meet people, be it in your community or when traveling, and should be regarded as such. What I mean is, your profile should reveal who you really are. The only way for a complete stranger to get to know you enough to decide whether or not they want to allow you into their home is for you to fill out all the spaces the website provides. Yes, all of them. Trust me on this. Some hosts won’t even look twice at a profile that isn’t filled with personal information, because if you can’t put some effort into your profile, what kind of effort will you put into getting to know them?
2. Be honest and specific
If you love to party, put it on your profile. If you hate cooking, put it on your profile. If you are a smoker, put it on your profile. If you hate cats, put it… You get the idea. You want to have real information on your profile, not what you imagine people want to hear. If you aren’t honest on your profile, you might disappoint your host or find that you don’t have much in common with them and you won’t get the most out of your experience. So do yourself a favor and just be honest. Also, don’t generalize everything. If you say you like movies, give some examples of movies you enjoy, if you like sports, again, examples. If you are too vague, people won’t get a good idea of who you are.
3. Pictures, pictures, pictures
Again, since this is not Facebook, forget putting a bird or some famous actor as your profile picture. Choose a picture where you can clearly see your face, preferably with a smile. Add some more pictures, maybe of you traveling, maybe with some friends, doing one of your hobbies, or going to your favorite places around your town. You want your pictures to reveal something about yourself, whether you like to party, enjoy the outdoors or a relaxed night in, make sure your pictures show that. And make sure they are consistent with your profile information. Try to have at least 5 pictures, but the more the merrier. Oh, and ladies, unless you want your host to hit on you, don’t put sexy or revealing pictures, it sends out the wrong message.
4. References/Adding friends
Now, I realize this is getting a tad repetitive, but CouchSurfing is NOT Facebook. Don’t add every single person you’ve walked past or said hi to in your life. You don’t need to have 658 friends. Only add the people you truly consider friends and whom you have something to say about. CouchSurfing is based on reputation, so you want to build yourself up a good one. The first thing most people check on your profile (after your pictures) is what type of references you have, if they are positive/negative/neutral, how many there are and then your friends list. If someone has 50 friends but only 3 references, it’ll be clear that you are adding people you don’t really know, and that’s not what you want. Make sure that when you add someone you give them a reference, this way you are likely to get one in return. When you write references, say some things you like about the person, describe them a little. Chances are, you’ll get oneback that does the same. Now your future host/surfer can read this part of your profile and have a better idea of what to expect when meeting you.
5. Get involved
Don’t worry if at first you have zero references. If you have friends that are already on CouchSurfing add them and give them a reference, they are likely to write you one in return. However, if none of your friends are members yet, you can still easily connect with people around you. Many cities have weekly gatherings or events and it’s very easy to get involved. You can find out about these by going on the group for you city or searching for activities in the area. CouchSurfing is about meeting new people and cultural exchange, so meeting people in your area is always easy, you just have to try. If there are no activities in your city, you can set one up yourself. You can also search for members and invite them for a coffee, a picnic or a night out, it’s up to you! Once you start meeting people and going to events, you won’t want to stop.
6. No couch? No problem!
Many people have the wrong impression that to be hosted you have to be a host yourself. The truth is, many people use CouchSurfing only for hosting or only for surfing. When you are filling out your profile, you can set the status of your couch, either to “Yes,” meaning your couch is available but you are not obliged to accept every request, “Maybe,” “Not Right Now (but I can hang out)” or “I’m travelling.” If you can’t host because you don’t have the space or the time, add that to the Couch Information section of your profile. Your future host will want to know that you are not in the community just to save on travel costs, but that you also embrace the ideas behind CouchSurfing, so make yourself open for communication. Offer to give tips to those who need it, or to grab a beer or have a walk in the park. Just make sure that whatever you offer you are willing to do. If you don’t have time for anything, state that in your profile, and but when things change, make sure you change your couch status as well.
To get the most out of your profile, you should write it in English. This way, you’ll be able to communicate with the most people. If English is not the official language in your country and you don’t plan on traveling abroad, then don’t worry, your first language is fine. But, if you plan on traveling to other countries, use English. It makes communication much easier. Oh, and make sure you check your spelling, reading a profile full of mistakes is never easy on the eyes.
Some of the greatest people you’ll meet will be from CouchSurfing, be it in your travels or in your community. So, make sure you put some effort into creating a profile that will attract their attention. But, have fun while doing it. Be creative, use your sense of humor. And as you change and your preferences and view on life change, don’t forget to change your profile as well. Oh, here’s a link to my profile, in case you need a little inspiration: http://www.couchsurfing.org/people/andreabruningbeltrao/