I recently joined a website called Couchsurfing, which allows travelers from all over the world to connect with each other, and offer places to stay in their homes. It’s a neat resource whether you’re a traveler yourself, or simply want to make new friends in your own city. I’ve been to several events in my city, and gotten to meet and learn from people all over the world. It’s a wonderful way to gain some cultural perspective.
While these tips were written with the site’s form of couchsurfing in mind (major focus on social interaction and cultural exchange), most of them can be applied to any kind of situation where you’re a guest in someone’s home.
Don’t treat it as a just free place to stay or hotel alternative. If someone, whether a friend or a stranger, is kind enough to open their home to you, you should make sure you can spend some quality time with them. They likely offered you hospitality with the intent of spending time with you, getting to know you, or catching up. Treating them and their place as just a “free place to crash” can come across as rude, like you’re using them.
On that same note, be personal when you ask to stay with someone. On Couchsurfing, this means that you’ve read their profile, and you want to stay with them because they seem like a nice, interesting, friendly person who you have things in common with. Going back to the first tip, people who are hosting you like to see that you’ve put thought into the request and you don’t only want to stay there because it’s convenient.
Be gracious. The person hosting you has invited you into their home, spent time with you, and probably helped you save a lot of money on a hotel. Offering to make them dinner, buying them a small token of appreciation (a bottle of wine or some locally roasted coffee beans are usually appreciated), or doing something else to say “thank you” makes it much more likely that you’ll be invited back.