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4 tips for CouchSurfing in Seoul
Seoul’s CouchSurfers give advice on the newest, cheapest form of alternative travel
The CouchSurfing (CS) Project, an alternative way of traveling and connecting with people, has finally caught on in Seoul.
The basic idea behind this social networking community? Members offer fellow "couchsurfers" a place to crash for the night, and help their overnight guest explore the host’s home city.
Similar to other CS communities around the world, Seoul’s growing CouchSurfing group is beyond "free" accommodation and now involves weekly gatherings, community boards and out-of-town retreats.
But before you give it a go and send a “request to surf a couch,” bear in mind a few of these principles and pieces of CS-etiquette to get the most out of your surfing as well as preserve the good intentions of the CS community.
To find out the latest buzz and ways to get involved visit the Seoul group’s official page. The community meets twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
1. Get involved. Don’t be a freeloader.
It's a fact that accommodation does not come cheap in Seoul, but thinking of CS as a way to avoid extravagant hotel prices is totally missing the point. This eclectic group appreciates surfers who exhibit interest in connecting with people they share common interests with and surfers who just love having a good time.
“It is meant to foster friendship, cultural exchange and make life better … the free part is just an added benefit," said Amy Carr, the CS Seoul Ambassador who met her husband through CouchSurfing.
Showing an interest in the host's community and its numerous activities would prove that you’re not just trying to travel for free, which is a turn-off for potential hosts.
2. Get used to rejection
In CouchSurfing, being turned down is more of the norm than the exception. Make sure that you have filled in your profile information and added a few pictures to give your hosts an idea of who you are. Also, when sending a request, try to avoid the generic, prefabricated messages most people use. Make it more personal by throwing in a few of your interests and reasons why you’re interested in staying with your potential host.
To get a more positive response, sort your potential hosts by “newest member first” as they are most excited about the prospects of hosting. Also, in Seoul where a spare bedroom and space are a luxury, writing your host that you don’t mind sleeping on the floor would more likely get you a more positive response.
"It’s best to learn to be comfortable on floor mats," said Turner Wright, on CouchSurfing in Seoul. Wright began his own CouchSurfing experience on a dirty dorm room floor in Shanghai.
3. Make your host’s life less stressful
Being a good surfer means returning the generosity and the hospitality of your hosts. There are countless ways to show your gratitude. You can do something as simple as cleaning up after yourself, offering to support the cost of your stay by buying toiletries, or even buying them dinner. Being cheap and rude would only give you a bad rep in the CouchSurfing community, a price you’re not willing to pay in a community based on trust and references.
On the other hand, do discuss your plans and itinerary with your host to give him or her a chance to show you around and interact with you: a nice gesture of making time for your host.
4. Give feedback
When at the end of your stay, you’re feeling disappointed in your host, it wouldn’t hurt leaving him or her a message explaining the problem. If that didn’t help, there’s no shame in leaving a negative or neutral reference on his or her profile’s “wall.” This way, other surfers would get a glimpse of other surfers’ experience with this host; a way of making the community safe and strong.
So, when choosing your host, make sure you read not only the basics on their profile but also read what others have to say about him or her. This is your way of weeding out the creepers.
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