How do you define couch surfing?

In another thread, we talked about having a short FAQ or two that would define what couch surfing is to new-comers on the site.

How would you define couch surfing? What does the “couch surfing spirit” entail?


I believe everybody knows a quote “Strangers are friends you haven’t met yet”… As I already mentioned in the other thread, couch surfing for me is like staying at a friend’s place/having a friend over/meeting up with a friend. Couch surfing is not a free service but a friendly favor you might give or receive.


I wrote a big long blog post about this one time but it hasn’t been published yet. Once it is, I will come here and link you all :slight_smile:

But for me personally it’s about sharing everything you can with others and trusting people immediately (unless they give you some reason not to) :slight_smile:


This is exactly what it always meant to me as well.

1 Like

I prefer not to define it as it means different things to different people. For example BW and TR each embraced a different flavour the movement, I much prefer the lack of definition of the early CS:


If you can’t read, it says:

“CouchSurfing is a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit.”

Of course within the website there was always endless discussions about what couchsurfing is really about, the CS spirit, etc, and there probably always will.


Wow this screenshot just gave me a huge burst of nostalgia!!!


Host perspective
Couch surfing is the opposite of inviting a moron into your own cozy couch.

Guest perspective
Couch surfing is the opposite of crashing for a few days a some losers house and run off before they notice the pile of dirt you left behind.

I wouldn’t use these as a catchphrases, but you get the idea.

Couch surfing has no manual, takes some practice and it is allowed and forgiven to make mistakes.


This is maybe a bit wordy, but I think it covers many of the main points:

Couch surfing is a non-transactional hospitality exchange that is focused on meaningful interactions between the guest and the host rather than the accommodations and amenities.

When you are a couch surfer, you are either hosting someone for free, or staying with someone for free, or meeting up with a local to hang out together. Before agreeing to meet, the host and guest communicate plans and availability during the visit so it is clear what to expect. Couch surfing is NOT for dating or hooking up; It is for making new friends from all around the world, sharing experiences and learning from one another.


I’d second @michaela, for me couchsurfers are friends you haven’t met yet. And staying with them is like staying with a friend - they might be busy and not able to spend a lot of time with me, but this vibe of being like-minded and on the same page is there. Ideally, of course, but still. Same applies when you are hosting - it’s like an old friend is coming to visit. Also, as @Emily said, it’s about immediate trust and sharing - you give the keys to a person you’ve just met and it’s fine.
I’d guess couchsurfing is also very much about “not everything in this world is about money” and “people are actually sweet and cool!”


Maybe I am a bit too cold blooded but I would not consider most of my Couch Surfers friends I have never met and they won’t stay friends after they stayed here. Yes, it’s true for some of them, but I think having the two women from Kazachstan who arrived very late and were greatful to spend just 6 hours to get up very early to catch their flight without exchanging many words it is still compatible with the ‘Couch Surfing’ spirit. Looking for friends in Couch Surfing is like looking for friends at your job: it might be nice if you find some, but it’s nothing you should force. I just like to help people travelling cheaply and I really enjoy having some basic intercultural exchange (which can still happen while hosting people from your own country), sharing travel stories. If we have a great evening together, having a great meal, jamming to some music. But I don’t have much expectations and if it doesn’t happen, I am cool with that, as long as everybody is polite and respectful and tries to stick to house rules.


No, I don’t think you are cold blooded @Niklas. People come and go and that is alright!

But despite the fact you have never met a person before couch surfing and most likely you will also never see them again in your life you still can treat a surfer/host as a friend or a family member and I think this is what people mean when they mention “friends” while describing couch surfing. The world is full of bad guys and couch surfing (in majority of cases) is a safe space allowing people to connect or stay with a friendly stranger they can trust to.


Yeah, I didn’t mean that all people I met on CS stay my friends forever (I am in touch with many though). I was talking about the way you treat them when you meet. Like, normally I don’t invite strangers to my house, to start with :sweat_smile: And however different we may be, I feel people on CS share certain values and that’s what gives the old friend vibe. Pretty much these values actually:

However, I noticed couch surfing means quite different things to different people. There recently was a discussion on what tells a good surfer from a freeloader in a Russian group, and there were at least three equally supported opinions on it:

  • csers are travellers and freeloaders are not
  • csers kinda pay back by hosting at their place or by helping around the house, etc., and freeloaders don’t
  • csers are first of all interested in meeting people and cultural exchange and all that stuff, and freeloaders are interested in a free place to sleep (this was mine)

I guess all three are legit, but can be even contradictory to each other.


I tried a little gedankenexperiment (I just googled that this German word is known in English but it translates to thought experiment) for myself since I thought, that when I was starting Couch Surfing in 2009 I was primarily looking for a free place to sleep because travelling as a student could not be affordable for a student like me (at least that’s what I thought of). It used to be that for the first few years, years in which I was surfing more than I was hosting (but to be honest because in my little boring German university town I wouldn’t get much requests even I was No 1 host at that time). Still, I never felt as a freeloader, because I was interested in my hosts, sharing stories, playing music for them. On some trips I brought my guitar to do something in exchange and I loved the encounters. Still my concealed first motivation was the cheap travel and meeting nice people a bonus. For me it is similar to hitch hiking in that regard. If some people might have felt that I was a free loader that’s the reason why I am predominantly hosting for the last years, to give back to the community.

The thought experiment would be like this: what if there would be decent free sleeping places to use in every city you like to travel to, but you would be on your own (or maybe in a non-local exchangable environment like the plethora of hostels that look, work and feel the same). If you had the choice between a free place at a friendly strangers house or in a cozy hotel: I guess I would still go for the stranger in 60-80% of the time.


Haha well, actually me too :woman_facepalming: :joy: You are right, I got carried away.

There was a funny dialogue in that discussion:
— Say, I’m a freeloader. Can’t I share stories and walk around with my host?
— Then you are a couch surfer!

1 Like

This is actually an accurate term in English, direct translation of Gedankenexperiment :slight_smile:

1 Like